I’m very proud of this show and thankful in particular to Anne Harris for helping me to bring it to fruition.
Featured image above: Detail of Wiggle Room by Elise Rugolo.
I’m very proud of this show and thankful in particular to Anne Harris for helping me to bring it to fruition.
Featured image above: Detail of Wiggle Room by Elise Rugolo.
Miyoko Ito’s work has such intense gravity for me. In the midst of the high strangeness of our time I find solace in her works.
The only major professional goal I have left is to work on an exhibition or book about her work. It is a crime that we have dozens of books on the likes of Richter or Pollock but really only a single TINY volume on Ito – and it’s currently out of print.
Here is a review of the last major exhibition of her work: Light Effects: On Miyoko Ito’s Abstract Inventions, from The Paris Review, 2018. The most significant exhibition exploring Ito was mounted in 2012 at Veneklasen Werner in Berlin. Go here for a great selection of exhibition shots.
I first encountered Ito’s work in person at the Roger Brown House in Chicago in the fall of 1999. I spent a good deal of time roving around the Chicago area to see all the Ito’s that are available in and around the city.
One of my main teachers at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago was Barbara Rossi. Rossi is an incredibly influential artist and educator who knew Ito and impressed me with her own work and her knowledge of the contexts surrounding art making in Chicago.
In 2015 I got close to arranging an exhibition of Ito’s lithographs but could not secure proper funding and loans of works. I’ll try again sometime soon. In that process I began to correspond with Vera Klement, a contemporary of Ito and a paragon of Chicago art. Via email interviews I got some fun backstory on the life and times of Ito, Rossi, and Klement. I’d love to get the chance to explore these artists and their works again.
On this day 20 years ago I was in the House of Blues in Chicago, having walked just a few blocks from my dorm on Michigan Avenue (It’s now classroom space, not dorms, but I kept my elevator floor sign before the demolition started).
I’d only been in the city a short time. This was my first trip out for a concert – OK, sure; lame choice. From my room across from the Art Institute it was just a short walk west, then north over the river, toward the “corn cob towers.” Just a few years later they’d be featured on the iconic Wilco record Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. If only I’d been to see them that night.
Yngwie was effervescent and shrill that night. Loping around the stage, posing before his stack of Marshall amps, and gratuitously clanging his numerous bracelets and bangles against the neck/fret board of his trusty Strat.
He was bursting from his leather? vinyl? spandex? pants. He was in full hair-band-era-cry. Hair teased so high, chest exposed by some combination of V-neck shirt or vest or Pirate jerkin… who knew?
In any case it was glorious. Furious. SO. LOUD. Riotous and ridiculous and raw. He gave his all, flinging guitar picks and sweat with abandon. My ears RANG for hours after, and were even stunned the next morning. It was epic. I can still recall the feel of the cool midnight air chilling me as I rushed back to my dorm room for a smoke and a reprise of Rising Force.
Yngwie. So many arpeggios, so little time.
Twenty years ago today I met my future wife for the first time… she had just turned 16 the day before.
Hard to believe from looking at this image that we would end up becoming friends, dating, marrying, and traveling the world on weird adventures…
We had this amazing few years I like to think of as “The Cute Years” – when I was still a beautiful baby. She’s always been a beaut. Look at this:
Undergrad Date Nights…
The night was sultry… SULTRY, I SAY!
Being six years older than her, I was able to go to both her high school dances AND her college dances… I’m not sure what we were thinking with that garter thing… hmm…
Ah, Chi Omega, the
cult sorority that Alison was in back at Northwestern…
We did fun things, like attend fish-eyed art openings…
…and read aloud – A LOT. How many books have we done this way, honey?
Through it all, it was you and me. Twenty years. There’s been a lot of hard stuff, but a whole lot of good. I’m so grateful for you.
A couple weeks ago I had the joy to walk through some of my old haunts in Chicago, the city where I spent many years from 1999 on and where I completed my undergraduate degree (at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago).
The State/Lake L stop, near one of the buildings I lived in back then.
Anytime I get the chance to be in Chicago – even if for only an hour or two – I really like to get into The Art Institute. I had a quick series of missions that day: see the AIC, visit a former student of mine (and get a tattoo from her!), and see my friend Jake, who is recovering from a heart transplant (please click here to support his ongoing, 24/7/365 care). Not much time, but I made the best of it.
As I walked through the museum I was struck again by the beauty of the building itself. Here are just a couple shots of the rafters above the great stairs, the stairs themselves, and the majestic old wood floors of the main galleries… many memories made there.
