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SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY The South Side Weekly is a nonprofit newsprint magazine written for and about neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago. We publish in-depth coverage of the arts and issues of public interest alongside oral histories, poetry, fiction, interviews, and artwork from local photographers and illustrators. Started as a student paper at the University of Chicago, the South Side Weekly is now an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting cultural and civic engagement on the South Side, and to providing educational opportunities for developing journalists, writers, and artists. Editor-in-Chief Osita Nwanevu Executive Editor Bess Cohen Managing Editors Jake Bittle, Olivia Stovicek Politics Editors Christian Belanger, Rachel Schastok Education Editor Mari Cohen Music Editor Maha Ahmed Stage & Screen Lucia Ahrensdorf Editor Visual Arts Editors Lauren Gurley, Robert Sorrell Editors-at-Large John Gamino, Bea Malsky, Meaghan Murphy, Hannah Nyhart Contributing Editors Julia Aizuss, Austin Brown, Sarah Claypoole, Emeline Posner, Hafsa Razi Social Media Editor Emily Lipstein Web Editor Andrew Koski Visuals Editor Ellie Mejia Layout Editors Adam Thorp, Baci Weiler Senior Writers: Patrick Leow, Jack Nuelle, Stephen Urchick Staff Writers: Olivia Adams, Max Bloom, Amelia Dmowska, Mark Hassenfratz, Maira Khwaja, Jeanne Lieberman, Zoe Makoul, Olivia Myszkowski, Jamison Pfeifer, Kari Wei Staff Photographers: Camden Bauchner, Juliet Eldred, Kiran Misra, Siddhesh Mukerji, Luke White Staff Illustrators: Jean Cochrane, Lexi Drexelius, Wei Yi Ow, Amber Sollenberger, Teddy Watler, Julie Wu Editorial Intern

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The paper is produced by an all-volunteer editorial staff and seeks contributions from across the city. We distribute each Wednesday in the fall, winter, and spring, with breaks during April and December. Over the summer we publish monthly. Send submissions, story ideas, comments, or questions to or mail to: South Side Weekly 1212 E. 59th Street Ida Noyes Hall #030 Chicago, IL 60637 For advertising inquiries, contact: (773)234-5388 or advertising@southsideweekly Read our stories online at

Cover art by Javier Suarez.

IN CHICAGO A week’s worth of developing stories, odd events, and signs of the times, culled from the desks, inboxes and wandering eyes of the editors

Ahhhhh, Rats! Deep in the recesses of the city’s official website, a drily written page on Chicago rats serves to educate/terrify curious citizens. The facts stated, which start off like lines from Trivial Pursuit cards (“the name [Norway rat] is rather misleading as this species originated in Asia”), eventually become something more akin to horror movie taglines (“[Chicago’s rats] unharmed after a five-story fall”). Another page on the same website describes methods for dealing with infestations, but the reassuring sentiment near the end (“if rats can’t feed, they can’t breed!”) loses a bit of its bite when one realizes that with rats’ extremely varied diet (“rats may even eat the weakest and young [of their own]”) they can pretty much always, in fact, feed. Crosstown Classic In early April, North Siders and South Siders united to revive two discontinued bus routes on 31st Street and Lincoln Avenue. Together, they form the Crosstown Bus Coalition, and they’re lobbying the CTA to bring their buses back. According to leading member 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar, it’s “kind of like the Crosstown Classic, only we’re not at odds with each other” (which, admittedly, is the whole point of the Classic). The formation of the coalition has brought new attention to the two routes, which could provide better access to schools, businesses, and healthcare. Unfortunately CTA officials appear unmoved by this beautiful new friendship, insisting that the joint bid treated as two separate proposals—ones they

don’t seem to be considering very highly, citing a lack of demand according to their own surveys. Coalition members hope to make a new impression on a new CTA president, to be appointed after the current president Forrest Claypool moves to City Hall to be Rahm Emanuel’s chief of staff in his second term. However, the results of a different election might mean a long wait for the two buses—Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget would cut the CTA’s funding by $133 million. New Charter School Proposals The school year isn’t quite over, but CPS is already thinking ahead to fall 2016. After closing nearly fifty schools in 2013, CPS is proposing over thirty new charter schools (raising the total number of charter schools in the district to over 160), some of which will open in the fall of next year. These schools are not being assigned by location (although they’re being proposed in neighborhoods including Back of the Yards, Hyde Park, and Lawndale), nor by need; rather, all proposals are vetted on their “quality,” as was told to the Tribune by CPS’s chief officer of “innovation and incubation” Jack Elsey. If CPS decides to reject a proposal, the school (and its funding) is forfeited to the Illinois Charter School Commission. Vice president of the CTU Jesse Sharkey has reacted to the new school proposal more or less as expected. Officially, CPS encourages all its critics, whether they are Karen Lewis or not, to advise them on these decisions through Neighborhood Advisory Councils.

IN THIS ISSUE from chatham to wonderland

a product of exposure

reworking the familiar

“In all of the adaptions of Alice I’ve seen, she doesn’t look like me.” zoe makoul…4

“Being bicultural and bilingual opened a lot of [musical] opportunities for me.” itzel blancas…9

Exploring is what Parra does best. lauren poulson…14

when a woman bikes in the city

“It’s just an all-in-one empowerment device.” adia robinson…5 they don’t know invisibility

Why does Rev. Jesse Jackson’s opinion matter any more than that of a freelance writer from Auburn Gresham? mari cohen…6 the things we couldn’t say

Bucking the chance to signal what’s important. celia bever…7


young, i’m black, and i want $15”

Signs screamed out in large font that almost half of Chicago’s African-American workers earn a minimum wage. will cabaniss…10 groundbreaking observations

The audience weaved in and out of Giles’s colossal sculptures. alex harrell…11 three heads are better than one

The trio is with [the selected] artist through every step of the process from the first gallery visit to installation. emiliano burr di mauro…12

mysteries from childhood

“Our exhibition is perhaps somewhat mysterious, but mostly kind of playful.” darren wan…15 beat poet

In some poems hip-hop is the central object of meditation, while in others its beat pulses unobtrusively in the background. kevin gislason…16 a is for ashland, b is for bridgeport

S is for South Side is rich in details the reader can enjoy and the toddler can point out. maira khwaja…17 APRIL 29 , 2015 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 3


From Chatham to Wonderland Fifteen year-old Ariana Burks is Chicago’s youngest rising star BY ZOE MAKOUL


he cast of Wonderland, Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventures energetically circles the stage, chanting, “Curiouser and curiouser.” Suddenly they freeze, and a small girl plops herself down center stage, chess pieces in hand and trademark blue dress secured tightly with a white apron. Of course, this is Alice, played by dynamic fifteen-year-old South-Sider Ariana Burks. Delivering her first lines with the appropriate childish melodrama, Burks proclaims loudly, “I now crown you Queen Alice, Queen of Everything!” The audience, mostly children, laughs. Alice then declares that dessert shall be eaten before dinner, and that she shall always be picked first for every team. Burks made her debut in Chicago Children’s Theatre’s performance of Wonderland this week as Chicago’s first African-American Alice. The hilariously fun musical is based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass with some important additions: shred guitar, pounding drums, and pure, unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll. Because the cast also plays the instruments and sings the songs, Burks had to learn entire numbers on the piano while practicing her voice and drum solos. All that practice and Burks’s acting skills were on display at a final run-through of the show on Tuesday. Director Rachel Rockwell describes Burks as emotionally accessible. “You know exactly how she’s feeling at every moment,” Rockwell said in an email, and indeed, Burks is subtle and nuanced as an actress, magnificently navigating a British accent and a seven-and-a-half year-old character. Her acting, which is earnest, funny, and explosive, is also understated—she 4 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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effectively conveys her character through a slight slouch and a childish pout rather than exaggerated gesture. As the cast struggled with last-minute technical challenges, Burks remained poised. It was only when the show paused to deal with a prop malfunction that Burks revealed how immersed she’d been throughout the show as her face abruptly gained maturity—she suddenly looked fifteen instead of half that age. Although Burks says she identifies with Alice and her impatience to grow up, she herself is mature and articulate. She is also very determined to make her mark on the theater world. Burks, who has dreams of playing Elphaba in Wicked, Christine in Phantom of the Opera, Aida in Aida, and Sarah in Ragtime, is currently working toward her goals at ChiArts High School, where she majors in Musical Theater. Her mom, Elise Burks, stresses how lucky her daughter is to have been so successful in the pursuit of her dreams. According to Ms. Burks, “musical theater is just not widely popular on the South Side. There’s not that many kids who know about auditions or even think about being on Broadway.” Burks is from Chatham, where according to Ms. Burks, “everyone wants to be famous,” but not many people look to the stage. Burks has thrived while pursuing her passion—she is an Emmy-nominated actress and a member of Lookingglass Theatre’s youth ensemble, with credits at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Goodman Theatre, and Redmoon Theater (among others). Burks has television credits too, on Chicago Fire, The Jr. Cuisine Cooking Show (Emmy nominee), ER, and PrankStars. Despite her daughter’s talent, Ms. Burks says she found out the hard way that

joe mazza

certain roles were out of reach for her children (Burks’s sister is an aspiring actress as well). “There were roles they wouldn’t even get the chance to audition for, just because they were black,” Ms. Burks explains. She describes the discouraging nature of these situations, especially in the tight-knit community of Chicago’s younger actors. Burks would often see children she knew get called in to audition for classic shows like Mary Poppins, Matilda, and The Sound of Music, while she was never afforded the chance. Understandably, when Burks landed the role of Alice her family was shocked. “When you say Alice from Alice in Wonderland, we all sort of have an idea of what she’s supposed to look like,” Ms. Burks explains, “and we don’t see her being a black girl with curly hair.” Burks concurs. “I worked hard in the audition,” she says. “But I never thought I’d get this role, and when I did it was very surprising… In all of the adaptions of Alice I’ve seen, she doesn’t look like me.”

Burks elaborates, saying, “To play this role—it’s a triumph, because I think that color-blind casting is growing, and I think people are starting to see that Alice can be any race.” In the past few years, Broadway has undergone major transformations in demographic. African-American actors like Norm Lewis and Keke Palmer have made their marks on the Broadway stage in traditionally Caucasian roles—they played the titular characters in Phantom of the Opera and Cinderella, respectively. Burks, who modestly cites Wonderland ’s cast, her mom and sister, and Audra McDonald as role models, is surely an inspiration to the young people that will flock to see her as Alice. After all, Wonderland is about being comfortable in your own skin, and Burks admits, “A lot of the lessons in the show apply to me. Like if you conform to society, you end up being like everyone else, and that’s not what Alice wants. She wants to be her own person.”

