Saturday, May 28, 2016

Spring 2016: Side Projects

Since 2002, Marianne Fairbanks and Anders Nilsen have served as curators of the art programming at Lula. After this long tenure, they are stepping down from this role. In their role as curators, Fairbanks and Nilsen have championed the work of upwards of forty local and international artists working across a wide range of media. As their time curators draws to a close, Lula will turn the focus on them, and is mounting Side Projects, a show of the work Fairbanks and Nilsen have each produced as part of their own thriving solo art practices. In this farewell show, Lula is thrilled to celebrate of the high curatorial bar Fairbanks and Nilsen have established in their thirteen-plus years at Lula.

Anders Nilsen is an internationally recognized cartoonist and graphic novelist with work translated into several languages around the world. He is showing original work from his recently completed coloring book, A Walk in Eden (Drawn + Quarterly, 2016)(available in November). Also on view are a diagrammed vacant lot drawing from his time living in West Logan Square, originally drawn for an Italian newsmagazine, and a few small pieces from another book God and the Devil at War in the Garden.

Marianne Fairbanks is co-founder of the experimental cultural space, Mess Hall, and of Noon Solar, a small business that made wearable solar technology to charge portable electronics. She also worked collaboratively in an art group titled JAM. Currently she is an Assistant Professor in Design Studies at the University of Wisconsin Madison where her research includes creating new work for exhibitions and collaborating with a chemist to create a photovoltaic textile -- a cloth to collect solar power. Fairbanks is presenting new work that uncovers the visual affinities between the disparate arenas of domestic weaving practices and the abstracted geometries of Minimalism. Her work acknowledges structures and effects embedded in the intersections of threads that, because of their small scale, often go unseen and unconsidered. By inflating the scale, she exposes the embedded layers of labor and sophisticated math-based systems at work. In the bold, material-based explorations on view, the simple over-under rules of weaving reveal complex patterns and sometimes jarring color relationships. The ‘wall weaving’ installations display the magnified structures in a radical palette of neon plastic that feels electric and loud, while the drawings and jacquard weavings more quietly pose questions of value, labor, and time.

Nilsen and Fairbanks first met in 1999 – the same year Lula first opened its doors –while studying in the graduate program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) where they had neighboring studios. Nilsen left the School after one year and found work as a cook in Lula’s kitchen. He recommended Fairbanks for a server position not long after. In 2002 the original curator stepped aside and they stepped into the role themselves with a plan to show work that they loved and to play with what showing art in a cafe could mean. The first show they mounted was an immediate departure: they assembled a show not of artwork, but of collections, borrowed from friends and some Lula patrons, including one server’s collection of hundreds of butterfly wings. Over the years they have installed over 50 exhibitions ranging from Haitian Voodoo flags, cellphone street photography, inflatable wall hangings, crumpled paper, painted cyanotypes, a video installation, and one show made up entirely of drawings of car engines. The artists they’ve shown have come from all over Chicago, around the midwest, and as far away as Finland, Italy and Hong-Kong.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Winter Show 2016: Project Astoria:test two: The Brazil Colony

For our Winter show Lula Cafe is pleased to present Project Astoria: Test Two a show of new work by photographer Todd Baxter. Project Astoria is a narrative photo series exploring life on an imagined new planet and its moons, discovered hidden within our own Sun's system by an amateur astronomer in Astoria, Illinois, in 1927. The moons, named for his daughters Elsie and Vivian, are found to be habitable and are colonized by a co-operative multinational expedition from Earth in the mid 1970's. The images follow the moons' immigrants as they explore, adapt and create a new life in their strange new worlds. Moving between the surreal feeling of a fairy tale and something more familiar and deceptively mundane, Project Astoria takes Baxter's unique visions to an ambitious new level. With roots in painting and collage, Baxter creates lush, atmospheric, intricately constructed narrative scenes that feel at once strange and eerily familiar. The images of Astoria are painstakingly and seamlessly assembled from location shots taken in places as close by as Kentucky and Washington and as far afield as Morocco, Hawaii and Guam. Astoria's inhabitants are shot in the studio with hand made costumes, or in the case of one giant snow creature, constructed from clay with a dog's fur applied seamlessly by digital means. The characters and stories are fleshed out by Baxter partner and collaborator Aubrey Videtto. Baxter's influences are as varied as the paintings of Balthus, renaissance era wax medical models, New Mexico's Space Museum and the style guide from the 1972 Munich Olympics. Project Astoria: Test Two is the second in a series of four planned in-process exhibitions at Lula as Baxter works to complete the large scale, multi-year Astoria Project. It is the artist's fourth solo show in our space. An opening reception with the photographer will be held on January 19th from 6-9, with a cash bar and complimentary hors d'oevres.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fall 2015: Casey Roberts: Soft Power

