Exhibition Opening | Bettina Pousttchi: Suspended Mies

Event Date: May 19
Time: 6 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Join us for the opening of Bettina Pousttchi’s exhibition of work at The Arts Club, entitled Suspended Mies.

Berlin-based artist Bettina Pousttchi is best known for her large scale photographic interventions on buildings in public space, covering entire building facades. In her photography and sculpture she explores the connections between systems of time and space in a transnational perspective. For her exhibition at the Arts Club of Chicago the German artist (born 1971) will develop a new site-specific photo installation that draws on the history of the institution and its urban context, blending photography, sculpture and architecture.

This event is free and open to the public.



Posted March 22, 2017
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The Fine and Folk Art of Edgar Miller

Event Date: February 25
Time: 2:00pm

In early January, I had the pleasure of visiting the Glasner Studio, one unit in a larger compound of Old Town studios developed in the late 1920s by artist/designer/craftsman/architect Edgar Miller and collaborator Sol Kogen. Despite my best attempts to focus on the fact that I was there for a meeting, I spent the majority of my time gazing, mouth agape, at literally everything: the chair I was sitting in, the banisters on the stairs, the panes of glass in the windows. In 2014, I had a similar struggle visiting the Carl Street Studios. Those who’ve been lucky enough to visit an Edgar Miller space can attest to the overwhelming nature of the experience. The level of detail, from the hand-painted tiles on the floor to the meticulously-crafted chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, engages the eye at every turn. But not everyone gets to see it. Miller’s work is largely hidden from the outside world. I can’t say I’ve ever seen his name in a gallery, nor have I seen much scholarship around the subject of Miller. I’ve only interacted with his work as a visitor behind a collection of closed, albeit very ornate, doors. That’s why I was so intrigued by Zac Bleicher’s work with the Edgar Miller Legacy, an organization with the goal of making this very special, somewhat unknown creative’s philosophy and art more available to a wider audience.

Photo by Alexander Vertikoff, courtesy of Edgar Miller Legacy

On Saturday, February 25, we’ll be joined by Rolf Achilles (SAIC), Lisa Stone (SAIC, Roger Brown Study Collection), and Wendy Greenhouse, PhD (Art Historian) for a conversation about Edgar Miller. From painting to sculpture, woodwork to stained glass, Miller was a self-taught artist and master craftsman—a true “Renaissance Man” of the modern era. This presentation is a collaboration of The Arts Club, the Terra Foundation for American and Art, and the Edgar Miller Legacy.  Free of charge.

In anticipation of Saturday’s program, I asked Zac a few questions.

-Jenna Lyle, Programs Manager

Edgar Miller has been hailed as Chicago’s last Renaissance Artist. What does the diversity of interest in his body of work reveal about him as an artist and person?

Born in Idaho in 1899, Miller grew up on the dwindling American frontier, and he learned from his parents an iconoclastic regard towards authority, and simultaneously a high esteem for those who make their own way and do things themselves. So it is no surprise Miller came to embody a rugged individualism often seen in American folklore. His story would seem like something out of a fairy tale, except it was real life. Born with a natural gift to master artistic expression by his teens, and with a self-awareness that pushed him to reach for the stars, Miller came to the American Metropolis—Chicago—and fully integrated himself into several concurrent art and cultural scenes, from the bohemian to the professional, all while maintaining his creative independence. The diversity of interest in his work reflects both the extremely wide range of materials Miller masterfully employed—painting, sculpture, metalwork, woodwork, stained glass, mosaic, and more—to the expansive list of projects he completed—figure and landscape painting, freestanding and relief sculpture, illustration and graphic design work, decorative arts, and of course, his architectural projects. Additionally, Miller incorporated so many diverse styles of art into his own aesthetic, from the classical to the primitive, without ever making a mockery of either (if he ever mocked a style of art, it was mid-century abstract expressionism, which he found naive). Furthermore, his life story appeals to so many artists and art lovers because it is the story nearly all artists wish to pursue: to create on one’s own terms, to pursue art for art’s sake, to be recognized and become successful, to work within a robust community of esteemed peers, and to inspire others during one’s lifetime as well as after one’s own death.

