Wednesday, April 29, 2009

(re)load opens may 15, 2009

Catherine Forster
Amanda Gutierrez
Patrick Lichty
Shane Mecklenburger
Mari Ortiz
Rob Ray
Sara Schnadt
Michael Una

Opening Friday May 15 from 6pm-10pm
May 15 - June 13, 2009

New media art is an art genre that encompasses artworks created with new media technologies, including digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, Internet art, interactive art technologies, computer robotics, and art as biotechnology. The term differentiates itself by its resulting cultural objects, which can be seen in opposition to those deriving from old media arts (i.e. traditional painting, sculpture, etc.). This show is a small portion of what some artists have created in Chicago.

1765 S. Laflin St.
Chicago IL 60608
antenapilsen (at)
Saturdays noon-5pm or by appointment

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cafe Magazine

Redefine, Re-imagine, Recycle
Written by Benjamin Ortiz Photos Mauricio Rubio

Latino visual artists in Chicago are turning their aesthetic concerns over to the environment we all inhabit.

These three artists, in particular, envision and expand notions of environmental themes that connect with both typical and unusual ideas about urban Latino ecology. Whether their themes concern balancing natural with human-made space, seeing art in a wider context of biological and planetary processes, or digging into a spiritual heritage to pay respect to Mother Earth, these Chicago Latino artists are making us look deeper into the environment that we might take for granted from within our skyscraper valleys and vistas.

ecoartists_3CHASING THE SUN
Paola Cabal remembers returning to Bogotá in the late 1990s, after growing up in the United States from age 3. Newly elected President Andres Pastrana was attempting to end the decades-long civil war there among the various insurgencies. But, she recalls, “nobody had a sense of nation, a sense of country.” She came away from the experience feeling more “torn apart” than any sense of unity, and that has informed her artistic practices 
ever since.

Creating site-specific installations, Cabal calls her works “interventions” because she does not believe in pure invention, especially since what’s already there is much more interesting to her, from the spatial context to the audience.

“What I try to do is point up the strangeness of painting,” Cabal, 33, says, referring to the classical idea of creating monuments to perpetuate things. “I like to juxtapose the still, static thing with the real context of ‘always change.’” In the end, she says, “somebody moving through space is ultimately the thing that activates the piece.”

“Shadowtracing,” a piece she did for her bachelor’s degree, was the skeletal winter painting of a denuded tree against the wall of a not-for-profit organization she noticed while going to and from school. She thought first about doing a mural, but then decided to fill out the streetlight shadow. Once the leaves grew back, the shadow effect seemed to fulfill the natural promise of rebirth across the wall.

“Here Tomorrow,” the piece for her master’s thesis, traced patterns of sunlight throughout the day across a gallery space. With no methodology worked out, she ran around with an assistant every 15 minutes all day, tracing patterns. Later, she went back and filled in the traces with white spray paint to look like sunlight. Without trying to, she fooled some audiences into thinking they saw real, natural light.

She has created variations on this theme and tried to imagine natural light in cavernous spaces, also painting sun patterns across others’ works and charting nighttime lighting and reflections. She always accommodates her work and approach to the environment at hand, whether it’s a gallery or a public space.

“One thing that I haven’t done yet that I would like to do is analemma — the pattern that’s made by the declension and ascension of the sun over the course of the year,” she says, relishing the eventual product that will be not only natural but also gorgeous. “It’s beautiful, because the shape that it makes — if you do it right the same day every month, every two weeks if you’re really religious about it — it makes a figure-eight.”

Ricardo Santos Hernández calls himself “Consumer Man,” admitting that he’s just as caught up in wasteful materialism as anybody else.

ecoartists_2In an essay of the same title, he bemoans the Cermak Road smokestacks spewing “a continuous vaporous smoke” that he sees from his third-floor studio in Pilsen’s A.P.O. building on 18th Street, as well as “the smoldering steel mills and refineries in Gary and Hammond.” To him, these are symbols of environmental racism and a shorter lifespan for the working class.

“I seek to paint these troubling landscapes to negotiate with my tormented heart,” says the artist, who turns 52 on April 3, describing his artistic practice almost in Catholic terms of sin and expiation. Even so, he’s not optimistic about salvation: “I see a strong disconnection between Latinos and the environment … It is really sad, because if you have a disconnect, your soul is also not grounded.”

Hernández sees himself grounded by the desert of his upbringing in Nogales, Arizona. “My dad is indio. He’s from Sonora, a Yaqui Indian, and we’ve always had this idea to walk in the desert,” he says. “I don’t consider myself an individual who practices or follows my traditions, but there was always this blessing and fulfillment from being in the desert.”

Those expansive deserts seem a far cry from Pilsen’s landscape of cramped signage, neon and tenements. Among oxygenating plants and plastic water bottles in his studio space, a decommissioned artillery shell from Army surplus sits atop a dais like a lethal quinceañera cake. Various paintings on display or in the works depict a massive fish kill that Hernández witnessed when he came to Chicago in 1993 to attend the School of the Art Institute.

