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LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

July 31, 2009
"When art makes work, and work makes art, everyone benefits." Makes sense, right? Well that's the mindset behind the inaugural event for Public Works, a four-man art show taking place at the Andrew Rafacz Gallery in Chicago from July 31st to August 29th.

Aiming to "celebrate the enrichment of community and culture through creative occupations," the month-long event kicks off with an opening reception from 6pm to 9pm on Friday (that's today, stoners) and consists of new works that are "wholly representative of the dual-influences of fine and commercial art" in the lives of a quartet of creators with ties to the independent art and music circles of Chicago. Furthering that indie sight/sound overlap, "accompanying the new work is a wall thick with retrospective rock posters, album covers and street images that bump and overlap, a physical manifestation of the artists' intertwined pasts and common futures."

Justin Fines, operating under the name Demo, originated in Detroit and wound up in Brooklyn; along the way he's churned out corporate and guerilla art for a host of projects including snowboards for ROME, skateboards for Zoo York, and shirts for Nike.



Three works by Justin Fines


Windy City imaginator Cody Hudson, aka Struggle Inc., might be dipping into the pool of respectability with jobs on permanent public works for the Chicago Transit Authority, but you can get an idea of his sensibilities from the names of his art shows: "Thanks man, see you around man, fuck yeah, you guys are wild, thanks man, I dig it, see you"; "I May Be Right and I May Be Wrong, but You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone: Notes On Building A Time Machine"; "This Ain't No Bottomless Pit Here."



Three works by Cody Hudson


Regular LAS readers are no doubt familiar with the work of Andy Mueller with Ohio Girl and The Quiet Life, the former being the highly influential graphic design company of the late nineties and early oughts, the latter being his LA-based contemporary clothing company. When he's not obsessing over ping-pong, Mueller additionally collaborates with members of The Art Dump and spends daylight hours as the art director for Girl Skateboards and Lakai shoes.



Three works by Andy Mueller


The anchor of the show is the multi-disciplined Chris Eichenseer. If you were around back in the day you'll remember the spacey and Moogy sounds of his band The Timeout Drawer, though these days you're more likely to recognize Eichenseer's design tag Someoddpilot, which appears on websites for Pitchfork and Drag City and Mad Decent, not to mention album covers for Consumers Research, Chocolate Industries, and Mush Records.



Three works by Chris Eichenseer


For the Public Works show the gallery, which is open from noon to 5pm, Wednesday through Saturday (or by appointment if you're a high-demand brain surgeon or something and just can't get away during business hours), will be "covered in an egalitarian display of screenprints, a digital pastiche of color blocks, Greco-Roman statues, sardonic portrait photography and Dungeons and Dragons references." Their words, not ours.

Also of note is a public speaking series tied to the art shows and involving notable personalities in the Chicago arts community. The first lecture of the series will take place during the Fines/Hudson/Eichenseer/Mueller show (which you can call FHEMs if you want) and consists of presentations by and a Q&A with Jay Ryan of The Bird Machine fame (also familiar to LAS readers) and Chris Kaskie, the Publisher and COO of the alternately lauded and loathed, but generally nice and proactive, Pitchfork magazine.

To get a bit more information on the program's origins and its future direction, we caught up with Chris Eichenseer and picked his brain with a few questions.

LAS: Where did the idea for Public Works originate? Who is collaborating on the larger project, or is it mostly you?

Chris Eichenseer: We wanted to celebrate our 10 year anniversary by doing something special. It's taken me working this job for this long to realize what is most interesting about it - that it represents this intersection of people and businesses and artists that create not only some kind of commercial product, but also usually one that is positive to the culture at large. I thought, 'This can be brought to people. Throw some shows and events.' We came up with it - myself and my producer Annika - but it's expanding to include the artists in the show and lecture series, as well as support from AIGA.


How specifically are the four artists in the first show connected?

Andy Mueller and his friend Craig Champion were my mentors from college, who gave me the idea that photography and design could be really interesting. I've known Andy for 12 years or so, and he's a large part of the reason I created Someoddpilot. Justin is one of my best friends and a one-time a partner here. He's designed records for us among other things. Cody I worked with when I was helping run Chocolate Industries.


Are works from the show for sale?

Yep, and very reasonably priced.


Speaking of For Sale, how do you go about the commoditization of art? In more structured "industries" like music there are broad mechanisms to set a framework - LPs are $15, downloads are 99-cents, et cetera. Does it feel weird to put a price tag on something so unique?

You should hear the discussions that go on! We were just having that talk at the gallery late last night. It's impossible and completely absurd. In the end, we're all doing it to break even if the first edition sells. That's it. It just doesn't matter much. The four of us have other ways of making money.


Of the specific works in the show, or the artists' styles in general, do you see Chicago as having a definable and detectable influence?

Oh, absolutely. 'Midwest' is more how I would speak to it. And in Chicago that can mean a more general moody tone of the overall Midwest thing. You should see the retrospective wall we installed last night - it's crammed with Hum, Tortoise, Steve Albini, et cetera, et cetera, and the tones are kind of dark and somber I would say, across the whole thing, about 50-some pieces.


Of the four, if one of you were to wake up in jail on Saturday morning, who would it most likely be?

Cody. Hands down. I think the others play it considerably safer.


What can we look forward to from the Public Works series - are there any solid future events on the calendar, or any plans in the offing?

Check out the Speaker Series section on the public works site for the full schedule. It's pretty loaded.

SEE ALSO: www.thispublicworks.com
SEE ALSO: www.andrewrafacz.com

--
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other articles by Eric J Herboth.

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