Man, I love that place. Here I am with one of the lions… I'm very thankful to my wife for making this short day trip possible ❤️
I’m always on the look out for new books to add to my collection. As an artist and educator, I know there is something wonderful about the physical feel of a book, the way the pages smell, and the beauty of a really high quality reproduction. Recently I’ve added the Diebenkorn Catalogue Raisonne, a wonderful investigation of Hilma af Klint, and some other texts. A few of the new books are listed below.
Riva Lehrer is a profoundly important Chicago-based artist who has worked on disability and identity for her entire career. Circle Stories, put out by Gescheidle in 2004, is a wonderful way to introduce her work to my students and to commemorate the power and presence of her work. The portrait of Rebecca Maskos (above) is particularly special to me, as one of my daughters has osteogenesis imperfecta.
I appreciate the leanness of the book. The statements are direct and clear. The images are evocative and give an indication of the passionate work and depth of feeling that Lehrer brings to her painting.
I love Kelly’s Cove Press, a small publisher focused on California and Bay Area artists. Their Squeak Carnwath and Diebenkorn books are, to me, essential viewing for painters. I REALLY hope they plan to publish something on the drawings of Manuel Neri or the wonderful paintings of Kim Frohsin sometime soon.
In this book, the work of Chester Arnold is featured. There is a wonderful play between smaller works and larger, more realized pieces in the design flow of the book. Covering a number of decades, this is an ideal introduction to Arnold’s work for those of us who aren’t as familiar with it. Frankly, I was blown away when I received the book. Arnold’s handling of narrative structure and symbolic force is rare. So much of contemporary representational painting pays lip service to story and metaphor without the depth necessary to deliver an image of lasting power. Chester Arnold really hits home with these paintings, and he’s been doing it for decades.
Arnold’s manner of painterly facture, compositional array, and use of symbolic objects and associations strongly reminds me of the great Maine-based artist Robert Barnes, as well as the frenetic interiors of Gideon Bok (also working out of Maine). What an interesting show these three would make together.
Ms. Ferris is a force of nature, and her first graphic novel is set to become legendary.
Every single page is a wonder to behold. The story moves with a familiar strangeness, recalling the moodiness of fellow Chicagoan Chris Ware’s work. It’s also an ode to the Pulp Era and Hammer Horror films. The artwork feels so close to the artist’s hand – the line quality and the sense of notebook paper (complete with “holes” for a 3-ring binder) are astounding. Ferris’s use of ballpoint pen exists here as both a limitation and an extravagant, magical tool.
I also really love how Ferris constantly brings art history into her work as a real player in the story. She does this particularly with art that’s readily available to be seen in Chicago. The city, its buildings, its people, and its art are all palpably present.
My suggestion would be to listen to the fantastic profile conducted by NPR here. I think you’ll find yourself as compelled as I was, and you won’t regret picking up this phenomenal book.
Back in 2001 I was awarded a Fellowship Residency at Ox-Bow in Michigan (you can read more about that transformative time here). This was a time before browsing the internet by phone from basically anywhere was even possible; hell, I didn’t even have cell coverage there. There was only one internet connection accessible at Ox-Bow and that was via dial-up.
In the Inn (before renovations that happened back in 2004 or 05), there was a small desk tucked into a corner where people would use the phone to call home or connect their brick-like laptop to the web for a few minutes. I had quite a few late night phone chats there with my then-girlfriend/now-wife after which I’d use the phone jack to log into my email for a sending/receiving session.
One evening I walked into the Inn to see Chris Ware sitting at the desk, talking on the phone, and making a small drawing on a scrap of paper. Mr Ware, a famed-though-awkward comic book artist who had created the fantastic Acme Novelty Library series and the graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth (Among many works. You should look at them – they’re quite profound and beautifully made) was at Ox-Bow to give a talk. And there he was: silent, hunched, and seemingly distracted from his phone call. His pen moved gently, pensively. His paper skittered over the pitted wooden desktop.
We – those who had to use that desk and that phone because no other forms of communication with the outside world we available to us – had been used to sketching absentmindedly while sitting there. I had drawn many a cartoon self portrait during that summer. Often our drawings would join together, becoming layered time capsules consisting of blue and black ink. Mr Ware’s sketch was added to the desk drawer to be subsumed into the mass of other drawings.
Some time later – a day, a week – I found myself rooting through the drawer for a paper upon which to put my jottings, and there was Chris Ware’s drawing. On a 4 by 3 inch scrap of Ox-Bow map (verso) a weary figure, perhaps bemused but certainly full of existential angst (a stylized self-portrait of the artist?), sat before an anachronistic rotary phone. The expression of the man, the drawing’s line work, and the overall feeling of the piece are all quintessential Ware.