When a Woman Bikes in the City O

n Saturday, April 18, a woman rolled a black Trek bike decked out with lights and saddle bags into the activities room at the recreation center at Dvorak Park for Women Bike Chicago’s Third Annual Day of Dialogue and Demonstration. "That's a beautiful bike!" a woman sitting in one of the assembled folding chairs exclaimed. The other women in the audience laughed. "It's a useful bike," the first woman responded. The Day of Dialogue and Demonstration is one of Women Bike Chicago’s efforts to encourage more women to recognize the utility and joy of biking in the city of Chicago. Attendance at the event has grown from only forty women at the first event in 2013, to nearly one hundred. This year’s event featured a bike zoo where women could try out different kinds of bikes, as well as presentations on topics ranging from the basics of bike maintenance to biking as a commuter to how to put a bike on a CTA bus. Representatives from Divvy, the City of Chicago Bicycling Ambassadors, Po Campo Bike Bags, and Slow Roll Chicago provided participants with more information about their roles in the Chicago biking scene, and the day concluded with a practice group bike ride through Pilsen. "This is clearly designed not to be for super experienced bikers," said Jane Healy, one of the founders of Women Bike. "It's to try to encourage people who are considering maybe riding their bikes more, people who are enjoying biking and would like to make it more a part of their life, people who don't have a car and need to get around." The event also provided riders with a chance to network with other riders and form mentorships to help inexperienced riders get used to biking in the city. The or-


A Pilsen organization fights the gender gap in cycling BY ADIA ROBINSON

lauren scott

ganizers of Women Bike Chicago believe that when more women bike, biking is safer for everybody. "If there are women out there biking you know that it's a safe community, because women have a much lower tolerance for risk,” said one of the event’s many organizers, Susan Levin. In addition to the annual event, Women Bike Chicago organizes group rides and smaller pop-up workshops, social events, and happy hours. Women Bike Chicago was founded three years ago, when a group of women that biked together attended a panel hosted by the Active Transportation Alliance about biking in the city and noticed that there was only one woman on a panel of seven people. James said that the founders of Women Bike Chicago felt that the majority of people fighting for bike advocacy were men between ages twenty-eight and thirty-five who fondly recalled the days when they worked as bike messengers. The US Department of Transportation’s 2009 National Household Travel Survey con-

firms that only twenty-four percent of cyclists in the United States were women. "So, what we thought about was, when we look at what's happening with cycling advocacy in the city, one woman is never enough on a panel,” recalled another Women Bike founder, Jennifer James. “We were like, the future of cycling is not bike messenger-hood. It's women with their families, it's weaker riders having good infrastructure, old people riding." "It's just an all-in-one empowerment device," Healy said. Bicycling has long been linked with women's rights, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony famously declaring that “woman is riding to suffrage on a bicycle.” Now, Healy believes, biking has become a way for women to navigate their neighborhoods while getting exercise. But the joy of biking is also an important driver in Women Bike Chicago’s work. As a woman zoomed by on one of the test bikes, James pointed her out. "Do you see her? Smiling?" APRIL 29 , 2015 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 5


They Don’t Know Invisibility

Local author Karen Ford seeks unheard voices to represent the black community BY MARI COHEN


uburn Gresham native Karen Ford was in the midst of explaining her frustration with the fact that the same smattering of prominent black voices are always called upon to comment on issues affecting the black community— voices such as Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Cornel West, all men and none, according to Ford, representative of her South Side community. Then, Ford paused: she was trying to think of a black woman whom the media might ask for comment instead, and she couldn’t conjure a single name. The closest she got was Beverly Daniel Tatum, the president of Spelman College, but Ford couldn’t remember Tatum’s name, only her title. The moment exemplified the dire situation that her book, Thoughts of a Fried Chicken Watermelon Woman, responds to. The book’s tagline, “A Black Woman’s Thoughts on Issues of the Day,” is less a simple description than a grave reminder of how often America ignores such thoughts. “We’re invisible,” Ford said. “If white women think they’re invisible, they don’t know invisibility. Not like black women.” In defiance of this status quo, Ford has published a collection of short essays, most of them just a few pages, on topics ranging from white privilege to her views on abortion (pro-choice, though she dislikes the rhetoric of “pro-choice” and “pro-life”) to her opinion of 50 Shades of Grey. About a third of the essays come from posts on her blog, Caviar & Grits, which she started after her husband encouraged her to write down the opinions she put forth during their heated discussions on controversial 6 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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issues. The rest are original pieces written specifically for the book. Ford, a longtime freelance journalist and a Vice President of the National Writers Union, writes in informal, emphatic prose that feels as personal and direct as if she were talking directly to you. She seasons her sentences not with figurative language but with specific names and places, idioms, and unabashed humor, all of which give the book the flavor of a political debate between friends over lunch. In print as well as in person, Ford delves into political issues and offers a clear, unwavering opinion. The title is explained in Ford’s introductory essay. Ford’s late friend Eyvonne was once told by a man in a grocery store that she reminded him of fried chicken and watermelon. Eyvonne and Ford began to refer to themselves as Fried Chicken Watermelon Women: “Big, Black women... known for their cooking skills, their mothering skills, their common sense, and their strength,” someone who “knows she is the sexiest thing walking.” The introduction tells a warm, vibrant story of Ford developing her own physical and intellectual self-confidence as a self-proclaimed Fried Chicken Watermelon Woman. The book is divided into three sections: the first concerned mostly with race, the

second with various other political issues, and the third with Ford’s personal history and musings on daily life. Ford said the ordering was intentional, so that people could read her controversial thoughts on race first and decide if they wanted to continue. She prides herself on being to-the-point, wiling to offend, and intentionally not politically correct—if her book or blog provoke disagreement and debate, that’s what she’s aiming for. She also said the essays on race were among those that came most naturally. “People are so afraid of that little four letter word because it evokes so much,” she said. “But because that is something I have to deal with on a regular basis—every day, from the moment I came out of the womb—it was probably the easiest.” Ford’s ease and eagerness when it comes to writing about race shines through her work and infuses the essays with a pointed honesty. However, the risk of having a book with so many short essays (thirty-one) on so many topics is that they don’t all necessarily complement one another, and some emerge stronger than others. Ford’s essay that muses on annoying public transportation riders is relatable, but not as captivating as her straightforward commentary on white privilege, her exploration of the damage that society’s Caucasian beauty standards have done to black women’s self-esteem, or her searing account of a dehumanizing experience at the unemployment office. One begins to wonder whether they all belong in the same book. Ford is at her most poignant when she transcends her own thematic divisions and writes about how her personal life informs her views on race. In “The All-American Kid Next Door,” Ford recalls her son’s career as a child model, and the time that a diaper company rejected the photos his agents sent in for a TV commercial because the company was looking for an “all-American child.” What was it that made her Chicago-born son less-than-American, asks Ford? In the same essay, Ford also deconstructs the colloquial term “boy/girl next door.” Some actors, like Matt Damon and Sandra Bullock, are said to look like the person next door, but don’t look like Ford’s

neighbors. She notes, “My neighbors look more like Will Smith and Gabrielle Union. Why are neither of them mentioned as the folks next door?” She concludes, “Maybe just because our doors don’t count.” This essay is one of many that scrutinize pop culture’s representation, or lack thereof, of the black community. In “I Love Me Some Black Men,” Ford candidly talks about how attractive she finds black men, even though they are greatly outnumbered on TV by white men, whom Ford considers less attractive. She dryly notes that there must be so few black men on TV because “film and TV executives know that one pretty good looking Black man is worth at least four White men.” She then launches into a hilarious sequence in which she lists various white actors who’ve been named People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” and critiques them (Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey get the seal of approval, but Johnny Depp “looks like he always needs a bath,” and Matt Damon is “cute okay, but sexy, not hardly”). But beneath the snark and the sexual humor are frustrating truths: Why are black characters so outnumbered by white characters on TV? How is it that People has only ever picked one black man—Denzel Washington—to be Sexiest Man Alive? Ford’s arguments often appear so fundamental that it seems impossible not to think about them, yet many Americans don’t question them with her level of rigor. She has a knack for bringing such under-discussed issues to light, and for coming up with her own, novel ideas for solving societal problems (for example, she toys around with the idea of marriage as a contract that must be renewed every five years or naturally dissolved, to avoid the stigma and stress of divorce). While Ford does tackle more prominent issues like the NSA’s privacy invasions and the ubiquity of technology in society, she truly shines when discussing unique opinions. For example, consider her view on credentials of government employees, which she told me in person: “Instead of hiring the guy who’s got a PhD from Harvard economics, what you’ve got to do is find the woman who’s working


“If you really want to do something for economics, instead of hiring the guy who’s got a PhD from Harvard, what you’ve got to do is find the woman who’s working two jobs, feeding seven kids, able to dress, feed and keep a roof over her head, and she has no money. That’s the person I want to run my economy.” two jobs, feeding seven kids, and it’s just her, and she’s able to dress, feed and keep a roof over her head, and she has no money. That’s the person I want to run my economy because she knows how to manage money,” said Ford, who was generally critical of academia for not doing enough to appeal to a wide audience and to spread ideas beyond the ivory tower. This ties back to her criticism of dominant black voices, which include academics like Cornel West and Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. “If you have the conversation in academia, that’s not public. Because you’re preaching to the choir,” she said. “The conversation needs to happen on the corner of 63rd and Halsted. It needs to happen in Rogers Park. It needs to happen in Englewood. It needs to happen in Wrightwood. It needs to happen in Pilsen.” Ford’s experience of living almost her entire life on the South Side also influences her work. She was born and raised in Englewood when it was a bustling commercial district, and she spoke to me about disparities in commercial activity between the North and South Sides. She blames her own generation and the one before it for not following up on the civil rights movement after Martin Luther King’s death and integration. With the acknowledgment that others her age wouldn’t own up to it, she called integration “the death knell of the black community in many ways,” since the black community’s ability to patronize

white establishments led to the decline of black businesses, banks, and professionals—what she calls the “economic base”— in historically black communities like those on the South Side. Ford knows that the dominant narratives in society resist many of her ideas: she ended many of her thoughts by saying, “I know I’m pissing in the wind.” But the clarity of her well-developed, non-mainstream views makes a compelling argument for widening mainstream discourse, or at least encouraging more people to look beyond it. Part of the aim of her book is to get people, as she says, to wake up, to make a difference, to be heard, to question everything. Her fundamental belief is that movements “move from the bottom up” and require the participation of the average person, not just famed leaders. This belief in the contribution of the everyday individual is the crucial premise of Thoughts of a Fried Chicken Watermelon Woman, and of Ford’s vision of social change. We must reflect on society’s eagerness to lap up the words of certain famous public figures, and to assign official “spokesmen” to marginalized communities without questioning whose voices are missing. At the end of the day, why does Rev. Jesse Jackson’s opinion matter any more than that of a freelance writer from Auburn Gresham? Ford, in person and in writing, makes a convincing case that there’s no reason why it should.