What has been your most surprising discovery about the work of Edgar Miller?

What is most surprising about the work of Edgar Miller is always how deep the well goes. We have spent years compiling digital and tangible archives of all the projects Miller completed, knowing there could always be more out there that he produced, and sure enough, eventually another discovery is made. A mural in Kansas City, a painting he gave a friend as a wedding gift in the 1930s, a stash of collected works in a university archive—it always amazes us how much work Miller accomplished and how casually and often he tossed them into the ether. But for Miller, making art, rather than seeing his art displayed on museum walls, was the end goal. It was what he lived and breathed, and so it makes sense that in 93 years of life, he made a lot of stuff, and much of it traveled as far and wide as those to whom it was given.

Where and how does Miller make the distinction between fine and folk art?

Miller was very cognizant of the role fine and folk art played in his development, and he fought against categorization. He often stated that art critics needed to categorize everything so that they could better understand the work of the artist, and so that a market could be established, but that to the artists, there should be no distinction between what kind of artist you were. You either are an artist or you aren’t one. He took this so far as to even describe someone like Frank Lloyd Wright as an artist, because of his unique vision and desire to force the viewer of his art—in this case the home dweller—to see the world the way Wright saw it. But Miller did understand that many saw art at least drawn into two categories, that of the fine arts and the folk arts, from the fine paintings of Rembrandt to the beautifully painted earthenware bowls of nameless Hopis. He also sometimes referred to the “big arts” and the “little arts.” Miller believed that art culture was only strengthened when both fine arts and folk arts flourished, and in the Chicago of his era, he felt too much attention was placed on developing the big arts while not much was done to cultivate the little arts. This is one reason why he gravitated towards the Hull House Kilns in the 1910s and ‘20s, why he was drawn to learning about and practicing his craft in all the various forms of material and media known to humankind, including his handmade architectural projects, and why he continuously pursued art-making in any way he found compelling, regardless of whether it paid or resulted in personal fame.

If you’re still curious, listen to Zac’s interview with architecture writer Ben Schulman and Zach Mortice on Newcity’s podcast series A Lot You Got to Holler.

Posted February 24, 2017
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Platforms | with Parsons & Charlesworth

Event Date: April 29
Time: 12:15 p.m.


Join the John Cage-inspired music ensemble and object designers Jessica Charlesworth and Tim Parsons for the merging of their two practices in Time With People. Using absurdity, humor, and non-narrativity, Time With People is an hour-long music and theatre work by British composer Tim Parkinson (b. 1973) which “redefines fundamentals of opera from its 16th century origins.” Without characters, costumes, or even orchestral instruments, the soloists and chorus speak, dance, chant, and drum in a production that is alternately funny, playful, sad, and perplexing. The set, comprised of collected detritus, will be assembled as an installation by Parsons & Charlesworth, whose work was recently exhibited at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Free and open to the public.

Posted February 21, 2017
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Gallery Talk | Edra Soto

Event Date: March 16
Time: 6:00 p.m.


Edra Soto is a Chicago-based artist, educator, curator, and co-director of the artist-run outdoor project space THE FRANKLIN. Commissioned to build a piece for The Arts Club’s Winter Garden Project, Soto will be in conversation with art historian Daniel R. Quiles about her work. Expanding on her interest in architectural interventions (members may recall her work Manual Graft on the Mies staircase windows during last Fall’s open house), Soto brings us Screenhouse, a freestanding social structure influenced by traditional garden gazebo models and decorative patterns. Come toast the unveiling of Screenhouse and learn about the inspiration behind it.

Reception at 6:00, Gallery talk at 6:30pm.

Free and open to the public.


Posted February 21, 2017
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Turntable Happy Hour and Gallery Talk with Sonnenzimmer

Event Date: November 16
Time: 6:00 p.m.



