What Means Light
Paola Cabal’s installation for The Arts Club of Chicago begins with the observation of light. Eight reflective and illuminated towers portray the visible shifts in the garden’s light and color spectrum throughout the day. Over the course of 11 hours in the spring of 2019, Cabal positioned herself on St. Clair street across from The Arts Club garden and recorded the passing sun on the brick façade. On alternate days, she set herself up in the interior and watched the same scene from the other side. This exacting, durational activity on her part facilitates an avenue of thought about the cultural meanings of light and darkness that have now come up against an intensified cultural context as the country faces a pandemic and calls for racial justice. Cabal expresses her questions in philosophical terms: “What means light? Since when has light been equated with virtue? Who will we be when the viral threat recedes? Who will we be in the wake of a ferocious wave of awakening to inequity? Who will get to the other side alive? By what means?” To observe is to understand, she further explains. And if Cabal’s thoughtful engagement attests to her powers of observation, then these carefully placed towers point toward the subtleties of vision that lead to clarity of understanding.
In a moment when the formerly radical act of “self-care” as it was imagined by the poet Audre Lorde has become an obvious marketing strategy deployed to capture the disposable income of yet one more generation of femme-identifying, self-objectifying subjects, this exhibition proposes that daily acts of care should be understood as quietly, yet decisively, disruptive of the status quo. Historically linked to the feminine, caring for others—either in personal or professional capacities—has garnered scant social capital. Yet increasingly, artists have turned to subtle and overt means of encoding alternatives to the sanctioned brutality of interpersonal interaction that has become ordinary in the early decades of the twenty-first century.
Following the thinking of writer Maggie Nelson, who reminds us that an “aesthetics of care” should not seek for the work of art to care for us, this exhibition gathers works that approach care as a complicated nexus of generosity and coercion. Caregiving, Nelson tells us further, has yet to be socialized beyond the maternal, even though its capacities have been valorized in other guises—when the very acts associated with conventional maternity are dissociated from gender but proposed as a form of freedom. In this exhibition, we seek to consider how slight gestures, open questions, repetitive acts, distant memories, and subtle refusals register alternate value systems. Co-curated by Janine Mileaf and H. Daly Arnett, the exhibition features works by Elliott Jerome Brown, Jr., Lenka Clayton, Sara Cwynar, Bronwyn Katz, Chancellor Maxwell, and Lily van der Stokker.
Upkeep overlaps in both time and topic with The Renaissance Society’s exhibition Nine Lives. Both group shows partake in the Feminist Art Coalition, a national initiative to generate cultural awareness of feminist thought, experience, and action.
Elliott Jerome Brown, Jr. (b. 1993, Baldwin, NY)
Elliott Jerome Brown, Jr. has had three solo exhibitions to date: Arms to Pray With (Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York, 2019); Never in a Hurray (Staple Goods, New Orleans, LA, 2019); and a simple song (Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York, New York, 2019).
Notable group exhibitions took place at The MAC, Belfast, Ireland; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Leslie Lohman Museum, New York; Columbia University Leroy Neiman Gallery, New York; Platform Gallery, Baltimore; Galerie AMU, Prague; Forum Art Space, Purchase, NY; Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Philadelphia; Polifórum Digital Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico; and upcoming at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
In 2019, he won the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant. With Devin N. Morris in 2017, he curated Rock Paper Scissors and a Three-Armed Shovel, the 7th Annual Zine and Self- Published Photo Book Fair.
Brown lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Lenka Clayton (b. 1977, Cornwall, England)
Lenka Clayton’s notable exhibitions include The Grand Illusion (Lyon Biennial, Lyon, France, 2020); Fruit and Other Things (57th Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, 2019); Apollo’s Muse (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2019); The Distance I Can Be From My Son (Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, 2018); Object Temporarily Removed (The Fabric Workshop, Philadelphia, 2017); State of the Art (Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, 2014); as well as solo showings at Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco (2016, 2019). With collaborator Jon Rubin, she produced a major commission for the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum in 2017, entitled A talking parrot, a high school drama class, a Punjabi TV show, the oldest song in the world, a museum artwork, and a congregation’s call to action circle through New York.
