In 2018, a group of artists salvaged the last remaining trading “pit” floors from the Chicago Board of Trade, after electronic trading rendered these octagonal pits obsolete. The floors will circulate through a global purgatory of storage and exhibition, housed in the custom wooden shipping crates that are iconic in the art world. For their Garden Project, Marissa Lee Benedict, David Rueter, and Daniel de Paula rearrange fragments of these shipping crates around a missing object, connecting negation in modernist sculpture with dematerialization in global logistics and commodification. In Repose, these wooden fragments interlock in patterns reminiscent of the geometric flooring at the Board of Trade, transforming as viewers walk around The Arts Club’s garden while framing an absent object.
At first glance, Repose presents itself as enigmatic: the arranged fragments a custom wooden shipping crate for a large, missing object. The absent object, the peculiar nature of its suspension and rotation, and the sliced openings built to cushion and support a buoyed mass, flip in and out of focus.
The engineered wooden strata of the precisely cut angular packing materials describe dueling geometries. Some of the slices are capable of being drawn by hand; others are only conceivable through digital rendering software. At play are looping continuities between modernist negation and global logistics. Cuts made by Gordon Matta-Clark in 1978 for the MCA Chicago commissioned work Circus or the Caribbean Orange, temporarily installed just a few doors east of the Arts Club on Ontario Street, echo through the garden. The sculptural tradition of the negative object (“not-landscape,” “not-architecture”) here become colonized by histories of logistics, capital and flow that, again, stall out – like “…a kind of black hole in the space of consciousness.” 
Supplementary documentation describes the subject of the negative space at the crate’s center: a fragment of a discarded artifact of financial capitalism, once central to Chicago’s commodities and futures trading.
In 2018, a chance series of communications, buoyed by the generosity of a community of Chicago artists, led artists Daniel de Paula, Marissa Lee Benedict, and David Rueter to salvage and acquire the last remaining commodities futures trading “pit” floor from the Chicago Board of Trade. The 40-foot-diameter, octagonal, seven-tiered corn and soy pits, in operation since the late 19th century, were closed in the mid 2010s as electronic trading made their function obsolete. Sitting, near empty, for years, the pits were disassembled in pieces and removed from the Board of Trade in the late summer of 2018. The corn pit, broken apart into 32 pieces, is now entering a purgatory of circulation and storage – a state maintained by the artists as they wear at the logics and histories sedimented in its bent, geometric, bones.
The abjection of the pit (and the bodies it housed) from the heights of finance suggests a profound break or discontinuity, but it would be more accurate to say that it reflects a steady acceleration and reinforcement of a centuries-old logic of dematerialization through abstraction, commodification, and financialization – an violent logic of bodily and material erasure that the pit itself once facilitated.
Like oddly intersecting angles of rotation, Repose embodies the hallucinatory qualities of knowledge that, anchored in abstractions, govern global logistics and colonial exploration. Repose, at the Arts Club, frames the artwork as evidentiary object, even as it lies in wait for a subject that may never show up.
 Rosalind Krauss. “Sculpture in the Expanded Field.” October, vol. 8, 1979
Marissa Lee Benedict, born in Palm Springs, Calif. in 1985, is a sculptor, writer, and lecturer. Considering subjects that range from technologies of water management to the laying of fiber optic cable, her work draws on traditions of American Land Art to investigate the material conditions of a recently networked world. Benedict received an MFA in Sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and has exhibited at venues such as The Renaissance Society (Chicago, IL), and the Transit Screening Lounge in The U.S. Pavilion as part of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennial (in collaboration with David Rueter). She has participated in numerous national and international residencies, including Artport Tel Aviv (supported by the Hyde Park Art Center Jackman Goldwasser Residency); and was a 2018-19 artist-in-residence at the Van Eyck Academie (Maastricht, NL).