And so, here it is for your enjoyment:
I have an exhibition that opens Sunday, September 29th at The Evanston Art Center. The show, titled In Three Moving Parts, is a three-person exhibition featuring nine of my own pieces alongside the works of Norbert Marszalek and Timothy P. Vermeulen.
I traveled to Evanston this week to help install the show. It was a very fast trip – I was only in town for about 12 hours – but it is always a joy to travel those streets. My wife and I spent quite a few years in Chicago and Evanston, and those cities are close to our hearts. If you’re from the Chicagoland area, please consider coming up for the show. The opening is Sunday, September 29th from 1 – 4. Below are a few gray scale shots of the show during our installation. To see it in all its glorious surface density and color, make your way there!
Click the images for a larger view.
I’ll be leading a workshop at the close of the show, on either November 9 or November 10. Stay tuned for information about that!
Also, I’d love to know what you think of the show – if you go, please leave comment here.
A month later, on my way to Syracuse, NY to work at the New York State Fair (booth sitting for a basement waterproofing business), I stopped by the newly-built Walmart in Rome and bought the album on cassette.
I think it was the last cassette tape I ever bought, and I think the primary reason I purchased the cassette version was because my step-dad’s late 1980’s Buick Skyhawk had a cassette deck and I didn’t yet have a portable CD player.
I suppose I could wax rhapsodic about the album, take histrionic license in describing how it affected me, or make grand claims of its wider cultural significance. I doubt it needs that kind of support or defense. Just the fact that it still holds water for me after 20 years feels pretty significant when so much cultural flotsam has easily floated away. I’ll try to contain myself.
Yet even after two decades I can still remember some the feelings I had first hearing those songs. I literally caught my breath when Soma, the last song on the first side of the cassette, transformed from hush to roar in my ears that first time. I had been turning the volume up and up and up during that first side, and the quietness of the initial minutes of the track yielding instantly to the guitar blast was awesome to experience with no prior knowledge of what was about to happen.
That pivot – from Soma finishing side 1 and Geek USA opening side 2 – was astounding. I think these two are my quintessential Smashing Pumpkins songs. They both share a kind of binary form where the balance between the hush and the roar is necessary to their emotional content. The stuff that Corgan is talking about in these songs – the existential rush of desire and fear, love and death, meaning and dissolution – requires more than a simple, single movement. So when Soma blows up or Geek USA stills its storm we sense the contours of one man’s deeply-felt reflections.
Here are the lyrics at the key moment between the two movements in Geek USA:
Shot full of diamonds
And a million years
The disappointed disappear
Like they were never here
In a dream
We are connected
At the wrist
And then I knew we’d been forsaken
Expelled from Paradise
I can’t believe them
When they say that it’s alright
It’s completely appropriate that we find a nod to the album’s title in the whispered words between each half of the song.
The longest track on the album, Silverfuck, takes this ebb-and-flow/hush-to-roar mode to another level, blasting through a ramrod guitar and drum interplay into scintillating psychedelic dreamscapes until pausing for an echoed spoken word intermission only to scream through the huge main theme and spin off in distortion and buzz. It’s exactly the melodrama and bombast that the Pumpkins – a la Billy Corgan – have always stood for.
Siamese Dream is full of great moments sonically and in the sentiments it carries; it’s easy to understand why this album resonated with a generation of teenagers. I don’t know that is truly relevant to my life or emotional state now, but I greatly appreciate the work in aesthetic terms, particularly in the balance and interpolation of big concerns with big sounds. Just a few short years later the Pumpkins would take all of this to a completely cosmic – and semi-psychotic – level on the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness double album. If Mellon Collie represented a serious kind of break from reality, I think it’s clear that Siamese Dream is solidly rooted in reality and felt experience. In it you hear just some conflicted, weird young kids from Chicago trying to carve out a space for their hopes and hide away from their fears. You can see the complexity of these emotions in their performance at The Metro in Chicago on August 14, 1993, which was a CD release event. Click here to watch it.
Or just pick up Siamese Dream and listen closely.
Jacob Maurice Crook and I have a show together at Moberly Area Community College. We installed today and the exhibition opens this coming Monday, June 6th. I hope you can get there to see the show – MACC’s gallery space is quite nice – but if you can’t make it, check below for some shots of the work installed. Click each image for enlargement.
1 ) Crook’s main wall arrangement. One larger oil painting, a small work in oil, and a mezzotint.
2 ) Crook’s inner room set – two oil paintings flank a beautiful graphite and gouache work.
3 ) Crook’s side wall, with an oil piece, two large mezzotints, and a graphite work.
4 ) Crook’s behemoth Hitt Street Garage, an 18 foot, 7 inch oil painting.