“Even though Chicago’s very dynamic, it’s also very contaminated, very industrial,” he says.
Playing with found objects and collage materials from magazines, Hernández works through the Latino pop-culture notion of rascuachismo — a funky aesthetic of “making do” with minimal resources. [Rascuache has several meanings, ranging from poor and penniless to kitsch bordering on vulgar.]

Influenced by the work of Chicago muralist Marcos Raya, he also references the typical cultural iconography, such as La Virgen de Guadalupe and Mexican wrestlers, that one finds across mural walls. Thus, his paintings seem at first glance to reflect a recognizable U.S. Latino popular aesthetic, but with a sense of rascuache-as-recycling.

Rascuache has been elevated to a scholarly and fashionable thing, but it’s really about making ends meet and not being wasteful,” he says. “It’s always been the realm of the disadvantaged, the one who will not make it or is always at the end of the totem pole.”

From atop a skateboard, Juan Angel Chávez might look at the city a bit differently than somebody just waiting for the bus. “What is a bench to somebody is not a bench,” he explains. “It was never a bench to me.”

Kinetically re-using sidewalks, steps and objects for his own jollies rather than what they were meant for, has clued him into new ways of seeing what’s right in front of him, affording the same meditative experience he gets from hanging out in abandoned buildings and scavenging for castoffs in hardy post-industrial ecosystems. “Walk in the old factories, and they’re completely decayed,” he says, “and plants are growing on the roof, and moss is growing on the walls, and you see that nature is beginning to take over again.”

An elemental part of his artistic practice involves working with found objects and creatively tapping into their “personality,” as he calls it. “They’re a part of us — they have a history,” Chávez, 37, says of materials that bear the aura of human use and interaction.

ecoartists_1Through these pieces, he aims for an effect that is immediate, humble and unpretentious. Influenced by public art, Chávez worked on murals around town while interning at the National Museum of Mexican Art. But he grew more interested in the act of creating a mural in a community than in the product itself. “I started losing interest when I [realized I] wasn’t really interested in the outcome of the pieces as much as what was happening at the moment,” he says.

Taking cues from public interaction on mural projects, the McKinley Park resident began creating guerrilla-style street installations with found objects. His work from the past five years combines “large community spaces, structures and architecture.” For example, his “Speaker Project” (an “interactive sound structure”) from 2007 was as big as a two-car garage.

Local bands performed inside it at the Hyde Park Art Center, while audiences enjoyed both music and art space. “It’s not only [just about] playing inside an object or a sculpture — it’s actually creating this experience,” he says of his goal.

Originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, Chávez considers himself from neither here nor there, and despite strong familial influences, he doesn’t consider his work “cultural.” “I can’t even call it Latino, because that’s too much of a loaded word,” he says. “But I think resourcefulness, in terms of materials and objects, is something that I learned from people who have to live that way. I think that is an international thing and cross-cultural. I can’t say it’s Latino at all.”

Likewise, “I don’t consider my work eco-friendly,” he says. “I’m not doing this because I’m trying to save the Earth necessarily — I’m doing it because it connects me to nature, the processes of decaying nature, rebirthing, re-growth and the wild side of existence.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009



Chicagoans can get a jump on this year’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations and the city’s festival season at the first ever Mole de Mayo outdoor festival on Saturday, May 2.

The Mole de Mayo festival will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m at El Zocalo Plaza on 18th Street and Paulina in Pilsen, the heart of Chicago’s Mexican community. The event is being organized by Eighteenth Street Development Corporation, a non-profit that has been serving the Pilsen neighborhood for over 30 years and supported by area foundation LISC/Chicago.

The highlight of the event is a mole cook-off. Mole (pronounced moe-lay) is a traditional Mexican sauce, typically made of chiles, nuts, spices, chocolate and seasonings. Served with chicken or on enchiladas, this dish is a staple in most Mexican households. Mole originates from the Puebla region of Mexico, where the Batalla de Puebla was won on May 5th, making Cinco de Mayo an important date in Mexican history.

“We wanted to create this event for Pilsen because it’s one of Chicago’s largest Mexican communities without an event to commemorate Cinco de Mayo,” said Hector Saldana, one of the event’s organizers. “We envision an event that has cultural significance, not just another Cinco de Mayo party.”

The Mole cook-off will include awards in three categories, including Best Mole award, the People’s Choice Award, and the Casero award, for the best local homemade mole.

The cook-off judges are an eclectic mix of Chicagoans, including the 312 Dining Diva, Audarshia Townsend; Alpana Singh, Host of Check Please!; Honorable Judge David Delgado of the Circuit Court of Cook County; Mel T, co-host of the DreX Morning Show on KISS-FM; and Javier Salas, new anchor for Univision.