Daniel de Paula, born in Boston, Mass. in 1987, is a Brazilian visual artist, researcher, and co-proposer of the independent exhibitions program Um Trabalho Um Texto (São Paulo, BR). The multiple propositions of the artist reflect upon the production of geographical space as the reproduction of dynamics of power, thus revealing critical investigations concerning the political and economic structures that shape both places and relationships. de Paula holds a BFA in Art at FAAP – Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado and is enrolled at the Human Geography masters program at USP – University of São Paulo. The artist has exhibited in venues such as PAC – Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (Milano, IT), MASP – Museu de Arte Moderna (São Paulo, BR), and MAC – Museu de Arte Contemporânea (São Paulo, BR). He was a 2018-19 artist-in-residence at the Jan Van Eyck Academie (Maastricht, NL), and his work is represented by Galeria Jaqueline Martins.
David Rueter, born in Ann Arbor, Mich. in 1978, is a visual artist, programmer, and an Assistant Professor in Art and Technology at the University of Oregon. Employing video, custom electronics, software, cartography, and performance, Rueter’s experiments and interventions confront established technical systems and their philosophical counterparts, opening cracks for radical alternatives and imaginations. Rueter is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s MFA program in Art and Technology Studies. Rueter has exhibited at venues such as the Transit Screening Lounge in The U.S. Pavilion as part of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennial (in collaboration with Marissa Lee Benedict), and the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago, IL). Rueter is the recipient, in collaboration with Benedict, of a 2016-18 National Endowment for the Arts “Art Works” grant for the project Gary Lights Open Works (GLOW) in Gary, Indiana.
This exhibition is supported by a generous grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Lingering at the intersection of music theory, painting, and sound, Jennie C. Jones presents a new body of work prompted by the concept of “constant structure”—a term borrowed from Modern jazz composition. It refers to a consecutive chord progression with different root notes that links disparate tones into a cohesive entity. Like the intervals of jazz then, Jones’s new acoustic panel paintings, works on paper, and site-specific gestures, hit moments of dissonance and harmony through serial repetition and variation. Jones has made her mark since the 1990s by bringing the specifics of African American music history to bear upon the legacy of geometric abstraction and minimalist form. The works included here depart from the characteristic muted gray palette of the last decade, and instead draw upon a range of hues made available by a specialty acoustic textile manufacturer. Working with a set of given materials and colors, Jones frees her forms to address poetic ideas about a personal version of Synesthesia—the melding of vision and hearing.
This brochure was published on the occasion of the exhibition Jennie C. Jones: Constant Structure, at The Arts Club of Chicago (Marcy 19–May 22, 2020). Poet Fred Moten contributed an experimental text in response to the new works Jones created for the exhibition. The text includes a Afterward by Janine Mileaf, Executive Director & Chief Curator at The Arts Club of Chicago. Designed by Ronnie Fueglister, the publication was printed at DZA Druckerei zu Altenburg.
Click here to listen to Poet Fred Moten read his text The Red Sheaves
In 2016, artist Bernard Williams inherited a small amount of money from an uncle based in Montgomery, Alabama. A bittersweet form of reparations, the sum was one part of a $1.2 billion settlement against the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Pigford v. Glickman class action lawsuit. Colloquially known as The Black Farmers Settlement, the funds were distributed among approximately 13,000 African-American families with proven connections to farmers who were summarily dispossessed of land and farming opportunities from 1981–1996. Although it is not widely known, The Black Farmers Settlement is the largest civil rights settlement to date and has lead to several resulting class action lawsuits on behalf of other groups of farmers similarly discriminated against by the USDA in the distribution of farm loans and assistance.
At The Arts Club, Williams installs a black fabricated tractor as an homage to the strength, power, and labor of those families. The tractor is both a symbol and a monument, to Williams: it honors a very specific history of farmers who have experienced dispossession at the hands of the United States Department of Agriculture and its subsidiaries, while also signifying the broader struggle between America’s marginalized populations and their government, particularly in the fraught timelines of American labor and agricultural history. He combines this monument with graphic forms that refer more obliquely to site, theme, and history.
Throughout his oeuvre, Williams draws upon narratives that may expand otherwise flattened stories of struggle and invention in America. His sculptures and performances often begin in the archive, reconstructing lost narratives and refracting them through their contemporary cultural expressions.