The Things We Couldn’t Say “Confessions” at the Chicago Art Department BY CELIA BEVER


riday, April 24th only: “Confessions” at the Chicago Art Department in Pilsen. Seventeen artists submit a written confession and an artistic depiction of said confession. Booklets screen-printed with a giant mouth, lips parted, teeth gritted, will disclose the secrets behind each of the pieces mounted on the walls. This is so that visitors “may see the relationship between the word and visual,” says the invitation. In the middle of the back wall, on a square canvas as tall as a child are two thick, tar-black parabolas, the left inverted. Artistically it’s an anti-confession, abstract, ambiguous, eschewing standard metaphors like transparency, purification, and spatial depth. The booklet with the written confessions reveals that it doesn’t represent a confession; it is the confession. The artist, Al Prexta, borrowed a squeegee from one of the curators and broke it, then used it to paint the parabolas. “I’m sorry,” he wrote, “But I’m just going to keep it. I will make it up to you somehow.” That one is pretty straightforward, an admission of wrongdoing cleverly delivered to the injured party. Evidently the injured party doesn’t mind—Tyler Deal, former owner of the now-broken squeegee, tells me it’s one of his favorite pieces. “I love how it occupies the space,” he says as we eye it from across the gallery. It does seem even bigger than its size, quietly dominating one’s gaze even as clumps of

people circulate around the room. Quite an apology. Caroline Lui’s piece is a painting of two white-haired, identical children—the same child painted twice?—pupils near their foreheads, mouths open, smiling with all the detached congeniality of a mannequin. Arching ferns separate them from a curious arrangement of sea-foam balls over an orange backdrop, a pattern that also appears on one child’s shirt. The piece is as eerie and peculiar as the confession: “Every summer for 15 years, a swordfish stared at me while I played pinball. I really miss that swordfish.” Lui explains that the swordfish in question was mounted on the wall of her grandparents’ house where she spent her childhood summers. The painting is titled “Things I Miss in the Dark,” she says. What exactly is she confessing? Nothing morally wrong or socially frowned-upon or potentially scandalous. Missing the swordfish needn’t be a secret, but it’s the kind of personal nostalgia that is only important because of its emotional significance to Lui. Isolating it in the form of a confession marks its significance, makes the hearer understand that it’s important to the teller. A joint piece by Jessica Pierotti and Eileen Walsh is comprised simply of the two women’s phones, unlocked and open to all manner of inspection. They both attest to preserving everything, that they haven’t deleted anything since they started APRIL 29 , 2015 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 7


mike nourse

“Every summer for 15 years, a swordfish stared at me while I played pinball.” – Caroline Lui


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the project on April 1st. Despite the seemingly endless possibilities for a voyeur like myself, flipping through their photos and texts is remarkably boring. If there are nudes or incriminating messages, I don’t have the time or patience to sift through all the random selfies and plan-making to find them, which perhaps is the point. “Oh my God, I recognize someone’s name in here,” a girl looking through the other phone says to me. “Did you find out anything juicy?” I ask. “No,” she says, “it’s just weird.” In the booklet, Piertotti and Walsh explain their project simply: “Attendants will be free to peruse my private digital environment and will be led to question our definitions of privacy and confession.” Next I go over to Sara Wright’s piece, a mirror overlaid with thumb-sized fluorescent stickers arranged so that the viewer’s reflection is framed by a heart. The confessions rail against our culture of “playing it cool” and “pretending not to care.” It implicates others, Inquisition-style, I look at myself then lean in to read the stickers:

they each say in tiny letters, “Closer to this art than anyone can get to your heart.” I glance up and accidentally make eye contact through the mirror with a blonde girl in a leather jacket. She looks away quickly. It’s a moment that speaks to one of the themes of the night: reaching out through our isolation and alienation to acknowledge something shared. Curator and former squeegee-owner Tyler Deal tells me that part of the idea for the show was to give people the space to say what they otherwise couldn’t. The whole night feels more like a party than an art show, even by gallery-opening standards—I feel like I’m getting in the way every time I make some prattling group move so I can see the artwork behind them. But beneath all the happy small talk bubbles something a little more anxious, a little more despairing. There’s a bowl in the corner of the gallery and all night people have been dropping confessions written on little squares of paper. “#3 – So True… Yours truly, ‘Successful’ investment banker,” one says. Confession #3 belongs to artist Cooper Foszcz,

who fears never finding his passion and the true happiness that’s supposed to accompany it. “I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. But are others faking it?” The piece accompanying the confession is a print of a bird wearing a sign that says “Discontent.” What makes a confession a confession? The seventeen confessions are as diverse as the art depicting them. Some are tangible sins of envy or stupidity or social impropriety, many are some kind of emotional attestation, of frustration, of weariness. In general, with a few exceptions, these aren’t the type of confessions that lend themselves to gossip, confessions that individuate the person who confesses. They’re slices of our private sameness, worth confessing simply because they usually go unsaid and unacknowledged. In the bathroom people have been writing confessions all over the mirrors. “I like to sit down when I pee. I’m a guy,” one says. In a different color, with an arrow connecting it: “Dude, me too.”


A Product of Exposure

alking through the Pilsen Community Market at 18th and Racine, one hears a cacophony of sounds: people shuffling through different stands, shoppers bargaining over the price of an item, children asking for this or for that, bags rustling as bought items are packaged. But on occasion, above the morning hustle and bustle, another, more euphonic noise can be heard: music. The melody is being played by singer-songwriter Vivian Garcia—and it’s a melody that’s hard to attribute to a specific genre or style of music. The finger-pickings on the guitar are a reprise of calm, soothing flamenco-folk guitar. Every note reverberates singularly in a constant rhythm and complements the accompanying ensemble of instruments. This ensemble provides support to the music by cleverly weaving in and out between the guitar rhythms and the enticing, lyrical vocals that lie somewhere between blues and jazz in Garcia’s sultry, almost-raspy voice. It’s music that makes you wait in hypnotic anticipation for each note and leaves you pleased and reassured as each one arrives. As a musician who describes her style as a combination of folk, blues, jazz, rumba-flamenco, afro-beat, world, electronica, cumbia, and other Latin and non-Latin rhythms, it is easy to see the appeal of having Garcia perform at the Pilsen market, where the offerings are as diverse as Garcia’s catalog. Garcia was born to Cuban parents and grew up in Uptown. Though she currently resides farther south in Brighton Park and has gigs throughout the city, her time in Uptown and Roger’s Park as a youth had a large influence on her musical development, she says. “My parents are Cuban, but I grew up in an English-speaking home,” says Garcia. “It was the diverse community of Uptown and the time I spent surrounded by all the different cultures that led to my diverse taste in music. “With all of the cultural exposure surrounding me, I didn’t have much of a choice,” she says. “It became a part of me whether I was aware of it or not.” Still, it wasn’t until her senior year in high school that she really began to emerge as a musician, when she started to take guitar lessons at the Old Town School of Folk

ellie mejia

The musical stylings of Vivian Garcia BY ITZEL BLANCAS

Music. There she began to explore such genres as rumba-flamenco, cumbia, and other South American styles of guitar playing. Soon after, she joined her first band, a flamenco group called Mezcal. Now, she says, she’s part of a more experimental group called ¡Esso! Afrojam Funkbeat, which produces, among other genres, “cumbia, house music, and New Orleans style music.” As Garcia sees it, there’s a huge difference between the artist she is now and the artist she was then as a consequence of her culminated musical experiences, including those abroad in Spain. It was there that she was able to fine-tune her guitar skills to the point where she became comfortable accompanying her own vocals in performances. “I wanted to really learn to accompany myself on guitar,” she said in an interview with Gozamos magazine, “so I left my fulltime job and took the little I had saved to move to Granada, Spain to study flamenco guitar.” But beyond affording her the opportunity to learn flamenco guitar, her time in Spain helped her develop a musical identity. “I would work the open mic circuits of

Spain and would be asked to play blues and jazz,” she says. “I was hesitant at first because I didn’t want to bastardize the music of other cultures, but I learned that it was okay to play this ‘other thing.’ [The audiences] were moved by the American genres and enjoyed it.” Her experiences abroad also helped her come to terms with what it means to be a Latina, even “entre comillas” (“in quotation marks”), in the music industry. “There is a vast diaspora of what can be contained in this definition, a fluidity that allowed for doubt,” she says. “My parents were Cuban immigrants, and I had many friends from Central America, but it wasn’t until I began working with them [referring to her time abroad] that I gave myself permission to identify as one. Living abroad made me aware that there was no need to culturally appropriate. The linguistic and cultural elements are so different, it is more about how one perceives and identifies themselves and who they surround themselves with.” Garcia believes that her multiculturalism has allowed her to pave her own way


in her development as an artist and opened her to a larger number of influences. She has been able to connect with musicians from across cultural boundaries; Irish folk artists (“counterintuitive, I know,” she quips), people who play Americana in Europe, and Scots who also played blues and folk. “Being bicultural and bilingual opened a lot of opportunities for me,” says Garcia. “[I] haven’t been pigeonholed and have been able to work with a diverse group of people. It has given me a good deal of fluidity, and being able to move between the two languages helps me improve the experience for audiences.” Garcia didn’t always think of herself as being bilingual or a singer-songwriter, but after so many years she now considers herself to be both. “Everyone in Europe is a singer-songwriter, and most of them are very talented,” she says. “It was a little intimidating at first, but then became something that I could learn from.” Garcia’s first album, Cold Bed, is in English despite being developed and produced during her time in Spain. She says that the songs “simply arose in English.” However, since the development of that initial album of English musings, Garcia has released some bilingual singles—most recently “Loc@s,” a collaboration with Armando Perez. She describes the differences between working with the two languages as depending on how she wants to express herself. “When I want something to sound passionate, I write in English,” she says. “But when something passionate arises within me when writing, it manifests itself in Spanish.” Being a musician in two major cities—Granada and Chicago—with such rich cultural diversity has helped her success as a musician in her particular genres. “The vastness of these cities is incredible,” she says. “With so many people, there is a constant fuente [fountain] of information.” Garcia looks forward to her return to Spain later this year and continues to work with a number of artists who have histories as rich as hers. Working with these people exposes her to new styles and makes her work both “fun and easy to do.” And of course, each time she does so, she says, her identity develops.


