“One Question” with Bert Stabler


Bert Stabler writes about art for the Chicago Reader and Proximity Magazine, teaches high school art in South Chicago, curates group shows sometimes, embroiders on baby clothes, and is totally from Ohio.

Neoteric Art: What shows have been memorable for you this year?

Bert Stabler: For those who eschew holiday optimism, the winter art world offers various opportunities for a year-end general sense of haunted emptiness. Two solo shows that close this weekend remember young local artists who died this year. Patrick W. Welch was a prolific creator of colorful, meticulous “micro-miniature” paintings that portrayed a bleak outlook, employing floating text signifiers such as “Hate,” “Revenge,” and “Idiot.” He participated in a long-term drawing collaboration with local artist Paul Nudd, and mentored at the bicycle repair cooperative in Hyde Park’s Experimental Station. This closes Sunday at Laura Shaeffer’s Larch space in Hyde Park. Closing on Saturday at 65Grand is Daniel Johnson’s photography retrospective, curated by Melanie Schiff. Johnson also had an eye for shadowy intimacy in his exquisitely textural little vignettes. One series focuses on insignificant scraps of detritus sitting on wet asphalt, and another on dark store windows, obscured by scratches, graffiti, smudges, and reflections.

Intimacy and melancholy was central as well in “Chicago and the Universe,” a recent show of 2008 videos by local artists, curated by Alexander Stewart and screened at Roots & Culture, as well as in “While We Were Working,” a program at the Nightingale Theater sponsored by InCUBATE last weekend of Youtube shorts culled by Robert Snowden and Eric Fleischauer. While the first show leaned more towards nostalgia and the second toward irony, and both were worthwhile in their way, neither was as effective as the solo two-dimensional shows, as the brevity of the videos seemed to create a disposability that was pretty hard for much of the work to overcome.

Intimacy without any need for gravitas or snark was characteristic of the work of Ben Schaafsma, yet another great young Chicago artist who died this year, co-founder of the arts-administration collective InCUBATE. There’s currently an eBay art auction in Ben’s name that, after raising some money for Ben’s family, will be putting money into the kind of independent arts-funding initiatives he spearheaded in Chicago. Artists involved in the auction include Mark Tribe, Anne Elizabeth Moore, and Zak Prekop.

Above image: Patrick W. Welch, Fuck Oil, Enamel and acrylic on panel, 3″x 5″