A variety of restaurants from Pilsen and the Chicago region have signed up to compete including Fogata Village, Lalo’s on Halsted, Mundial Cocina Mestiza, Nuevo Leon, Riques, El Sol, May Street Café, Zocalo and Fig Catering.

In addition to sampling the mole, participants will have the opportunity to shop local at the Mercado market from businesses like Artesenias D’Mexico, Flor Del Monte, Don Churros, the Pilsen Community Market, Zapatillas, OMD and Pop This! Vendors will also be selling Sauza margaritas, micheladas (Mexican-style bloody marys) and Miller Lite beer.

Specifics of the event are as follows:

When: Saturday, May 2nd from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Where: EL Zocalo Plaza, 18th Street & Paulina (CTA Pink Line Stop, Paulina)
Cost: $1 suggested donation.
Judging by Celebrity Panel: 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Mole Trophy Casero Presentation: 2:00 p.m.
Mole Trophy Winner Presentation: 3:00 p.m.
Peoples Choice Award Trophy Presentation: 6:30 p.m.

Kristy Menas -

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pilsen Heads North

Art Review

By Angelina Krahn

In the 1970s, the Pilsen neighborhood on Chicago's Lower West Side became the capital for a predominantly Mexican population. More than 30 years later, Pilsen remains a vibrant center for Mexican-American culture and art. It seems fitting then that Walker's Point, Pilsen's sister neighborhood to the north, should host two concurrent exhibitions of Pilsen-based artists, both on view at the Walker's Point Center for the Arts through April 25.

Artist Gabriel Villa, whose portraits share the walls of the rear gallery space with the works of printmaker René Hugo Arceo, curated the work of eight additional Pilsen-based artists for the group exhibition. While the artists are linked geographically, their works take distinct approaches to both internal and external landscapes, and politics both sexual and international.

Near the gallery's front window, painter Robert Valadez draws inspiration from the mother/whore dichotomy in a pair of large, gilt-framed pieces. In La Sirena, a topless, tattooed mermaid with parted lips and excellent posture perches atop a jagged rock, her crimson tail curled around her. In Valadez's La Virgen, the iconic Virgin of Guadalupe, a Marian apparition particular to Mexican Catholicism, hovers above a blue-winged cherub.

Across from La Virgen, a shrouded icon of a very different sort is employed in Ricardo Santos Hernández's mixed-media installation, Bombs Over Baghdad. In this overtly political piece, Hernández uses the figure of Death and two- and three-dimensional skulls to critique America's war on Iraq.

In the rear gallery space, curator Villa and Arceo fill the walls with richly textured, figural pieces rendered in a primary palette. Villa's large, unframed works on paper are portraits of the disenfranchised local inhabitants of Pilsen. There are no arid spaces on Villa's works; he incorporates elements of frottage, expressive brush-strokes and delicate cross-hatchings to activate the entire surface. In Urban Halo, a crown of rats circles the head of a seated figure, whose eyes and mouth, half-closed, suggest a saint's ecstasy or an altered state. Along the edges of the piece, a row of stamped pennies line the perimeter. These lowliest of coins amount to little more than throwing small change at big problems; a pittance for systemic poverty.

Arceo's body of work, most of an earlier vintage than Villa's recent pieces, comprises a selection of original acrylic works on paper and a striking quartet of figural linocuts. The latter are the strongest pieces; Arceo deftly uses the contrast between monochromatic or minimal color and bare paper to carve portraits from negative and positive space. Arceo's masterful technique painstakingly mimics the intricate textures of a woodcut in Lacandon Boy, a recent and finely detailed black-and-white portrait of one of the Maya people contoured with hundreds of tiny cuts.

The works of Arceo, Villa and the eight "Artists of Pilsen" draw a composite portrait of a diverse and vibrant community of artists who manage to find beauty amid the challenges facing their neighborhood, and as a result, create a dialogue that crosses not only state lines, but resonates beyond cultural, racial and economic borders.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Critical Gameplay

Critical Gameplay is a collection of strategically designed video games. Each game asks the question, what do common game mechanics teach us? The four games in the collection are designed to help reevaluate our perspective on gameplay experiences. Critical gameplay seeks to offer alternate perspectives on the way we play.
The Exhibition:

Four video games will be displayed for visitors to play on multiple stations. Each game takes a specific gameplay standard and actively works against it. The hope is the initiation of an intellectual dialogue about the opportunities in unexplored gameplay mechanics.

The exhibition will also include other video games and interactive works created by Lindsay Grace.

The exhibition is open to the public and will be held for one night on April 17th.
• Location: 1100 West Cermak (enter at 2268 S. Carpenter), Chicago, Illinois, USA
• Time: 6:30pm - 10:00pm
• Cost: Free (Open to the public)

Refreshments will be served.

Please visit or email [email]

For a video teaser, visit