“I’m Young, I’m Black, and I Want $15!”


The ¡Fight 4/15! rally through the eyes of the Black Youth Project 100 BY WILL CABANISS

will cabaniss


wenty minutes before the start of the ¡Fight 4/15!/¡Lucha por 15! rally on April 15, Charlene Carruthers was still distributing T-shirts. “I’m Young, I’m Black, and I want $15!” read the front of each shirt, the back: “...and a union!” Almost everyone was wearing one in the small courtyard at the University of Illinois at Chicago in which Carruthers stood. The shirts did not hold universal appeal. (“Do you have any others?” a young white student asked.) But that was not the point of handing them out. They were part of a larger statement, a symbol of the campaign that Carruthers has been waging for the past few months. Carruthers and the organization she heads, the racial justice coalition Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), were there to take part in the union-sponsored national day of action calling for a federal minimum wage of fifteen dollars. But they were no ordinary protesters. Since the launch of Fight for 15, Carruthers has been plugging what 10 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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she sees as a complementary narrative: that the struggles of workers and minorities are inextricably linked. The fight for a higher minimum wage is not without racial and ethnic undertones, as even the Spanish-language addition to the rally’s official name, “¡Lucha por 15!”, suggested. Of the thirty-one percent of workers in Chicago who make thirteen dollars per hour or less, twenty-seven percent are black and thirty-eight percent are Hispanic. The minimum wage in Chicago is scheduled to increase to thirteen dollars an hour from ten dollars by 2019, at which point it will be indexed to inflation, as laid out in a proposal approved by the City Council in December of last year. The plan places the city with the likes of New York and Los Angeles, where mayoral proposals would have a similar effect, yet still behind cities like Seattle where the wage will rise to fifteen dollars for all workers by 2021 and San Francisco, where it will rise to fifteen by

2018. Chicago’s wage hike, which the city reports would affect nearly 410,000 workers, seems to have done little to satisfy organized labor and activists like Carruthers, who argue that racial and economic progress are inherently intertwined. “We see our work as squarely focusing on making sure that the narrative of racial justice is integrated into how people talk about the Fight for 15,” Carruthers told me. A press team danced around her, coordinating calls and collecting quotes, which she delivered bluntly and unapologetically. Outside the Jane Addams Hull House at UIC, where BYP100 staff prepared for the demonstration, protestors-to-be stood among picnic tables stocked with juice boxes, protein bars and homemade signs. Thirty high-school students (some of whom came, they admitted, “for the extra credit”) stood in a circle practicing union cheers. The night George Zimmerman was ruled innocent in the murder of Trayvon

Martin, members of what would become BYP100 convened for the first time in Chicago. “That’s how we got our name,” said Malcolm London, co-chair of BYP100’s Chicago Chapter, in an interview last summer with NPR. “We started off as one hundred black activists. That night we were all in a room holding hands when the verdict dropped, and America reminded us that black lives were not valued.” The Zimmerman verdict helped to launch a new era of black activism. High-profile cases of police brutality, including the killings of unarmed black men and women, have fueled increasing outrage inside and outside the black community. The vast online infrastructure that has emerged to support those movements has in part fueled the rise of activists like Carruthers, a self-described “black queer feminist” who holds back little. Carruthers, a South Side native, has a Master of Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis and an acerbic presence on social media. Using Twitter as a weapon and a megaphone, she frequently references her radical forebears, at times going as far as to condemn those promoting nonviolence. In the scheme of history, the idea that the struggles for racial and economic justice are different battles in the same war is not new. Collaboration has been a crucial tool in the arsenal of each movement. Unions provided the Civil Rights movement with some of its staunchest support in the 1960s. Walter Reuther, president of the United Automobile Workers, famously represented the UAW on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have


a Dream” speech. Beyond serving as a bridge between the racial and economic sides of the issue, BYP100’s presence brought to the rally the momentum and anger over the treatment of African-Americans that has been building since the deaths of Martin, Michael Brown, and others since. Carruthers and her team were ready to add their own message of racial justice to the overarching theme of the rally. Though the sight of BYP100 organizers Janae Bonsu and Charles Preston forcefully injecting shouts of “Black lives matter” into the sea of cheers may have seemed misplaced to the casual observer, the phrase could not have been more relevant to the rally’s message in the context of 2015. In throwing its support behind the rally, BYP100 articulated how the gap between the minimum wage and the so-called “living wage” acutely affects the city’s African-American population. Signs screamed out in large font that almost half of Chi-

cago’s African-American workers are paid a minimum wage or lower. The stories that Bonsu and Preston told the crowd about their own families struggling to survive on meager wages created a chance to focus on the unique hardships that come with being poor and black in America. The Fight for 15 faces a long road ahead. Fierce Congressional opposition to significantly raising the federal minimum and a host of economic surveys that label the move a “job-killer” lie in its way. The protest likely represented no more than a sentence in the latest chapter of Chicago’s long and complicated history with both labor and race. Rather, its significance lay in the timely confluence of two accelerating movements for social change. “Racial justice is economic justice!” Bonsu shouted just before leaving the stage. In a reflection of how accepted that idea has become, the crowd didn’t hesitate to cheer just as loudly as it had before.

Groundbreaking Observations HPAC opens new wing with Susan Giles’s “Scenic Overlook”



hristmas tree lights and dainty teal Japanese lanterns lining the high, pipe-exposed ceiling began to sway ever so slightly as the Guida family attempted to bust through a wall with a sledgehammer. The family and friends took turns posing for photographs and dirtying their suits with drywall dust and plaster. The Hyde Park Arts Center celebrated and literally broke ground at the opening of the new Guida Family Creative Wing on Sunday, April 19. The center’s 75th Anniversary Campaign and the $750,000 donated by John and Julie Guida made the expansion possible, and HPAC will knock down a few extra walls to make way for the new ten-room wing. Glasses of Chateau St. Jean chardonnay and bottles of Lagunitas IPA in hand, guests left the ceremony to explore the opening reception of resident artist Susan Giles’s exhibition “Scenic Overlook” with audio commentary by audio artist Lou Mallozzi, happening just below in the main gallery. Mallozzi’s commentary could be heard echoing throughout the upstairs wing. “Subject is female with short blonde hair,” Mallozzi said, watching me watch him through a massive white telescope somehow dwarfed by Giles’s wood sculptures. “Female subject holds pen up to her face. Subject begins writing in small black notebook.” The audience wove in and out of Giles’s colossal sculptures, each one representing one of the world’s largest towers: the Tokyo Skytree, Canton Tower, CN Tower, and Ostankino Tower. The site-specific installation explores the physicality of architectural space and how the subject constructs identity in relation to place. Giles, a Fulbright scholar, became fascinated with investigating the physicality of place after studying art and tourism in Bali, Indonesia. “The towers were constructed to transmit signals for communications media and

feature public observation decks,” she said of her inspiration. Sitting atop tripods, each sculpture was positioned to direct the viewer’s eye to the same vantage point on the balcony overlooking the gallery, all aligned toward Mallozzi’s telescope. “They stare back at the observer, challenging viewers to critically examine their position as tourists,” Giles said. A few children bounced throughout the main gallery, waiting for their parents to finish their drinks and small talk. “The children are positioned left, standing stationary,” Mallozzi observed. The three kids realized they were being watched, and turned red. They awkwardly huddled together, plotting retaliation. Each one jumped in an opposite direction, dancing unpredictably and sporadically. Mallozzi switched his attention to an unaware couple. After many years of admiring Mallozzi, Giles knew she wanted to collaborate with the audio artist. “He came by my studio during Melika Bass’s opening, and when he saw my work for the show, he told me about his performance,” she said. “I liked how it was dealing with overlapping ideas of observation and transgression…It would interact with my work in an interesting way.” During her last few months as resident artist, Giles is working on a proposal to the Chicago Cultural Center for an exhibition with her husband, Jeff Carter, and self-described builder Faheem Majeed. “The possibility of opening all of the garage doors of the HPAC is making me think about public sculpture,” she mused. “It’s kind of like taking down a big wall and opening the space to everyone.” Maybe John Guida can lend her a sledgehammer. The Hyde Park Arts Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Through July 26. Monday-Thursday, 9am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, 12pm5pm. Free. (773)324-5520. APRIL 29 , 2015 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 11


Three Heads Are Better than One A new exhibition space in Hyde Park, the 4th Ward Project Space, aims to exhibit underrepresented artists. BY EMILIANO BURR DI MAURO


he 4th Ward Project Space, situated on 54th Street and Kimbark Avenue, proves that young, underrepresented artists in Chicago can exhibit their work as long as someone is willing to exhibit it. In the case of 4WPS, those dedicated to supporting such artists are three Chicago artists themselves: Mika Horibuchi, James Kao, and Valentina Zamfirescu. “Part of the goal is to build a coalition—another place for Chicago artists to show work,” Kao told me at 4WPS last week. “We see it as our responsibility. If we have the means to do this, it’s sort of the right thing to do.” The most recent exhibition, by Eric Saudi, is as overwhelming as it is inviting. “Marginalia” is the fourth in a string of single-artist shows 4WPS has exhibited since opening last year. The show focuses on Saudi’s upbringing in the Bronx in New York City and explores themes of sexuality, religion, and violence in his community. The exhibit includes drawings on flesh-like 12 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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materials, which are interspersed throughout overlapping party-like banners whose phrases reflect on the darker side of his neighborhood. A new exhibit by Alberto Aguilar will begin on May 3. As professional artists who have a strong background in painting, Horibuchi, Kao, and Zamfirescu select their artists from a variety of sources. Some they hear about through word of mouth, and others they stumble upon online. After they select someone, the trio is with that artist through every step of the process, from the first gallery visit to installation. But essentially, as Kao put it, they give them the keys to the gallery and try not to step on their toes. “They were very helpful, but more importantly they allowed me to use the space without any fear of interference,” Saudi said. “It was so nice to have support while I was trying to explain things that were not in existence to demonstrate, were not fully planned out, and were very new processes


eric saudi

to me and them.” The artists’ assumed role as directors at 4WPS requires a degree of separation from their art—they say their curatorial work is independent of their own work, and that they plan never to exhibit themselves at 4WPS. As they shift from artist to curator, however, they inevitably call upon their personal aesthetics, this time for the purpose of assisting someone else’s attempted artistic concepts. “You get to this point where you know your work better than anyone else will ever know, but you also kind of lose sight for your own work,” Kao says. “I think that’s helpful for the artist to get a new pair of

eyes looking at it in that context.” The three assist artists in any way that they can, each taking turns going through an exhibit before it opens and offering feedback, and subsequently transforming the space with every artist who comes through 4WPS. This kind of conversation, which occurs between the four artists throughout the exhibition process, bridges the usually accepted disparity in communication between artists and commercial curators who commodify art into a product rather than see it as “something that someone has spent a lot of time developing, thinking about, failing at, and something that they want to share with the world,” Kao says.