5 ) Ballou’s main wall set, with images from Chicago during 2000 and 2001.
6 ) A grouping from Ballou’s 2008 Illinois beach house series.
7 ) Ballou’s 2008 Michigan light photos.
8 ) The 2004 Whitney Ceiling set, installed physically for the first time here (I presented them online during 2010 at this link.)
If you are now sufficiently inspired to see the show for real, MACC is located at 101 College Ave. Moberly, MO 65270.
And here are our statements for your perusal:
Looking Over the Overlooked Exhibition Statement
Matt Ballou and Jacob Crook present work that engages with the proliferation of commonplace, yet ignored, spaces in the urban and suburban landscape.
Using primarily photographic images, Ballou depicts an iconography of geometries and formal tensions based on his experiences with specific interior and exterior spaces over the last decade. Several bodies of work from very different locations around the United States take center stage. These include a latticework of appropriated images showing the ceiling of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, a multitude of manipulated photographs of a skylight in a rural northern Michigan home, and a series of images of the degrading arcs and angles of a dilapidated municipal beach house in northern Illinois. Installing the images in broad arrays allows for a serialized, comparative reading that creates interplay between the total effect of the group and the specific characteristics of individual images. The works are not meant to be singular expressions but rather cumulative contemplations of space, place, light, and the modular effects of specific structures.
A dedicated representational painter and draftsperson, Jacob Crook’s work starts with repeated observation and detailed consideration of the overlooked arenas that quietly dominate the American landscape. Relying heavily on James Howard Kunstler’s book The Geography of Nowhere, Crook’s paintings, drawings, and prints attempt to come to terms with what Kunstler describes as the American “obsession with mobility, the urge to move on every few years” and the results of that tendency: “we choose to live in Noplace, and our dwellings show it.” Casting his eye on the margins of suburbia, Crook tries to locate the dynamic tension that exists between the land and our mundane domination of it. Crook carries on the legacy of landscape painting while rejecting its inherent valorization of the subject matter. Instead of merely creating pleasant pictures, his work uses the historical authority of both painting and the landscape to project a subversive series of questions toward viewers.
Together the work of these two artists is a vision of what American space has become. Not an entirely negative perspective, the work is meant to provoke an introspective attitude in viewers, challenging assumptions and calling questions to mind: “What spaces do I want to live in? What has dictated the sorts of spaces I live in by default? What is my responsibility for the reality of these spaces?” The artists hope that by bringing their own investigations – as humble or as banal as they might seem – to viewers, a thoughtfulness and contemplation might be stimulated.
Ballou is an Assistant Teaching Professor at the University of Missouri where he has taught since 2007. In 2011 he presented a major solo show at Gordon College in Wenham, MA and will exhibit with internationally renowned artist Tim Lowly at the 930 Art Center in Louisville, KY during the summer of 2011.
Crook earned his BFA from the University of Missouri in 2009. His work was recently included in the prestigious Fort Wayne Museum’s Contemporary Realism Biennial. He has been accepted to Syracuse University’s graduate printmaking program for the fall of 2011.
Jacob Maurice Crook | Artist Statement
My work is a contemplation of how the physical design of our surroundings can influence social behavior and also offer insight to cultural practices that inform the nature of such designs. In choosing the subject matter of my imagery, I focus my sights on the fringe of suburbia, attempting to locate dynamic tensions existing between the landscape and the homogeneous developments quietly dominating its topography. I chose to reject the idealized depiction of subject matter inherent in the history of American landscape painting. Instead of merely creating pleasant pictures, I use the history of both painting and landscape to project a subversive series of questions to viewers: What spaces do I want to live in? What dictates the spaces I live in by default? What responsibility (if any) do I take for the reality of these spaces?
Matthew Glenn Ballou | Artist Statement
These photographs were never meant to be artworks per se. Over the course of many years I have used photography as a way to decipher my own eye, as a way to better understand what visual dynamics draw me to certain scenes or arrangements of form and space. So most of what you see here was entirely reactive and instinctive at the beginning. I was attempting to see something in what others might easily overlook. Ultimately it worked, and in many ways these images have become historical and canonical to me. They are also nostalgic in that they are documents of places and times that carry personal significance. In them I see my own eye remixed, my own memory re-contextualized. In them I see a field of visual forces at play, which I have taken and used, reused, and reapplied. I present them in this way at this time to heighten my experience of their formal tension and balance in contrast with my emotional feeling for the spaces and times they represent. I present them so as to experience all of this again, anew. It is the contrasts and resonances made possible by this new context that bring artfulness to the work. The images themselves remain snapshots while the relationships among these fragments become a place for art experiences to reside: between the lines, in the overlooked spaces, around corners, beyond sight.