From the Bubbly Creek festival to sculptures made from straws | Art Feature | Chicago Reader

From the Bubbly Creek festival to sculptures made from straws 

A roundup of art events happening this weekend

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click to enlarge Giulia Mattera, whose piece "Expectations" is shown here, is one of the artists slated for the Bubbly Creek Performance Art Assembly. - MANUEL VASON
  • Giulia Mattera, whose piece "Expectations" is shown here, is one of the artists slated for the Bubbly Creek Performance Art Assembly.
  • Manuel Vason

Rotting flesh and chemicals aren't exactly what you might consider "cute," but that was the reaction of Defibrillator Gallery director Joseph Ravens when he initially heard the term "Bubbly Creek." This nickname describes the part of the Chicago River on the western border of Bridgeport where gases still occasionally bubble at the riverbed from animal waste dumped more than a century ago. Once Ravens learned where the nickname derived from, he said he was "both disgusted and delighted."

This week Defibrillator Gallery is joining forces with the Zhou B Art Center to present Bubbly Creek Performance Art Assembly, a free three-day festival in Bridgeport. Curated by Angeliki Tsoli, an interdisciplinary artist originally from Greece, the event will feature performance work by international artists Santina Amato, Jessica Elaine Blinkhorn, Óscar González-Díaz, Carlos Salazar Lermont, Giulia Mattera, Smeza+Keegan, Diana Soria, Nicolina Stylianou, and Ieke Trinks. Inspired by Bubbly’s Creek odd and fascinating history, the performance festival will mirror this description, as performance art is often also seen as odd and strange, but all the more interesting for it. The festival aims to celebrate the Bridgeport neighborhood, its labor history, and the influence of labor on the community.

Each day features a different venue, with the first evening, Thursday, June 13, kicking off at Co-Prosperity Sphere (3219-21 S. Morgan) from 7 to 9 PM. Day two, Saturday, June 15, is from 5 to 9 PM at locations around Bridgeport (check out the @DFBRL8R Instagram for times and places). On Sunday, June 16, Zhou B Art Center (1029 W. 35th) will host a live event from 7 to 9 PM. A reception at Zhou B from 7 to 10 PM on Friday, June 21, will close out the festival.

"The contaminated river is a revolting reminder of the harshness of industrial capitalism, exploitation of [often immigrant] labor, and disproportionate concentrations of wealth in America," says Tsoli. Social concerns and labor issues are clearly still relevant today; as for performance artists, their work trickles on, as does Bubbly Creek.

click to enlarge COURTESY THE GERBER HART LIBRARY & ARCHIVES
  • Courtesy The Gerber Hart Library & Archives

The Gerber Hart Library and Archives opens up its archives for Pride

The Gerber Hart Library and Archives (6500 N. Clark), which houses records of LGBTQ individuals and organizations, is hosting the exhibition "Out of the Closets & Into the Streets: Power, Pride & Resistance in Chicago’s Gay Liberation Movement" through September 19. A free open house, Out of the Closets & Into the Exhibits, will be held Saturday, June 15, from 11 AM to 3 PM.

The exhibition includes large items and interactive objects (some dating back to the 1950s) from the library’s special collections. Gerber Hart has a number of additional exhibitions on display, including "Gay Is Good: Homophile Activism Before Stonewall," "SportsDykes & GirlJocks," and "LGBTQ Slogan and Pride Parade Pins."

The "Gay Is Good" exhibition touches on the pre-Stonewall activist organizations called called "homophile groups" that existed all over the United States but eventually declined. "SportsDykes & GirlJocks" puts sports publications and sports clubs on display, including GALS (Great Angling Lesbian Society) as well as TRI-Women, Gay Games, and Smelts. Gerber Hart also has a Walgreens pharmacy on-site where LGBTQ slogan and Pride Parade pins are on display. All of these exhibitions are open to the public during the open house.

Timothy Stewart-Winter, author of Queer Clout: Chicago and the Rise of Gay Politics, says that "Chicago is actually more representative than New York and San Francisco of the trajectory of gay politics." People moved to Chicago, "but it's not the kind of national mecca that New York and San Francisco are like. And so gay bar raids went on longer here, gay people had to have more allies in order to win clout in City Hall than in other places."

click to enlarge Tara Donovan, "Untitled (Mylar)" - COURTESY THE ARTIST AND PACE GALLERY. PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRISTOPHER BURKE STUDIOS.
  • Tara Donovan, "Untitled (Mylar)"
  • Courtesy the artist and Pace Gallery. Photograph by Christopher Burke Studios.

The Smart Museum takes everyday objects to the gallery

Tara Donovan is into precision. Her work is mathematical and incredibly methodical. Working with materials like plastic straws, index cards, rubber bands, Styrofoam cups, toothpicks, and Slinkys, she transforms these everyday objects into large-scale sculptures. For the past two decades, Donovan has been working with assemblage and mass-produced objects. In "Fieldwork," at the Smart Museum, Donovan will be exhibiting wall-based and large-scale sculpture together for the first time, while still manipulating the viewer and manipulating the material.

In a Studio International interview, Donovan said, "I wanted viewers to experience a sort of epiphany when they realised the field of material spread out before them is actually constructed of an object quite familiar – the 'Aha!' moment, if you will." When looking at the grand scale of a Donovan piece as a whole, we see hues of blue, and glints of metal, and the object appears heavy and robust. But examining the work more closely exposes objects from your work shed: small nails chaotically clumped together to form the perfect square.

Her display of "pin drawings" at the Pace Gallery in New York garnered attention as she moved from sculpture to print. Here, with incredible detail, she created in the same way that she creates a sculpture—by applying layer upon layer to ultimately present a three-dimensional appearance. The works become dizzying as the eye migrates over the paper. You could say Donovan is a magician of the arts—she tricks the eye. Objects that we pass every day, that we throw away without thought, are revitalized and rethought in Donovan’s ambitious works.

click to enlarge Muscle Memories - COURTESY OF CHICAGO ART DEPARTMENT
  • Muscle Memories
  • Courtesy of Chicago Art Department

"Muscle Memories" explores trauma and the future of the body

Five artists are coming together at the Chicago Art Department (1932 S. Halsted) for an exhibition that explores the ways bodies are affected by social and political pressures. The exhibition, "Muscle Memories," focuses on how memory can influence the body and the future of our physical space.

Jesse Meredith (a CAD resident) and Marcela Torres will present a piece about self-defense. Movements like blocking, striking, and kicking are incorporated into Torres's 40-minute piece. Self-defense firearms are at the core of Meredith’s performance, where he will focus on the "problematic culture of firearms protection training."

Cameron Clayborn's work looks at his personal identity as a Black gay man and uses sculpture to expand on themes of physical exercise and meditation. Aviv Benn and Herman Aguirre's self-portraiture both feature thick layers of paint and symbolism; Benn's work specifically yokes humor and trauma together through symbols like astrological signs or parts of the body.

The artists in the show work across all mediums and are addressing trauma head-on as the viewers serve as a point of support. The opening reception is Friday, June 14, from 6-10 PM, and the show will be on view until July 6. Also on June 14, CAD will present In Conversation: Free Write Arts & Literacy, where more than a dozen artists will perform spoken word and poetry and share audio recordings related to the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.  v

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