4WPS is almost completely hidden from the public eye. Located in a small room within a residential building, the gallery is defined by its urban surroundings. As one walks from end to end of the one-room exhibition, muffled conversation and even the familiar barking of a dog are all part of the atmosphere just as much as the art itself. These are not distractions, nor should they be viewed as such. Rather, they are reminders of what kind of role 4WPS should play within the Hyde Park and greater South Side communities—as creative space for artists, students, and community members who may not be interested in the typically pristine nature of curatorial

production. “There’s a huge community of artists in Hyde Park, and by means of building a relationship with them or simply working with them and interacting with them, we can better legitimize ourselves as a center for art in the neighborhood,” Kao says. As the 4th Ward Project Space continues to find innovative ways to engage with artists, they will continue making progress toward that goal. 4th Ward Project Space, 5338 S. Kimbark Ave. Upcoming exhibition “” by Alberto Aguilar, May 3 through May 31. APRIL 29 , 2015 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 13


“Go Away, Ghost Ship” at the Logan Center

Mysteries from Childhood



naked man was waving to me, darling!” a perplexed lady cried to her husband by the entrance of the Logan Center for the Arts on Saturday afternoon. In the gallery, some were intrigued. Others were deeply unsettled. “Go Away, Ghost Ship!” is composed of twenty-one pieces by four artists graduating from the Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Chicago: Alex Calhoun, Autumn Elizabeth Clark, Zachary Harvey, and Sara Rouse. The exhibition’s title is a reference to an early episode of the original Scooby-Doo! cartoon series, a theme that seems to have emerged naturally. “I read on the Scooby-Doo! wiki that the ‘Go Away Ghost Ship’ episode is the first one where their lives are in danger,” Calhoun told me. “And that’s relevant, somehow.” “Our exhibition is perhaps somewhat mysterious, but mostly kind of playful,” she continued. The work of all four artists evokes the element of surprise, albeit in different ways. The exhibition draws on a wide variety of materials and media, including wallpaper, acrylic, photographs, fabric, steel, and fallen tree branches. To think that the yoking together of these objects and surfaces is haphazard, however, is to misunderstand the philosophy of their work. “We are so varied in our interests and in our ways of working that to put shows together that have everything in common wasn’t a reality,” Rouse said, “but I think what makes it interesting is that we 14 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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have a lot of different kinds of work to play with, and see how they affect each other.” Harvey’s mixed media installation “TESTTUBEBUTT.NET,” which includes two naked male actors, aroused significant interest. The piece shares its title with a website one can visit to view a live stream of the installation. It considers images of the male form, probing questions of masculine desire and impulse. Another eye-catching piece is Clark’s “Underneath,” a collection of eleven found and designed wallpapers. By putting the normally banal medium of wallpaper in the spotlight, Clark asks his viewers to consider how different wallpapers govern one’s spatial conception of an enclosed room. “I work a lot with humor, especially between the objects and the viewer, the objects and myself, the objects and each other,” said Calhoun. “I think play is a big part of it for me.” These ideas are manifested in her piece “Swing,” in which materials like wood, rocks, and rope are set against one

another in a gigantic swing-like structure. The relationship between these pieces and Scooby-Doo! may not be immediately apparent, but all four artists have ideas about how their favorite childhood cartoon series has shaped their art. “I take one material and turn it into another,” Rouse said. “I’d say it’s that unfolding quality that makes it Scooby-Doo!.” Clark considered how her love for crime and mystery stemmed from watching Scooby-Doo! as a child, and how it led her to question the world around her. “Through repeatedly making pieces about similar questions and subject matter that I have not fully grasped, I find myself discovering answers and finding new questions to ask myself,” she said. Rouse chimed in: “The mystery, chase, and discovery that happens when I make my work is what has fueled it for so many years.” Harvey, in turn, alluded to the childlike quality of his art, adding, “and the colors are very Scooby-Doo!.”

zak harvey

As soon-to-be graduates, these artists are tentative when discussing the future. In Calhoun’s words, “the what-comes-next piece is complicated, but ideally it involves at the very least Chicago in some way, and probably the southern half of it.” Harvey already lives in Pilsen, and Rouse intends either to stay in Hyde Park or to move to Bronzeville. Clark plans to collaborate with a friend from Columbia College at Blue Jacket Films, with the hopes of producing a horror film – an idea very much in keeping with the sense of mystery and enigma that Scooby-Doo! has inspired in several generations. “The four of us are like a small Scooby-Doo! gang,” exclaimed Rouse, “and all we need is a band.” Calhoun quipped, “And a dog!” Logan Center Gallery, 915 East 60th St. Through May 14, 2015. Tuesday-Saturday, 9am-9pm; Sunday, 11am-9pm. Free. (773)702-6082.


Carmen Parra at the NMMA BY LAUREN POULSON

Reworking the Familiar

michael tropea


n the deep blue, quiet room, the sensation of the ceremonial-like importance with which Carmen Parra imbues her work is striking. The golden hues jump from the wall’s darker background, creating a pleasant contrast. The colors on most of the canvases are light, closer to pastels, refreshing to the eye. The space is open, uncrowded, and calming. Your focus can easily shift, but is not over-stimulated. Parra’s new exhibit “Carmen Parra: Suave Patria,” currently on display at the National Museum of Mexican Art, is the result of nearly a year of work from the Mexican Consulate and the NMMA, the research of the show’s curator Delores Mercado, and assistance from cultural attachés, registrars, and collectors. The exhibit, like much of Parra’s art, is focused upon the aspects of national iden-

tity that fascinate her the most. As Mercado explains, “She works with things close to her heart.” The Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City is a particularly important symbol that she examines and reexamines throughout her work. Mercado says Parra began to research the cathedral in the 1970s, and has explored it in her art ever since. “She will work on other pieces for a while, then go back to the theme of the cathedral,” Mercado noted. Parra’s interest in the cathedral may stem from her family heritage. Her father, Manuel Parra, was a well-known Mexican architect, renowned for reinventing urban areas by reworking pieces of demolished buildings into contemporary structures. Parra’s father took her on trips to Baroque-influenced buildings, whose features, especially the gold, she found striking. The

architecture Parra saw with her father inspired not only her subject matter, but also the style of her artistic output. Parra’s work has an architectural feel, as Mercado noted; Parra even makes the frames part of her piece. Furthermore, the method of reworking the familiar, which she first observed in her father, is integral to Parra’s art. Even the name of the exhibit itself is a reworking, borrowed from the poem “La suave patria” by Ramón López Velarde. So are many of the symbols that recur in Parra’s work—the National Cathedral, religious icons, and objects of nature. The monarch butterfly is a subject of remodeling for Carmen Parra, as is the royal eagle—both symbols of Mexican patrimony and pride. The importance of reworking the familiar is not hidden in the exhibit—un-

derneath an array of monarch butterflies is situated a quote, in both Spanish and English, which explains this methodology: “The artist makes the subject matter his own in time to explain it to himself. It is a process of exploration.” And exploring is what Parra does best. One such example is her piece “Virgen de Guadalupe,” in which the religious icon appears on the canvas, enshrouded by an aura of divinity. Although the golden hues are apparent here as an inspiration from the Baroque, Parra brings in contemporary elements as well, such as a bright red background. Further exploration of the religious is clear in “San Miguel Arcángel,” a piece painted onto the same metallic gold background as “Virgen” and many of Parra’s other works. However, the process of reinvention is even more apparent here. The piece is painted onto alternately protruding and depressed cubes, five across and six down. The variant surface of the Archangel grants San Miguel an otherworldly air; he is sturdy, yet appears to be ready to shift at any moment. One thing that makes Carmen’s work unique and worth seeing is that she resists artistic fads. “She paints what she wants— she does research,” Mercado explained. Parra “has been producing and being creative throughout her life and this [exhibit] is the result of so many years of investigating and creating.” National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th Street. Through August 9. Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm. Free. (312)7381503. APRIL 29 , 2015 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 15