This Wednesday, The Arts Club welcomes Nadine Nakanishi and Nick Butcher, whose collective art practice comprises Sonnenzimmer. Walking through the galleries at The Arts Club this season, one can experience the Centennial exhibition in two primary areas. In the West gallery, the club’s permanent collection has been installed. Usually at home in the salon on the second floor, surrounded by furniture, the highlights of a century’s worth of acquisitions are currently mounted to white walls in a gallery setting, where they have new life and context. In the East gallery, viewers will see The Arts Club Chicago at 100: A graphic timeline by Sonnenzimmer. On this exhibition, Executive Director Janine Mileaf had the following to say:

“Sonnenzimmer found an ingenious way to make the past into something new. We asked them to illustrate our history through a graphic timeline, and they ran with that idea, taking it to another level drawing on found imagery from our annual scrapbooks and their own inventive visual and aural vocabulary in a room-scale installation.”

Facing each other on opposite walls of opposite galleries, for example, are the original version and the grayscale printed version of Picasso’s 1922 Head of a Woman: one in the permanent collection, and one in Sonnenzimmer’s timeline as source material for an 8-color screenprint entitled Founding. In addition to Sonnenzimmer’s prints synthesizing the historical into new work, they made hand-printed graphic guides to the exhibition as well as a piece of sonic art titled “Enactment” on a take-away flexi-disc EP (with hand-printed packaging, of course) to complement their visual material.

On Wednesday, November 16th at 6pm, Nick and Nadine will perform one more act of synthesis in a public program at The Arts Club. They’ve described a speaker on a skateboard and simultaneous, interactive performances in two rooms.


Programs Manager Jenna Lyle interviewed Sonnenzimmer about the exhibition and their upcoming public performance.


JL: What exactly do you do, as Sonnenzimmer?


N&N: Sonnenzimmer began as a shared painting studio that morphed into a printshop that morphed into something in between a band, a graphic design studio, and philosophy club.


JL: You’re both invested in sonic as well as visual art. How do the two meet in your overall art practice?


N&N: Initially, we were being hired by musicians to design and print music packaging and posters. Over the course of our 10 years of collaboration, our personal interest in music slowly made its way into our artwork. We still balance commissioned projects like book design and murals with self-initiated projects such as performance, recordings, and exhibitions. But the longer we engage in art together, the closer our interests form a solidified intelligible shape and sound.


JL: How did the two converge in your exhibition at The Arts Club?


N&N: Our contribution to the The Arts Club of Chicago at 100, was initiated as a commissioned “graphic timeline” with lots of room for experimentation, thanks to Executive Director Janine Mileaf. Using the club’s extensive archive of historical ephemera, we collapsed images and conceptual overtones into a series of six prints, each representing a specific era of the club’s history. The exhibition culminates in a takeaway flexi record that pairs snippets of influential lectures form Gertrude Stein and Jean Dubuffet, set over a downtempo house beat, of course. For us, the sound is an aural continuation of the explorations in the visual component of the exhibit, with the added benefit of time and rhythm.


JL: What other convergences happen in that exhibition?


N&N: Past and present converge. Built from source material and our own idiosyncratic take on the Arts Club’s history, we hoped to shed new light on the dense past. We also ask just as many questions as we might have answered. So viewers’ own takes [on the art] converge with our expressive information graphics.


JL: How does your work for this season’s exhibition, The Arts Club at 100, deal with the passage of time?


N&N: We look at time as non-linear. Not circular, but maybe pear shaped. Things move far away from one another only to get closer again.


JL: For your upcoming performance at The Arts Club, how are you addressing the concept of time?


N&N: The performance will address both our exhibition and the permanent collection in the adjacent gallery through sound and locomotion moving between the two spaces.


Please join us on November 16th at the Arts Club of Chicago for the public presentation of “Enactment,” a performative audio intervention of our current exhibit, The Arts Club Chicago at 100: A graphic timeline by Sonnenzimmer. Pulling from the original music we created for the gallery takeaway, “Enactment” will evoke and challenge the Arts Club of Chicago’s 100 year history through adhoc sculpture and music.

Posted November 14, 2016
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