Pieces by Parcel: Golden Age shows internationally assembled exquisite corpses

Pilsen’s Golden Age art gallery and concept shop is a pleasant distraction from the hustle and bustle of 18th Street. Set just a block from the Pink Line stop, the space provides a cool, crisp environment for viewing and purchasing art. The space, co-owned by Marco Kane Braunschweiler and Martine Syms, bridges the gap between gallery and boutique, and indeed, blurs the distinction between art and merchandise. According to the owners, the store’s goal is to “use a retail model to promote and distribute emerging artists’ work.” The shop-cum-gallery is filled with carefully crafted art objects, from books and other publications to jewelry, clothing, and knick-knacks, all of which blur the distinction between art and merchandise. According to Braunschweiler, the shop “is trying to get better at stocking merchandise.” Now home to the new group show “Cadaver Corpse,” featuring more than 40 artists from around the world, Golden Age’s spare white walls are doing more than creating an atmosphere of exacting hip.

Golden Age’s new exhibition, “Cadaver Corpse,” is truly the result of a collaborative effort. The show, organized by Chicago-based curator Tessa Perutz, is composed of a series of “exquisite corpse” drawings, named after a Surrealist style that finds application in all disciplines, from casual conversation to the fine arts. Each artist was asked to complete the feet, torso, or head for one of the compositions, which, taken together creates a of a human body. The combined elements produce more than 30 fabulously mismatched bodies. Each artist was mailed a finished element, and whether he or she continued the previous artist’s theme or created an entirely new construction was up to them. The result is a fascinating hodgepodge of styles, interpretations, and conceptions of the human body, ranging from anatomy textbook realism to abstraction to conceptualism. There is art made of fabric, paper, and money; there is collage and thick oil painting. It comes in all sizes, from 8½” by 11” sheets to canvases more than a yard long. The art is uniform only in its two-dimensionality and its placement on a plain wall. But despite its variety, the combined pieces don’t seem disjointed. Instead, the exhibition demonstrates the many interpretations of the human form, both in art and in the world.

Indeed, the artists themselves are international, hailing from all over North and South America and Europe. Work was exchanged between artists and the curator by mail; Golden Age advertises the work in the show in its publications by calling it “pieces by parcel.” Each artist included in the show has made an impact on Perutz’s life; among the artists are her co-workers, professors, sibling and friends. The work showcases the gritty and the gorgeous, the anthropomorphic and the unfathomable, in an unassuming, accessible environment.

According to Perutz, the show was inspired by a catalog of exquisite corpse drawings published by Printworks Gallery in Chicago. It is presented as an archived show; thus the work is not for sale and it will grow in each of its new locations as Perutz invites more artists to maker her a head, middle or bottom. The next opening of Cadaver Corpse will take place in late June at Space 1026 in Philadelphia. Perutz hopes that the show will be exhibited in a few locations per year, and “will have more to offer every time it is shown, more new budding stars and funny contributors with more bizarre works and collaborations from all over the place.”

In spite of its somewhat gruesome name, “Cadaver Corpse” brings to mind neither morbid carnality nor mortality, instead evoking a whimsical, diverse picture of the human body through an international and inter-stylistic lens. As Perutz puts it, “We are just one great big web in this world; why not draw it out in an interesting, clever way? It is the perfect timeline, and just so much fun.”
Golden Age, 1744 W. 18th St. Thursday-Sunday, noon-6 pm. shopgoldenage.com