Beat Poetry A new anthology “by and for the Hip-Hop generation” BY KEVIN GISLASON


h e Breakbeat Poets bills itself as an anthology “by and for the HipHop generation.” In some poems hip-hop is the central object of meditation, while in others its beat pulses unobtrusively in the background. But its influence is inescapable. Hip-hop’s rhythm is in the meter, and its language is in the diction. Prominent Chicago emcee Chance the Rapper has gone so far as to call The Breakbeat Poets, edited by Kevin Coval, Nate Marshall, and Quraysh Ali Lansana and published by Haymarket Books, “a cool & diversified version of a mixtape.” And diversified it is. Though the anthology’s hip-hop influence is especially evident, it also intersects with the cultures of slam poetry, academia, spoken word, and social justice activism. The published poets are variously rappers, professors, playwrights, and high school students, all arranged by year of birth, from 1961 to 1999. Coval asserts in his introduction, “There are established and highly decorated poets with several publications and there are poets whose first time appearing in print is this collection. All dope and equally relevant.” Yet there can be no doubt that the old16 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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er poets carry the anthology, and the best poems mostly reside in its first half. Their experience is evident both in technique and thematic weight. Lansana is himself a clear frontrunner, depicting life in a crack house in vivid sensory detail: “parched bones / silently akimbo / peel of burn / gray of skin / he sizzles / cooks.” LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, another exceptional talent, specializes in boisterous absurdity. Her most successful poem, “who you callin’ a jynx?”, borrows Japanese cultural images and vocabulary in a characteristically American statement of defiance. The older poets are also some of the most daring when it comes to form. Roger Bonair-Agard’s “Honorific or black boy to black boy” presents a word cloud of oftheard greetings, with no evident beginning or end, while his manic, rambling, prose-poem “Fast—how I knew” explores youth through the lens of Muhammad Ali, blurring the distinction between poetry and storytelling. Still, not all such experiments are as well executed. Douglas Kearney’s “Quantum Spit” employs a cacophony of varying fonts, sizes, overlapping lines, tilted phrases, and odd punctuation. While there may

be something to be said for the poem’s sense of disorientation, it creates confusion rather than meaningful uncertainty. In the work of the younger poets, hiphop’s influence is felt more directly; rather than borrowing theme or style, songs, artists, and lyrics are referenced by name. Borrowing so explicitly is risky; it’s all too easy to coast on the many strong ideas and images already established by hip-hop. The very best work filters these ideas and images through fresh perspective. The younger poets are also more political. Almost all the work in the anthology is at least implicitly political, but the younger slam-influenced poets are especially unafraid to say what they mean. At worst, things can get a bit facile; “I Have a Drone” is dedicated to “Barack-George-W-BushObama.” But the activist zeal yields some of the anthology’s most powerful images, as in Camonghne Felix’s “Police”: “my word pales cocktail pink against his.” And Sarah Blake’s “Adventures,” the collection’s most memorable political poem, examines Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of Kanye West. The connection to hip-hop is direct without being derivative, while the political slant is explicit without sacrificing depth.

Outside of the poems themselves, The Breakbeat Poets consists of Kevin Coval’s lengthy introduction as well as a collection of short essays. Regrettably, the framing material doesn’t quite live up to the poems. Coval’s obvious disdain for the mainstream poetic tradition (“dead white dudes who got lost in the forest”) is a bit brash, given that many of the featured poets engage with this tradition and try to reconcile its problematic racial foundations with its artistic value. The essays are generally sincere, straightforward appreciations of hip-hop, but they don’t have much to say that wasn’t already covered by the poetry itself, the one exception being Patrick Rosal’s outstanding essay on dance and accident, an examination of the spontaneous emergence of meaning from chaos. In this sense, it’s a rather apt metaphor for hip-hop, a renaissance of beauty and expression emerging from oppression and disenfranchisement. Though their styles, influences, and backgrounds diverge, the Breakbeat Poets are bound together by this shared hip-hop ethos, even as they filter it through a new medium.

A is for Ashland, B is for Bridgeport

A new children’s book about the South Side BY MAIRA KHWAJA


i s for South Side feels more like a children’s guide to the South Side than an alphabet-teaching book. The page “E is for exciting new things to try” doesn’t bold “exciting,” nor is that an easy “E” word to teach. Instead, the words that are supposed to rhyme are bolded. Dr. Courtney Davis clearly put deliberate thought into focusing on the options for fun in Washington Park, for example, instead of emphasizing the letters. While reading with my two-year-old niece, Zayna, on a page that had photos of food, she pointed at every picture and asked about it. The page with every South Side zip code had us practicing her South Loop address. S is for South Side is rich in details the reader can enjoy and the toddler can point out—I learned what Davis’s Harold’s order is on “C is for chicken,” while my niece asked me about each of the seals on “U is for universities.” Davis, a Ph.D in special education, grew up near Roseland on 104th Street and Eberhart. She wrote her first alphabet book, A for Anacostia, while she taught pre-K and kindergarten in Washington, D.C. and wanted a book with references to their neighborhood. Her family, still living on the South Side, asked her to write a similar one for her hometown. When I met Davis at the DuSable Museum, she excitedly pointed out her favorite details: the “B for Barber” page, which features her dad and his barbershop on 95th Street, and the fact that you can actually go kayaking at Rainbow Beach on 75th. Despite my niece’s technical status as a South Side resident, I was hesitant for a second to read the book to her. This book was

clearly made for black Chicago: it features mostly black South Side neighborhoods and characters with a range of dark skin tones. Zayna, in her South Loop home, doesn’t live that life. Would she care? I read the “O” page: “I am so proud to see a president in the White House who looks JUST like me!” I look at her. No reaction. It doesn’t matter—she’s two. She points at the Secret Service cartoons flanking a baby President Obama and asks about them. Popular children’s or alphabet books about Chicago, like C Is for Chicago or

Larry Gets Lost in Chicago, tend to focus on the Loop or North Side attractions. The children’s book landscape sorely lacks representation of Chicago experiences south of Roosevelt, making the details of kid-friendly fun on the South Side warmly welcome. Design matters in children’s books. Enchanting illustrations can have a child cling to a book, and maybe even its topic, whether it be about a certain neighborhood or religion. Growing up, I trudged to my local mosque every Sunday morning to attend an Islamic Studies school with my classmates from the suburbs of Pittsburgh. My friends and I, daughters of the teachers and organizers, were usually less than impressed with the classroom materials. The textbooks had embarrassing typos and poor kerning. The religious rule about not idolizing prophets or God led to a dearth of creative illustrations. I envied my mostly Christian friends, who had beautifully illustrated storybooks of the Bible for every age group on their shelves. S is for South Side declares on its first page that it was independently published through “Homeroom #104,” and it does feel distinctly homemade. Though the details of the book are much richer than my “special interest” books were while growing up as Muslim, the design gave me flashbacks to my Islamic School days immediately. I wonder if kids will hold onto S is for South Side, appreciating the glossy pages and endlessly detailed illustrations, instead of the way I immediately saw low-resolution photos awkwardly juxtaposed with cartoon characters when I was younger. My niece is luckier than I: the Islamic book industry has grown in the past decade to give her more options of beautiful books than she could want; she has chests and shelves of books with the most enviable designs and typography. Before I had to leave, she made me read S is for South Side to her four times. Courtney Davis, S is for South Side. Homeroom #104, 38 pages. $14.99 on Amazon

CALENDAR BULLETIN Inventing the New American House Howard Van Doren Shaw designed some of Chicago’s most prestigious housing in the then-trendy Arts and Crafts style just as the young city was beginning to mature at the turn of the twentieth century. He built houses in Hyde Park and then the Gold Coast, and helped establish the northern suburb of Lake Forest (Shaw’s own home, Ragdale, is in Lake Forest). Shaw’s “Market Square” in Lake Forest was the United States’ first planned shopping center; another Shaw building became Chicago’s first co-op. Shaw was associated with his better-known contemporary Frank Lloyd through a group of architects called “the 18,” but Shaw remained attached to the European traditions in which he had been trained even as Wright and his Prairie School were beginning to leave them behind. At this lecture, Shaw’s sentimental, Old-World-inflected vision will be presented by the architect Stuart Cohen, who has written a book on the subject. Glessner House Museum, 1800 S. Prairie Ave. Tuesday, May 5, 7pm. $10. (312)326-1480. (Adam Thorp)

Ride the Waves: Exploring our Natural Connections Ride the Waves is an unhurried group bike ride through Bronzeville, Chinatown, and surrounding communities intended to bring bicycling to all parts of the city. This ride is not the time to show off your speed or your Spandex, but is instead a meditative, languid turn through parts of the city unaccustomed to seeing many bikers. Part of a series of weekly rides organized by Slow Roll Chicago, whose mission includes making the whole city safe for biking, this week’s ride explores the near South Side. More well-behaved bicyclists on the streets in all parts of Chicago will make our city friendlier, slower, and safer for all. While the pace of the ride is comparable to the leisurely rolling of molasses out of a jar on a warm spring day, your bike ought to be in good working order. Don’t forget to pack a smile, and be ready to make new friends. Ain’t She Sweet Cafe, 526 E. 43rd St. Wednesday, April 29. Meet 6pm, ride 6:30pm. Free. (708) 831-3570. (Lara Kattan)

Legal Teach-in for Rekia Boyd CPD officer Dante Servin should have been charged with murder before his defense had called their first witness, Judge Dennis Porter wrote as he acquitted him. Servin had been charged with unintentional homicide, and, under Illinois law, Porter wrote, you cannot point a gun and shoot at someone unintentionally. Servin did, by all accounts, point and shoot at a group of people standing in an alley. One man with the group, Servin’s attorney says, had pulled out what seemed to be a gun. That man maintains that it was a cell phone; no gun was found. Rekia Boyd, standing nearby, was shot in the head and died. People interested in “supporting Rekia’s family and organizing around accountability for Servin” can join four lawyers from different legal aid groups to parse the legal decision and consider how to move forward at this event, co-sponsored by twelve legal aid and anti-police brutality groups. DePaul University College of Law, 25 E. Jackson Blvd. Wednesday, April 29, 6pm-8pm. Free. Childcare and food provided. (Adam Thorp)

Jane’s WalkCHICAGO: Hyde Park North Inspired by Jane Jacobs’s investigations of urban processes, Friends of Downtown’s Jane’s WalkCHICAGO project offers a chance to tour Chicago’s neighborhoods and learn about their historical development. Jane’s WalkCHICAGO: Hyde Park North aims to discuss the contested legacy of urban renewal, focusing on efforts to tear down and rebuild entire blocks of Hyde Park in the 1950s and 1960s. Fueled by worries that Hyde Park was becoming a slum, these efforts sought to reverse the pro-


cess, leading to the construction of a number of modern townhouse developments. This tour promises to examine these developments to study relationships between homes and the neighborhood, stopping at I. M. Pei’s 55th Street townhouses as well as Harry Weese’s Coop Square, among other locations. The University of Chicago, 5525 S. Ellis Ave. Sunday, May 3, 10am-11:30am. janeswalkchicago. net (Peter Gao)

