THE INDEPENDENT VOICE OF THE VISUAL ARTS

 

Introduction

 

How do specific media and practitioners ascend to the status of Fine Art and Fine Artists? In short, how does art become capital-A Art?

Our theme, “art beyond ART,” was inspired by our discovery that the Art Institute of Chicago’s serious institutional recognition of photography does not date back very far. In fact, one of its photography collection’s early champions, David Travis, is still an active photographer here in Chicago. We wanted to examine how photography, performance art, intuitive/outsider art, new media art, and other innovative forms have gained (or are gaining) recognition by universities, museums, and other powerful institutions.

We begin with a conversation between photographer David Travis and Rebecca Memoli. Travis talks about how the Art Institute’s photography department took shape as well as his own recent output. Art historian Kelli Wood is next with a polemical essay about the evolution of video games and their presentation in museum settings. She argues that false, ideologically motivated dichotomies between art and technology have distorted our perception of video games as art objects with independent aesthetic value.

Complementary articles from Noa/h Fields and Phillip Barcio take on Chicago’s fertile performance art scene. Fields reflects on the condition of performance art in the city, noting a “backwards-glanced turn” toward past summits of achievement. Barcio introduces us to John Thomure, a young performance artist who discovered the work of the late Lawrence Steger while browsing the stacks at the Logan Square Branch of the Chicago Public Library. Thomure uncovers the grassroots history of that form in Chicago while attempting to complete Steger’s unfinished ninth piece.

Photographer Lauren Whitney documents the House of Tomorrow in Beverly Shores, Indiana. Built for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, this historic structure, which was the United States’ first glass house, has fallen into disrepair. Our editor-in-chief, Michel Ségard, reviews EXPO Chicago.

Our Detroit correspondent, K.A. Letts, analyzes street art and avant-garde digital work with the help of Marshall McLuhan’s media theories. In southeastern Wisconsin, Ann Sinfield reviews several shows at the Racine Art Museum that focus on the seminal 1969 “OBJECTS: USA” show, which helped put craft media on the map.

Emelia Lehmann, meanwhile, considers an exhibition honoring the legacy of outsider/intuitive visual artist and punk rocker Wesley Willis. She also speaks with T. Paul Young, the Illinois Institute of Technology architecture prof (and former cigar gofer to Mies van der Rohe) who mentored a young Willis. Finally, Evan Carter reviews Wrightwood 659’s show of Tetsuya Ishida’s surrealistic paintings. While he sees much to critique in Ishida’s approach, Ishida’s early death by suicide leaves him and us to wonder how the artist could have pushed past his own limits if he had stuck around a few more years.

New art must go beyond what went before. We hope this issue helps point the way for artists seeking to overcome any strictures they may currently face.

The Editors

 

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