Lula Cafe is delighted to announce our 2015 Fall show Soft Power featuring the cyanotype paintings of Casey Roberts. 

Roberts creates large images on watercolor paper coated with light-sensitive cyanotype emulsion. He exposes the resulting support to light with certain areas blocked with objects or prepared shapes to produce shapes in the deliciously mottled matte blue so characteristic of the cyanotype process. He works into the resulting photogram silhouettes further with other chemicals and with watercolor or gouache to create punctuated moments of color and suggest oblique narratives. The contrast of highly articulated natural forms and the simple graphic shapes of his hand are evocative of dreams and suggest classic children's book illustration.

Casey Roberts earned a BFA from the Herron School of Art and Design and has shown his work internationally. He lives in Indianapolis.

Please join the artist for a reception Tuesday October 20th, from 6-9 at Lula. Complimentary hors d'oeuvres and cash bar.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Summer 2015: Katara Mallory and Leslie Baum

July 14- October 20, 2015

Leslie Baum:
A Slower Dimension: Portals and Mementos
Katara Mallory:
Star Wars Drawings

For this show we have paired the work of Leslie Baum and Katara Mallory. Leslie Baum is an artist and educator who teaches at the Nathan and Kiyoko Lerner Foundation a center where artists with mental illnesses explore and develop their creative visions. We first showed Baum’s work in 2011 and soon after that she shared with us the incredible drawings of one of her students, Katara Mallory.
Over the past eight years Katara has made hundreds of drawings based on stills from the Star Wars trilogy. The drawings captured our attention for their bold, idiosyncratic forms, their confident hand and strong colors, and the clear, underlying enthusiasm of an artist for his pop culture subject – one to which many viewers will likely be able to relate.
Katara Mallory
30” x 22”
Marker and pencil on paper

We are pleased to have the opportunity to show Mallory’s work alongside the work of his mentor Leslie Baum. While the two artists work differs on the surface, the formal use of strong color and shape connect the two, as does a more diffuse thematic exploration of imagined access to other worlds. 
A Layered Time
54" x 54"

It is also worth noting how each artist approaches their respective media and ability to explore space and depth in two dimensions, whether in the paused, flattened frames from which Mallory draws, or in Baum's suggestion of space through flat colors and shapes. Mallory spends hours with markers filling in the dark black spaces of the page with organized, repetitive marks, while Baum explores a range of paint media from watercolor to spray paint on experimental surfaces and shapes which become 3-dimensional paintings or pop-up table top drawings. Space is represented physically as she gets away from traditional geometric boundaries but also each surface plays with the sense of depth within the paintings.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Mark Booth: Spring Show 2015

A Nautilus is Represent by a Gradient of Condensation on a Basin 

Lula is pleased to announce our Spring show for 2015, featuring recent work by Mark Booth. The exhibition features two related bodies of Booth's work. The first is a selection of exquisite new abstract stencil-and-airbrush paintings in which complex abstract geometries are layered over one another on paper in shades of gray and silver.  

The second body of work in the show comprises the most recent text-and-image drawings from Booth’s ongoing project GOD IS REPRESENTED BY THE SEA/THE SEA IS REPRESENTED BY AN IRREGULAR SHAPE (GIRBTS/TSIRBAIS). Each drawing in this series connects with the drawings that precede or follow it, forming a continuous list of successive, sequential, linguistic images. Both the drawings and text are improvisational and result in an interlaced series of dream-like images that manage to be at once funny, poetic, unexpected and beautiful.