Explore the Art and Architecture of Bronzeville Jane’s WalkCHICAGO and Friends of Downtown are hosting a tour of Bronzeville’s cultural attractions, consisting mostly of the neighborhood’s beautiful older churches. Bronzeville was untouched by the Great Chicago Fire, and much of the original architecture from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries remains intact. This free event on May 2 lasts only an hour and a half, and afterwards you can hit up Chicago’s Home of Chicken & Waffles at 39th & King. Pierce School, 4351 S. Drexel Blvd. Saturday, May 2, 10am-11:30am. (Sam Stecklow)

Second Annual 5K Walk for Peace Lace up your sneakers on May 2 in the name of re-upholstery and community engagement. Teena’s Legacy, an Englewood-based organization that teaches the art of furniture repair and upholstery to young women, has organized a 5K fundraiser to raise funds for its summer apprentice program and the necessary fabrics and tools. The walk is only one part of the fundraiser; there will be music and food to follow, and community-based discussion throughout. For a donation of $150 or more, an apprentice will re-upholster one of your cat-clawed or fading seats, free of charge. Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72nd St. Saturday, May 2, 9:30am. (773)678-3638. (Emeline Posner)

MUSIC Lovers in May at Arie Crown Theater It is spring, the sun is finally shining, and love is in the air. Right on cue, Keith Sweat, Mint Condition, and Donnell Jones descend from their respective thrones of R&B to croon foundational slow jams and catalyze the bloom of relationships, new and old alike. From Sweat’s classic “Nobody,” to Mint Condition’s “U Send Me Swingin’,” the slick, effortless harmonies and sensual bass form a timeless soundtrack to the season. Jones’s take on Stevie Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off My Feet” is a sweet, tear-jerking proclamation of love that’s solidified couples since 1996, and hasn’t lost its charm over the past nineteen years. These sleek and dance-inducing refrains will all be in one place on May 15 and are the perfect introduction to spring. Arie Crown Theatre, 2301 S. Lake Shore Dr. Friday, May 15, 8pm. $80. (312)791-6190. (Kanisha Williams)

Bobbi Wilsyn at the Promontory The multitalented singer Bobbi Wilsyn will perform at the Promontory this Friday along with Miguel de la Cena on keyboard, Marlene Rosenberg on bass, Harold Morrison on drums, and Jarrod Harris on sax. Raised in Los Angeles, Wilsyn, who has worked with groups like the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, the Thomas Gunther Sextet, and the Symphonic Jazz International, traveled the country with the famous Milt Trenier Show. Eventually settling in Chicago, Wilsyn now teaches private lessons and voice-related subjects at Columbia College, and has starred in musicals including Beehive, It Ain’t Nothing But the Blues, and Sophisticated Ladies. Join Wilsyn this Friday at the Promontory in a show hosted by jazz collective Mo Better Jazz. The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave. W. Friday, May 1, 8pm. Doors 7pm. $15. (312)801-2100. (Clyde Schwab)

Smif-N-Wessun at The Shrine Reggae-inspired Brooklyn rappers Smif-N-Wessun, who’ve been in the game since the early nineties, are coming to The Shrine on May 4. Smif-N-Wessun is probably best known as a member of the Brooklyn supergroup of Boot Camp Clik, an associate of the Wu-Tang Clan.


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Chicago’s own Vic Spencer and Christopher the Good Kid will be playing the show with Tek and Steele of SmifN-Wessun. The Shrine, 2109 S. Wabash Ave. Monday, May 4, 10:30pm. $22.50. 21+. (312)753-5681. theshrinechicago. com (Sam Stecklow)

New Millennium Orchestra If listening to live performances of Schubert, electric violin concertos, and Olga Bell’s alternative original songs without leaving your seat appeals to you, then this versatile, genre-bending showcase is for you. New Millennium Orchestra, which has steadily been gaining acclaim in Chicago for its talent, has a versatile repertoire that includes live remixes, improvisation, world music, and multimedia performances. Olga Bell, who will be sharing the spotlight with the orchestra in this performance, has a sound that has been described by Pitchfork as “some gnarly middle ground between Russian folk song, chamber music, and avant-garde rock music.” After the show, Bell will DJ from the stage and the concert hall will be turned into a dance floor. Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport St. Friday, May 8, 8pm, doors at 7pm. $22 in advance; $25250 at door. (312)526-3851. (Lucia Ahrensdorf)

STAGE AND SCREEN B for Battle, M for Morte Reading Gaining insight into the life of one’s mother beyond that label is to discover her personhood—and that is no mean feat for any child. An associate professor of liberal studies, women’s studies, and English at the University of Illinois at Springfield, Rosina Neginsky attempts to navigate the subtleties of these ties of kinship in a theatrical reading from her epistolary novel-in-progress, B for Battle, M for Morte, in which the protagonist seeks to craft a novel based on the letters of his late mother. The production will be performed by actors of the Hyde Park Community Players as part of their monthly staged-reading series. Augustana Lutheran Church, 5500 S. Woodlawn Ave. Friday, May 1, 8pm. $5. (Darren Wan)

Godfather of Disco Disco may be dead, but its godfather is alive and well. The Godfather of Disco— a documentary based on Paradise Garage: Keep on Dancin’ , the biography of pioneering house music artist, AIDS survivor, and social activist Mel Cheren—tells the story of one man’s journey through the thrilling rise and tragic demise of the dance music scene of the seventies. After the screening, in celebration of the long legacy of inclusion and collaboration in dance music, renowned DJ Lady D will spin records while Black Cinema House Film Fellow Marco G. Ferrari improvises projected visuals. Black Cinema House, 7200 S Kimbark Ave. Thursday, April 30, 7pm. Free. RSVP. blackcinemahouse. org (Lewis Page)

Pocket Guide to Hell British labor leader John Burns once called the city of Chicago “a pocket edition of hell.” This Thursday, the Smart Museum of Art and Pocket Guide to Hell—an organization that runs tours and reenactments of the glorious and gritty micro-histories of labor, social justice, and true crime in Chicago—will co-present a cocktail hour and film screening. The event will serve as a guided tour deep into the hellish world of middle-class life in the sixties, when the Chicago sociologist Erving Goffman was busy examining what lurked beneath the surface of everyday life in his 1959 sociological classic “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.” Come for the cocktails and the special screening of the 2014 documentary “Smiling Through the Apocalypse: Esquire in the 60s;” stay for the interactive exploration of the sociological hellscape of mid-century polite society. Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. Thursday, May 7, 6pm. Free. (773)7020200. (Lewis Page)

Lisa Robertson at Logan Those hankering for a good dose of lyric beauty this week

need look no further than a free reading by this Canadian poet. Born in 1961, Lisa Robertson is the author of numerous books of poetry known for their expansive themes and creativity (she has written works that take the form of weather forecasts). She has never earned a degree, but has published dozens of essays and academic texts on subjects including interpretation, translation, architecture, and even astrology. She currently teaches in the Master of Fine Arts program at Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. This Thursday she will read from her recent and still-unreleased work. Logan Center for the Arts, 615 E. 60th St. Thursday, April 30, 6pm. Free. (773)834-8524. (Jake Bittle)

is being used as a promotional image for her new exhibit, “Loo Presents: We” at Slow gallery, is bright orange and yellow, countered by a serene blue wave pattern, the corners of the paper curling away from the wall and projecting into the space beyond it. “Loo Presents: We” is a group exhibition featuring Clippinger’s work alongside pieces from video and performance artist, painter, and musician Guy Richards Smit and Chicago-based fibers artist Allison Wade. In the words of the gallery, “It’s not a competition, but they’re all number one.” Slow, 2153 W 21st St. Saturday, April 25 through Saturday, May 16. Saturday, noon-5pm. Free. (773) 645-8803. paul-is-slow.

Get on Up: The James Brown Story

Project 1915

From small-town gospel singer to Grammy-winner, the Godfather of Soul boasted an illustrious six-decade career, influencing multiple genres of music ultimately giving rise to the genre we now know as funk, and redefining popular music forever. The film Get on Up: The James Brown Story follows the progression of Brown’s musical style from gospel to R&B to funk. It also provides a glance into Brown’s less glamorous childhood and a stint with drug abuse later in life when he struggled to take action and imbue meaning once again into his role as the Godfather of Soul. The DuSable Museum will be screening the 2014 biopic—which stars Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer—this Sunday. DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th St. Sunday, May 3, 2pm. $10. (Amanda Li)

In 2012, artist Jackie Kazarian executed an intensely painful, personal exhibition in a hospital. Entitled “Breast Wallpaper,” her work drew on her own experiences with breast cancer, publicizing a personal trauma and offering an empathetic hand to others dealing with the disease. This year she is working to address another kind of trauma: the 1915 Armenian Genocide in which one-anda-half million Armenians were massacred. One hundred years after the genocide, Kazarian, who has Armenian heritage, has created a massive mural to commemorate the event and to explore the intersections of memory and trauma, again in a deeply personal way. The comparisons to Picasso’s “Guernica” are apt, but the artist is taking on this difficult subject in her own style. The piece will premiere in Chicago at MANA before touring nationally and internationally. Mana Contemporary, 2233 S Throop St. Through Friday, May 29. Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. Free. (312) 850-8301 (Robert Sorrell)

Redmoon Theater’s The Devil’s Cabaret In Dante’s Inferno, the third circle of hell is characterized by its never-ending rain. Cold and unrelenting, it extinguishes hope and happiness. After a brief experience with this circle earlier this year on the Chicago River, Redmoon Theater is determined to take back control of hell and orchestrate the fantastical fiery spectacle it has been working to create. This spring, Redmoon presents The Devil’s Cabaret, a spectacle recognizing “the Devil’s ‘greatest accomplishments’—The Seven Deadly Sins,” housed in the Redmoon warehouse. In the middle of the room, a rotating thirty-foot-tall crane equipped with stages for performances will serve as the centerpiece. Always ambitious, Redmoon promises aerialists, puppets, and craft beer, and a “special appearance by God.” Whether you want to take advantage of the Lagunitas beer bar, or seek an experience with the Great One, the event is sure to be memorable. Redmoon Theater, 2120 S. Jefferson St. Fridays, April 10-May 16, 9pm-12am. $25. Tickets available online. 21+. (312)850-8440. (Lucia Ahrensdorf)

