JNO Cook | Miscellany | Chicago Reader

JNO Cook 

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When Schwartz claims that his gallery caters to the artist as "mad scientist," he may be thinking of Jno Cook, who's been associated with Beret since its first show.

Trained as an industrial engineer, Cook constructs amusingly nonfunctional kinetic contraptions from scavenged household appliances. Like much of the art at Beret, Cook's work has drawn both smirks and applause from critics.

In "Back-yard Sale," Beret's last show at the old Elston space, Cook used the entire gallery to comment on art and commerce. A panoramic photo-screen showing the artist's backyard was set up under a circus-tent-like structure. TV monitors played images of birds chirping, and 40 cardboard light boxes showed slides of all of his unsold pieces.

"It's possible to be with a for-profit gallery, but they'll dictate and limit what you can do," says Cook, a photography instructor at Columbia College. "What attracted me about Ned was this strange idea of a for-profit gallery that never makes a profit, a place dedicated to the love of showing things more than anything else." Cook acknowledges that his average machine ignores the necessities of salability. "It's not pretty and it's not meant to occupy a space. It's impossible to own and curate--it can fall apart and stop working."

Perhaps that's why Cook found his perfect dealer in Schwartz. "Ned's a beautiful person, a charmer, and he always comes forward to help you out. He's not the type of person who would rip you off, which happens all too frequently with dealers who want a tremendous cut. You go to a lot of galleries and you're immediately put off by the high heels and suits. But he runs a relaxed space."

--J.H.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Nathan Mandell.

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