Fruzsina Eeordogh and MK Meador The 50 Alderman/50 Artists: The Alderman Project has proven to be the most talked about art show of 2010, excluding the current Matisse exhibit at the Art Institute. Both the New York Times and Chicago Tribune wrote about the exhibit twice, and Time Out Chicago, Chicago Current and Huffington Post Chicago couldn’t help throwing in their own take on things. Even though it has been a week after opening night, media outlets continue to write about the exhibit, with Chicago Journal and Chicagoist being the newest to jump on this bandwagon. For a full list of outlets that wrote about this exhibit, go here
Weeks before the exhibit, speculation was rampant as to what would go down on opening night. Back in February, Kathryn Born of Chicago Art Magazine contemplated the portrait of Harold Washington, as did Jessica Reeves from the New York Times. Reeves writes on March 6th: There’s a good chance that attendees will encounter one of the following: a largely empty exhibit space, populated by several dejected artists, a few junior City Council members and some sweaty cheese cubes; mass hysteria, a police presence and flaming piles of artwork; or a cheerful, civic-minded mix of local politicians, artists and people who love art and politics. The only controversy over this exhibit was minor, and revolved around the two aldermen who left office after the portrait process began. Manny Flores of the 1st Ward resigned to become head of the Illinois Commerce Commission, and Isaac Carothers of the 29th Ward resigned due to federal corruption charges. The artists assigned to the alderman were allowed to portray the alderman symbolically. From Chicago Current: So Jackson will take some creative liberties in depicting what a 1st Ward alderman could be. “I may instead sort of address my painting in a series of pictures of who it might be. It could be everyman. Who would we choose to represent us?” she says. “At this point I’m real fascinated by the idea that if in fact it is supposed to be representation of my community, who would that be?” Lauren Viera of the Tribune also reported on artist Layne Jackson’s difficulties with her portrait: Back in December, she signed up to make a portrait of 1st Ward Ald. Manny Flores. Flores resigned a month later. Caught in limbo last week, days before his replacement was to be announced, Jackson said, “I’m doing a more symbolic piece.” She created scores of miniature portraits — 90 in all — to represent the number of resumes received to fill Flores’ empty seat. Twenty-two of those 90 were eliminated immediately “because their backgrounds didn’t work,” Jackson said, and they will figure into her piece accordingly. “I didn’t know it was going to be so challenging,” she said, adding that were a new alderman named in the week between her deadline and the show’s installation, she was prepared to paint his portrait over the 90 she’d completed. Despite all the nay-saying (and that fact that one of the curators, Lauri Apple, is a political cartoonist), the intentions behind the show were purely positive. Gapers Block made this call back in January, with their piece “A Happy Union Between Politics and Art” when they asked “Do you know what your alderman looks like?” Co-curator Jeremy Scheuch admitted to Laurie Koblesky at The Huffington Post that communication between citizens and aldermen was an important objective: “You know, we had the lowest voter turnout ever in this last primary in Chicago. It’s ridiculous. This wasn’t about attacking the alderman. We wanted to get people involved, to get them to inform themselves, and maybe even register people to vote.” While a riot (and “flaming piles of artwork”) would have been more entertaining, opening night came and went without incident. There was a line out the door, and after a while the only drinks available were cans of Old Style (it figures as they were a sponsor). Johalla Projects was hot, and after a while quite smelly. Time Out Chicago’s photo gallery of the opening night does a good job of portraying how crowded the exhibit was, viewable here. If you haven’t gone yet, go this weekend! The exhibit is only up until April 4th.