Clayton is the founder of An Artist Residency in Motherhood, a self-directed, open-source artist residency program that takes place inside the homes and lives of artists who are also parents. There are currently more than 1,000 artists-in-residence in 62 countries.
Clayton lives and works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Sara Cwynar (b. 1985 Vancouver, BC, Canada)
Sara Cwynar has had seventeen solo exhibitions in international venues, including most recently Gilded Age (The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, 2019); Image Model Muse (Milwaukee Art Museum, 2019); and Marilyn (The Approach, London, 2020). Her photographs and videos have been included in several group exhibitions, including You Are Looking at Something That Never Occurred (Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, Russia, 2019); 99 Cents or Less (Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, 2017); Never Enough: Recent Acquisitions in Contemporary Art (Dallas Museum of Art, 2014); Talk to Me (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2011).
She has received commissions from the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and the Public Art and Amenities Framework (Toronto), and her work is held in the permanent collections at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Guggenheim Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Centre Pompidou, Paris, among others.
She received a BDES in Graphic Design from York University in Toronto, Ontario (2010) and an MFA from Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (2016).
Cwynar lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Bronwyn Katz (b. 1993, Kimberley, South Africa)
Bronwyn Katz has held five solo exhibitions to date, including Salvaged Letteri (Peres Projects, Berlin, 2019); / // ! ǂ (blank projects, Cape Town, 2019); and A Silent Line, Lives Here (Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2018).
She has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including NIRIN (Biennale of Sydney, 2020); Là où les eaux se mêlent (Where the water mingles) (Biennale de Lyon, 2019); The Empathy Lab (Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, 2019); Material Insanity (Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden, Marrakech, 2019); Sculpture (Institute of Contemporary Art Indian Ocean, Port Louis, Mauritius, 2018); Tell Freedom (Kunsthal KAdE, Amersvoort, 2018); Le jour qui vient (Galerie des Galeries, Paris, 2017); and the 12th Dak’Art Biennale (Senegal, 2016).
In 2019, Katz was awarded the First National Bank Art Prize. She is a founding member of iQhiya, an 11-women artist collective which has performed across various spaces, including Documenta (in Kassel and Athens), Greatmore Studios, and Iziko South African National Gallery.
Katz lives and works between Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Chancellor Maxwell (b. 1973, Chicago, IL)
For almost a decade, Chancellor Maxwell has been making artworks in the Open Studio of Thresholds Bridge South, an environment conceived for artists living with mental illnesses to realize their creative visions, develop technical skills, experiment with media, and exhibit their artwork. Since 2012, Maxwell has exhibited regularly at such spaces as Gallery H, Thresholds, Chicago; Henry’s Gallery, Thresholds Bridge South, Chicago; Ravenswood Artwalk, Chicago; Judy A. Saslow Gallery, Chicago; Project Onward at the Chicago Cultural Center; The Adler School of Professional Psychology, Chicago; and most recently at Left Field Gallery, San Francisco.
Maxwell’s artworks have been acquired by public and private collections. This is his first non-commercial exhibition.
Maxwell lives and works in Chicago, Illinois.
Lily van der Stokker (b. 1954, Den Bosch, Netherlands)
Exhibiting since the 1980s, Lily van der Stokker has had countless solo exhibitions. Notable among them are friendly good (Stedelijk museum, Amsterdam, 2018); Hammer Projects (Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2015); Sorry, Same Wall Painting (The New Museum, New York, 2013); Terrible (Museum Bojman van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2010); The Complaints Club (Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2005); as well as gallery exhibitions with Air de Paris, Paris (2014, 2005, 2000); Koenig & Clinton, New York (2014, 2010); and Kaufmann Repetto, New York and Milan (2019, 2012, 2010, 2005, 2002).
Her work has featured in a broad range of international group exhibitions at such institutions as the Beaufort Triennale, Oostende (2015); the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2011); Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, Schiedam (2011);South London Gallery (2010); Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Grenoble, France (2009); and De Appel, Amsterdam (2008). Van der Stokker has also undertaken a number of permanent public installations including The Pink Building in Hannover (2000).
Van der Stokker lives and works between New York and Amsterdam.
Image: Lily van der Stokker, Pulling out Hairs from the Drain, 2015. Acrylic on wood panel. 42.52h x 49.61w in. Courtesy of the artist and kaufmann repetto, Milan / New York
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.