Category Archives: Culture

Wednesday 10/11 2017
The Porcelain Menagerie: On Cassie Marie Edwards’ “Figurines”

“Porcelain menageries carry in them the uncanny idealized nature, the oddity of imposing the characteristics we most desire on a totemic form to keep resting beside us, or locked safely away behind class. Consider the bull, or the horse, unicorn, or bear, common tchotchke subjects whose cuteness seems to have an inverse relationship to their ferocity (that a house cat will tear an ecosystem asunder and is, in this way, much more of a terrorist than a bear, speaks to the inherent human perspective from which these caricatures are drawn), or the aforementioned stock-still prey items, for whom sitting is death. Skittish horses, coquettish cats, majestic, cuirass-chested working dogs who cannot maintain their sense of regality while huffing through crushed faces and flapping jowls, all are made into exactly what we wish for them to be: perfect, one note—our favorite note—and within our possession. Figurines are our literal molding of nature, their fragility the proper trade for our wonts.”

Read the rest of my review of Edwards’ show in New American Paintings

Tuesday 10/10 2017
Golden Faults: Karen Reimer at Monique Meloche

“Both our literal and social climates are exhibiting fault lines. It is easy to imagine the window, the nation, the world falling apart along these stress fractures. Reimer’s choice of gold, however, adds an element of hope to the show, a suggestion of Kintsukuroi, the Japanese art form of beautifying repair, wherein gold leaf is used to bond broken pottery, the damage enshrined and drawn upon, becoming part of the object’s beauty; and while it requires vision—and faith, and a willingness to give breath to the seemingly dead—one can see, embodied in Reimer’s aurelian wounds, the potential for the pressure and, yes, even the pain, to allow us to emerge stronger.” 

Read the rest of my review of Reimer’s installation, Droughtscape, in Newcity

Monday 09/25 2017
An Obama Speechwriter’s Memoir Makes Clear the Power of Presidential Words

“He [Trump] does this via shock and awe, brute force and braggadocio, channeling every Wall Street wolf and old school football coach who came before him. He speaks in centipede sutures and staples, exclamations and catechisms field trauma care for the gaping wounds where his thoughts have been punctured or sloughed away. He breaks, plods, stutters, roars, a dog whistle the only sounds cutting through the cacophony, his cadence ambling like a skull rolling downhill and thoughts left dangling from the gallows, the familiar, wayfaring elements of the English language made alien, frightening by their appearance and affect, their design—truly, their lack thereof—and delivery, rhetoric as re-animated cat skeleton.”

Read the rest of my essay on David Litt’s memoir Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years in Paste Magazine

Friday 09/15 2017
On Cocaine and Quarter Horses: Melissa del Bosque’s “Bloodlines”

“By virtue of keeping her reporting clean and concise, del Bosque easily steers readers through Treviño’s international financial crimes spiked with brutality—the kind that would make Michael Lewis’ usual suspects blush. In tracing the case from the first whispered tip to an FBI agent to the final verdict, she brings a slice of the abstracted drug war into heart-rending focus, turning the bloody diamond before her loupe so that each facet becomes clear.”

Read the rest of my review of Bloodlines in Paste Magazine

Friday 09/1 2017
Tilting at Taco Bell: The Wrigleyville Rally That Wasn’t

“By the time I first reached out to Black on August 22—the rally was scheduled for August 26— the backlash had begun. While the event was organized before Unite the Right, it had the misfortune of taking place after, which may have contributed to the anger. One of the first posts on the event page when I had looked at it was a Lakeview resident castigating the page’s supporters for rallying around such a trivial cause as real problems rage all around us, and Black had penned an explanation in response to the criticisms; unfortunately, both of these were lost when the page was removed, and the cached version does not include them.”

Read the rest of my post-mortem for the media’s favorite fast-food rally in Munchies

Thursday 08/24 2017
Eastman Was Here: On Satirizing Masculinity

Eastman Was Here follows Alan Eastman, a washed up author who turns to Saigon for the swan song that will save his career and his marriage. Set in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War, the book highlights the type of authors who have cast a spell on us at some point—manly men boasting manly emotions, who dissolve their Pain in drugs, women and prose. These are writers descended from Hemingway’s poisonous line, but with a more urbane spin, like Roth, Updike, Irving, Mailer and their peers. You know, the stereotypical novelists who were the accolade-winning dicks in the American post-war literary scene.

We’ve all been suffering in their long, dark shadows ever since.”

Read the rest of my essay in Paste Magazine

Saturday 07/8 2017
Inside A Hermosa House, A History Of Latin American Art

“A massive Hector Duarte painting greets you right as you walk in the front door, depicting an avian heart encircled by gnashing border guard dogs. It symbolizes the pieces of their spirit immigrants must leave behind. Directly next to it is an early Marcos Raya, a portrait of the artist in a bar, the countertop now a butcher’s block, a gun and bottle before him and the leering demons of his alcoholism floating just above. Together they depict the complicated reality of immigrant life, a life Salgado knows personally.”

Read the rest of my story about the Coleccion Salgado in Creators

Thursday 07/6 2017
Chicago’s Foam-Spewing Sculpture bring Beautiful Chaos to Navy Pier

“The clouds spilling out of A retrospective view of the pathway are subject to an array of variables like wind, temperature, humidity, grass, and people that make even tumultuous modern life seem simple by comparison. The inherently fun yet hard-to-control foam is meant to celebrate the joy that can be found in change.”

Read the rest of my story about Roger Hiorns’ sculpture in Creators

Thursday 07/6 2017
Five Books to Relieve Your Financial Guilt

“Finances fray our nerves and shadow our souls. As flies caught in an international web of commerce, few things can make us feel as powerful or as pathetic as our bank balance. So if your parents just paid your rent again or you just can’t reconcile those little numbers on your ATM receipt, these books’ torturous relationships with cash will leave you feeling better about your own (legal) tender issues.”

Read the list in Paste Magazine

Thursday 07/6 2017
Deftly and Defiantly Decolonial: Huong Ngo at DePaul Art Museum

“In the thin hallway gallery adjacent to the bulk of the show, prints made with the obsolete hectographic method—the kind used by the anti-colonial activists—use agar-agar, a common Asian dessert ingredient, to display English, Vietnamese and French iterations of the pro-immigration rallying cry “We are here because you were there.” The artist’s royal purple agitprop hangs over the observer’s heads like Damocles’ sword, a powerful reminder that history is written in blood and spoken through the gnashing of teeth. One leaves the show with eyes open, but blurred by now-knowing tears.”

Read the rest of my review of Huong Ngô’s To Name It Is To See It in Newcity