May 17th 2016

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 work from a recent book project called God and the Devil at War in the Garden (self-published, 2014) which assembles assorted short pieces that were previously uncollected. The anchor of the volume is a story called An Angel of Heaven, a companion to his earlier book Rage of Poseidon (Drawn & Quarterly, 2013). Where Rage of Poseidon is a book of seven short stories about characters from Greek and Christian mythology, An Angel of Heaven is about the Devil – hence requiring its own separate volume. The silhouettes that comprise this work are a departure from his usual ligne claire line-drawing style. The work originated as a series of short stories intended for public slide readings and the large format print on exhibition at Lula, originally conceived for an exhibition in Switzerland, is a near approximation of the feeling the original format was meant to convey – a single, iconic, larger-than-life image confronting the viewer – as opposed to the side-by-side or image-in-sequence format afforded in the pages of a book.

Also on exhibition will be, Anatomy of a Vacant Lot, a drawing in which the artist diagrammed a vacant lot in West Logan Square in 2011, near where he lived at the time, labelling its various objects and inhabitants in a way that suggests something of the story of the neighborhood. In the intervening years the lot has been excavated and developed, and the story moves on.

Marianne Fairbanks co-founded the experimental cultural space, Mess Hall, and co-founded 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.

For this exhibition, 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 exhibition, the simple over-under rules of weaving reveal complex patterns and sometimes painful 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 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 a the first year and was hired as a cook in Lula’s kitchen. He recommended Fairbanks for a server position not long after. In 2002, when the original curator stepped aside, they took the opportunity to step into the role of curators themselves with a plan to show work that they loved and to push boundaries. The first show they curated was an immediate departure from previous shows; they assembled a show not of artwork, but of the collections of friends and a 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, iphone street photography, inflatable wall hangings, crumpled paper, painted cyanotypes, a video installation, and one entire show 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.

Join us at Lula for a reception with the artists on May 17 with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cash bar from 6-9pm. Lula Cafe 2537 N Kedzie Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647, 773.489.9554
For more information please contact Marianne Fairbanks ( or Anders Nilsen (

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