Where art meets life

Lines are being blurred in the Chicago art scene. As demonstrated by last Saturday’s Artist Run Spaces Tour, organized by the Hyde Park Art Center, the divisions between artist and curator, studio and gallery, office and home really aren’t so defined after all. The Artist Run Spaces Tour represents HPAC’s contribution to the year-long Studio Chicago project, a collaborative project that seeks to celebrate methods and places of artistic production.

The program for the day included five galleries in Pilsen and Bridgeport: the Chicago Art Department, Ben Russell, Pentagon Gallery, Co-Prosperity Sphere, and Second Bedroom Project Space. Along with two traditional gallery spaces, bereft of signs of private, domestic lives, the tour included exhibition spaces located in artists’ bathrooms and living rooms. Glimpsing potted plants, spice racks, and collectable figurines personalized the experience of viewing art and revealed the convergence of two seemingly opposing worlds: home and work.

Ben Russell, co-curator, owner, and exhibiting artist at the Ben Russell space, consciously highlighted this aspect of his exhibition space. In each room, the visitor experiences the confusing duality of home and work. A museum bench sits in the middle of the photography/drawing room, yet glass doors reveal a kitchen. The “sculpture garden” is filled with brown leaves and old furniture, decayed from rain, next to a series of metal statues. Ben Russell explicitly omits the word “gallery” from the space’s name, thus obscuring its purpose and his relationship to the space. Is he the artist, curator, or owner? In this case, all three.

Second Bedroom Project Space, located in a small apartment, provides two exhibit spaces: one, an empty room just off of the sparsely furnished living room; the other, a medicine cabinet, located in the apartment’s only bathroom. The stipulation that all works in the bathroom incorporate the Medicine Cabinet perfectly embodies the same confusion of the creative process, home-life, and exhibition that marked the Ben Russell space. On display in the second bedroom is a collection of “objects left behind,” remnants of past shows and openings. Standing there in a home full of fragments, it was a refreshing reminder that art does not exist inside a bubble, but is in constant communication with both the personal and the public.