A reception with the artist will be held on Tuesday, April 14th from 6-9 with hors d'oeuvres and cash bar.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Winter 2015: Over Under

For our Winter show of 2015 we are delighted to announce Over Under, an exploration of contemporary practices in weaving among four artists.

Samantha Bittman uses a traditional hand-loom for non-traditional ends, augmenting woven cloth with painted passages and disrupting the grids that make up a standard woven cloth with sewn interruptions.

Melissa Leandro uses high and low tech weaving systems to translate drawings mined from her personal history into cloth. The hand loomed work is used as a substrate to work back into with sewing, collage, cutting and melting. She also translates drawings into digital files that are then woven on a digital jacquard loom translating the paper and pen to pixels and pixels into yarn.

Christy Matson's weavings are done on a digital loom as well, allowing her to weave far more complex designs than would be possible on a traditional matrix, designs culled from her own drawings, translated digitally into zeros and ones.

Michael Milano's work in the show concentrates on drawings he's done that allude to and are inspired by the structure and design of a woven grid and the traditions and practice of weaving.

Please join the artists for a reception at Lula on March 10 from 6-9.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


a group exhibition brought to you by guest curator Aay Preston-Myint for Chances Dances 
September 9 - December 2, 2014
Latham Zearfoss

silk, watermelon / 11" x 11"  2010

Lula Cafe is pleased to present its 2014 Fall show Boundaries, Collapseassembled by guest curator and artist Aay Preston-Myint of Chances Dances. Boundaries, Collapse is a mixed media group show seeking to illuminate both parallels and ruptures between contemporary queer artistic concerns, early queer liberation movements, and popular (mis)conceptions of queer thinking. The show features works from the Chances community, and winners and finalists of the Critical Fierceness Grant, an artist microgrant funded by Chances Dances.

As acceptable, sanitized aspects of queerness continue to be assimilated and appropriated by the wider visual culture, some of us who still feel the dangers and complexities of living in queer bodies become distanced from a recognizable, coherent queer aesthetic. In Boundaries, Collapse, the work of Katie Vota, Betsy Odom, and Latham Zearfoss tackle this distancing through a formal engagement with the legacy of pageantry, camp and pride inherited from earlier queer movements. Other works interpret this affect through a displacement of desire onto inanimate objects - in the case of Matt Morris, the obsessive rubbing, sanding, and even gnawing of surfaces; in the case of Rebecca Mir Grady, the impossibility of a romance with the ocean; in the case of the late Mark Aguhar, a trans-species affinity unfolds in barely-there lines. Artists like Aay Preston-Myint, Michael Sirianni, Daniel Luedtke express queerness in their contributions as a sort of out-of-body state, by reducing physical experience to its requisite parts - looking, longing, touching. Still others look to complicate a one-dimensional queer experience by reaching across invisible lines to other aspects of identity - as in the work of Rami George, Kiam Marcelo Junio, Adam Liam Rose.

Michael Sirianni

A4A Drawing #3
11" x 14"  2014

Chances Dances is one of Chicago's longest running queer dance parties and a safe space for all gender expressions. The show features works from the Chances community, and winners and finalists of the Critical Fierceness Grant, an artist microgrant funded by the dance party.

Boundaries, Collapse will run in conjunction with Chances Dances' first ever crowd-sourced fundraiser, intended to fortify the Critical Fierceness Grant which offers biannual microgrants for queer art in the Chicago area. This includes the Mark Aguhar Memorial Grant, a $1000 grant for feminine-spectrum artists of color. Chances organizers will be tending bar at Lula for the opening and closing events on September 9th and December 2nd. Stay tuned for details on the closing event!
Kiam Marcelo Junio
Camouflage as a Metaphor for Passing: Mimesis I
Screenprint on silk / 18" X 24" 2012