Susan Giles: Scenic Overlook In Susan Giles’ new exhibition, “Scenic Overlook,” one can view some of the world’s tallest buildings from above. Giles’ installation consists of large wooden sculptures modeled after the four highest observation towers in the world, the Tokyo Skytree, Canton Tower, CN Tower, and Ostankino Tower, all held up horizontally by steel structures. Giles takes advantage of the two-floor gallery space to allow observers to view these famous architectural wonders from above. Giles, a professor of art at DePaul University, got her MFA from Northwestern in 2009 and is known for her large-scale installations in venues across Chicago including the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Elmhurst Art Museum. Visit the Hyde Park Art Center to witness Giles’s exploration of the power of perspective, tourism, and architecture. Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S Cornell Avenue. Sunday, April 19 through Sunday, July 26. Monday-Thursday, 9am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. Free. (773) 324-5520. (Clyde Schwab)

Loo Presents: We Martha Clippinger’s art is loud, colorful, and, often literally, off the wall. Her work hangs in the space between painting and sculpture, exploring the effects of color, as well as shape, in three dimensions. Fittingly, the piece that

info (Robert Sorrell)

Dmitry Samarov: Between Beverly & Bridgeport Life through the lens of Russian artist Dmitry Samarov is intense: vivid colors and bold strokes bring otherwise ordinary images to a point of spirited, acute, and confused meditation. Documenting the two Chicago neighborhoods the artist has lived in, Bridgeport and Beverly, Samarov’s show will include pictures of interiors, still-lifes and cityscapes whose strength, according to the painter, comes as a welcome respite from the flashing screens and “bloops and bleeps” of digital life. Samarov, born in Moscow in 1970, immigrated to the US in 1978, attended the Parsons School of Design, Art Institute of Chicago, and Indiana University, and has worked as a cab driver since 1993. In 2011, he published Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab, a book combining dreamy watercolors, gritty drawings, and wild tales from his time as a cabbie. The event is hosted by Rational Park, a Chicago event space, gallery, and creative studio. Rational Park, 2557 W North Ave. Friday, April 17 through Friday, May 1, hours by appointment. (Clyde Schwab)

Old Wicked Songs First produced in 1996 by Jon Marans, Old Wicked Songs is the story of an aging Viennese music professor and his prodigal but burnt-out piano student. In a story that takes teacher and student to emotional extremes while discussing the ramifications of the Holocaust in Austria, Old Wicked Songs shines as a valuable lesson that reflects the importance of healing, music, and remembering one’s past. The play closely follows the “Dichterliebe” (A Poet’s Love), a collection of songs by Robert Schumann. The play is presented by Provision Theater, a Chicago company that broke into the scene in 2004 with an acclaimed production of Cotton Patch Gospel. Provision has since followed with productions including Smoke on the Mountain, the Boys Next Door, and Gospel. Provision Theater Company, 1001 W. Roosevelt Rd. April 29-June 7. Fridays, 8pm; Saturdays, 8pm; Sundays, 3pm. $10-$32. (312)455-0066. provisiontheater. org (Clyde Schwab)

VISUAL ARTS The main idea of this month-long showing in a new Hyde

CALENDAR Park gallery is this: art does not exist in a vacuum, and neither does anything else. The work of Alberto Aguilar, presented at the 4th Ward Project Space with support from the UofC’s Arts + Public Life Initiative, explores the way different boundaries—art and artist, home and world, owner and object—work, both in themselves and in relationship to one another. This particular show, titled “,” decontextualizes functional household objects and presents them as “monuments” for the viewer to interpret. 4th Ward Project Space, 5338 S. Kimbark Ave. Enter on 54th St. Opening reception Sunday May 3, 4pm7pm. Through May 31, 1pm-5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. (773)203-2991. (Jake Bittle)

Gabriel Sierra Swing by the Renaissance Society right after breakfast to see Gabriel Sierra’s “Monday Impressions” at ten in the morning. Visit right before your midday nap around two to experience “In the Meantime, (This Place Will Be Empty after 5:00 pm),” or maybe take in “Few Will Leave Their Place to Come Here for Some Minutes” around four, right before the gallery closes. The title of the exhibit changes each hour, but the work of the architecturally-trained Colombian artist will be consistently compelling. An interactive exploration of the ways in which the human body relates to and experiences temporal and spatial environments, Sierra’s installation consists of a series of constructions made with natural materials that have been isolated, processed, and domesticated. The exhibit emphasizes the presence and experience of the visitor, begging to be walked over, stood in, and experienced firsthand, whatever the time of day. The Renaissance Society, 5811 S. Ellis Ave. May 3-June 28, Tuesday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Saturday-Sunday 12pm-5pm. Free. (773)7028670. (Lewis Page)

Mirrored Infinity Inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’s short story “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim,” visual artist John Whitlock inquires into existentialism, spirituality, and reproduction through black and white collages that are scanned and crafted into mixed media compositions. These are accompanied by a video feed of evolving geometric patterns on an infinite loop. The work uses simple shapes to create elaborate and semi-religious iconography, gold, with its connotations of preciousness and implication of age, and geometric distortions. Whitlock works primarily in collage and assemblage and is influenced by the surplus of stimuli in our culture and society, particularly in popular graphic images. Join Whitlock at the Chicago Urban Art Society’s debut in its new McKinley Park space in a show “about finding yourself in the search for another.” Chicago Urban Art Society, 3636 S. Iron St. Friday, May 1, 6:30pm11:30pm through Saturday, June 27. Free. (773)951-8101. (Clyde Schwab)

ARC 40th Anniversary Exhibit A 40th Anniversary show in honor of ARC, one of the oldest female-run art galleries and exhibition spaces in the country, will begin this Friday at the Beverly Arts Center. The show features over 120 current and former artists from the co-operative gallery in Chicago. Founded in 1973, ARC provides exhibition opportunities for emerging artists based on “excellence of artwork” and without discrimination regarding gender, race, class, and other factors. While ARC is an internationally recognized exhibition space, it also serves as an educational foundation, providing opportunities for emerging artists. Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St. Friday, May 31, 7pm-9pm through Friday, May 1. (773)445-3838. (Clyde Schwab)

Imaginary Landscapes  Returning to a space of your past is the best way to wipe away the rose-colored nostalgia tint from your glasses. Through Imaginary Landscapes, Mana Contemporary presents an exploration of the relationship between space, time, and memory. Four Midwest-based artists delve into the uncertain space at the nexus of the three, and the result is a collection of sculptures and images gathered by Chicago-based curator Allison Glenn. Lisa Alvarado’s work features elements of shamanism as she critiques cultural appropriation and assimilation; Assaf Evron toes the line between photography and sculpture; deconstructing the mundane, Robert Burnier explores failed utopia; and,

last but not least, Caroline Kent harnesses narrative and storytelling to ruminate on what it means to be an outsider in another country. Delve into the uncertainty that spans space and time. Mana Contemporary, 2233 S. Throop St., 4th floor. April 4-May 31. Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. Opening reception April 4, 6pm-9pm. (312)850-0555. Free. (Kristin Lin)

Nature’s Matrix Like many of their fellow artists, Charles Heppner and Diane Jaderberg have turned to nature for inspiration. Instead of capturing the astonishing might of an ocean, or the tranquility of a peaceful sylvan landscape, they channel elements from nature and turn them into visual motifs, repeating and abstracting them to create pieces which are not just strange but nearly unrecognizable. Also important for their work and their new installation is the interaction between technology and nature, which is mirrored in Heppner’s use of digital media and computer software to create prints. Their joint exhibition, “Nature’s Matrix,” is taking place at the Hyde Park Art Center, where the two have been studying and creating since the mid-2000s. Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. April 5-July 5. Opening reception Sunday, April 19, 3pm-5pm. (773)3245520. (Robert Sorrell)

Joe Hill 100 Years Part 4 Since his 1915 execution before a firing squad in Utah, Swedish-American labor activist and songwriter Joe Hill has become emblematic of the struggle of itinerant workers in the United States. To mark the hundred-year anniversary of Joe Hill’s death, the URI-EICHEN Gallery in Pilsen will be showcasing the politically charged works of a dynamic duo of social activist artists: the late Colombian cartoonist Jorge Franklin Cardenas and the New York-based painter James Wechsler. Cardenas’ work, which includes caricatures of Che Guevara, John Lewis, and Francisco Franco, will be displayed for the first time in over forty years, after being released to the public by his Hyde Park-based daughter-in-law. Weschler will showcase his “Freedom of Information” series of paintings, inspired by the FBI’s Cold War era files on artists and writers. URI-EICHEN Gallery, 2101 S. Halsted Ave. Opening reception April 10, 6pm-10pm. By appointment through May 1. Free. (312)852 7717. (Lauren Gurley)

LURE Gallery Guichard’s next exhibit, LURE, is encapsulated by its acrostic tag line: Love, Urban, Rawness, and Energy. Featuring six Midwest-based African-American artists, LURE draws upon a wealth of experience and artistic talent. James “Drew” Richardson renders the disparate experiences of young individuals; Derrock Burnett uses figure and portrait to evoke the visual sound of hip-hop; Roger Carter bridges the gap between graffiti and abstract expression; Walter Bailey is a pioneer of aCRYLONIC aRT, a technique of graphic design on acrylic polymer panels; Rodney Wade draws upon his experiences growing up on the South Side; and Just Flo is, among numerous roles, a tattoo artist and a mural painter. Explore the ways in which these artists probe broad questions of experience and identity. Gallery Guichard, 436 E. 47th St. Opening reception April 24, 6pm-10pm. Free. RSVP required at (773)791-7003 or (708)772-9315. (Darren Wan)

Snuff The word “snuff” conjures up different things for different people, whether it be a video of murder, the 1976 splatter film, or for those of us still into the nineteenth century, fine-ground tobacco. But next weekend, Slow is taking on the heavy topic in an art show featuring Tony Balko, Todd Chilton, Jeffery Grauel, and Diego Leclery. Slow, an independent exhibition venue, features contemporary art that is “introspective and vulnerable (read slightly nerdy),” demands exploration, and is brutally frank and witty. From Balko’s flashing-color nostalgia to Chilton’s vibrant pattern painting, from Grauel’s seemingly barren work to the over-my-head work of Leclery, if you want a take on snuff, some excellent art, or a chance at free booze, visit Slow next weekend. Slow, 2153 W. 21st St. Opening reception Friday, April 25, 6pm-9pm. Through May 16, Saturdays 12-5pm. Free. (773)645-8803. (Clyde Schwab)


April 28, 2015