Bernard Williams is a native of Chicago, Illinois. He holds a BFA degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Northwestern University in Evanston. He also studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, 1987. Williams has been teaching art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 1991.
Reflecting on Williams’ garden sculpture with a new sound piece, musician Damon Locks presents an intuitive layering of found sounds, appropriated content from popular music, and documentary material related to the subject. He mixes all of the above with archival recordings from Williams’ recent visit to Alabama, creating a work to operate alongside the black tractor sculpture, an abstract tangle of audio commentary on cases of institutional racism in agriculture. Click the link above to listen to 3 Chapters by Bernard Williams & Damon Locks.
In the dark, warm evenings when I would visit Jamaica, I remember overhearing my father from the porch. Sitting with men laughing, reasoning, arguing with one another, challenging and sharing one another’s beliefs, politicking; loudly. Under green lights, bamboo leaves gently stirring, low visibility, high aural stimulation, I listened on. They were often the same men who labored together during the day. There was a warmth to that space and I relate it now to creating a space that honors accessibility and how that is or is not visible.
Eliza Myrie images postcolonial & diasporic spaces—particularly of Jamaica around the artist’s family home—to question formal and conceptual devices that grant or obstruct access. Investigations into the elusive and sometimes contradictory conditions for intimacy and privacy take new shape in response to the Arts Club’s garden site. She asks, what can be cultivated in a garden? How do things grow inside of a fence? Myrie thus pronounces the dilemma of an art world space inviting the public to enter, even as its conventions and structures challenge the possibility of welcome. In garden/ruinate, Myrie intervenes directly upon The Arts Club’s infrastructure, dismantling and reimaging the garden fence as a gate, refitted with a rebar steel patterning of a Caribbean vernacular. It thereby echoes, if distantly, neighborhood porches and stoops that Myrie associates with the precarious right to assembly, as predicated on principles of colonial land ownership and disproportionately policed within black and diasporic communities. She therefore hopes to construct a site that might trouble the comfort of hospitality and luxury of leisure afforded to some through the work of so many more.
The installation will open a gate to The Arts Club of Chicago with its collateral programming series entitled Tie Up, to reference the idea that one might get side-tracked by lingering. These monthly public gatherings will include conversation, sound, and poetry, among other things, so feel free to drop by and hang out.
Eliza Myrie, b. 1981, New York. Myrie is a sculptor working in Chicago, IL. She received her MFA from Northwestern University and BA from Williams College and was a participant at The Skowhegan School. Myrie has been in residence at Yaddo, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, The MacDowell Colony, and Arts + Public Life at The University of Chicago. Myrie is a lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a co-founder of The Black Artists Retreat [B.A.R.]. She has received grants from The Propeller Fund and 3Arts. Exhibitions include Gallery 400, Chicago; Vox Populi, Philadelphia; Shane Campbell, Chicago; Roots and Culture, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Hyde Park Arts Center, Chicago; Davidson Contemporary, New York.
The Arts Club of Chicago is pleased to announce that the 89th Exhibition of Professional Members will take place in January and February 2020. The first exhibition of artist members’ work took place in 1916, the same year that The Arts Club was established. This year’s exhibition will feature the work of The Arts Club’s visual artist members, and continues The Arts Club’s long-standing tradition of, and commitment to, furthering the arts. Included in this exhibition will be locally, nationally, and internationally esteemed artists, working in a wide variety of media and a breadth of historical influences.
The Arts Club of Chicago was founded with the mission to expand the artistic horizons of a public interested in the arts and related activities, and maintains its public galleries, free of admission, to that purpose. Since its inception, and as a part of its mission, The Arts Club membership has included both professional artists and lay members. Throughout its history, The Arts Club has produced significant exhibitions of artists such as Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brancusi (installed by Marcel Duchamp), Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Auguste Rodin, Peter Doig, John Baldessari, David Hockney, Sigmar Polke, Maya Lin, and Chris Ofili.
The Arts Club of Chicago is located at 201 East Ontario Street, on the southeast corner of St. Clair and Ontario Streets. Exhibitions are free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Tuesday- Friday 11:00 am – 6:00 pm, and Saturday 11:00 am – 3:00 pm.