Nov 4th 2010

The title of this exhibition is based on Paul Gauguin’s painting D’où Venons Nous / Que Sommes Nous / Où Allons Nous. It is the masterpiece Gauguin himself said he could not best. The large tableau is organized as a simultaneous narrative, (reading right to left) of birth, life and death as played out by the stoic (mostly female) native Tahitians and their Idol (rendered in an electric cerulean blue) lording over the affairs. The painting was completed in 1897, six years after his migration to Tahiti, where he searched for the elemental paradise of living simply in nature, away from the complexities of French Culture.

Since there’s not much simplicity or nature left in the world, let’s pause to (re)present these questions to ourselves in this post-Bush-era world of eco-disaster (eco-logical or eco-nomic) and its seeming descent into a land of failing levees, bridges and homes. A world of abandoned shrinking cities, workforces unable to compete with cheap and forced labor abroad.The foundations of our society are literally crumbling beneath our feet. So bask in the coarse rubble and chalky fog of the moment as we hopelessly dream and devise “big-picture”,”long-game” strategies for discovering new ways of being in the world.

The idea for this project comes from thinking about the location of the Seerveld Gallery as an island of alternate (or even experimental) visual culture in the south suburbs of Chicago. The exhibition gathers for a moment, three south-suburban raised artists who have long departed the area to pursue Art (capital-A art) and invest in a life that is attached to that pursuit. It is this type of investment that the Seerveld Gallery represents to its surroundings. The Arts and Communications Center in its sleek Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns designed deStijl glass and metal structure meeting the warmth and comfort of its mortared red-brick walls. It stands proud on its foundation, its concrete paths paving the way to the next new vision. And an ample supply of mid-century modern heirloom-quality institutional furniture to boot. In many ways, this might as well be Tahiti.

In this time, I believe it is imperative for areas like the south suburbs to maintain investment in exposing challenging art to its public. Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, explains that growing a community and culture of well-informed art and design professionals contributes not only to the cultural capital of a place, but its economic stability as well. Unlike factory manufacturing jobs and office desk jobs, cultural ideas aren’t readily outsource-able. A culture of “knowledge” workers (artists, designers, scientists, inventors, etc.) often results in greater innovation in cultural projects of all kinds, be they art exhibits, concerts, festivals, film screenings or re-purposing the architectural remains of failed industry and commerce. Lastly, the ability to draw visitors to see these unique projects could potentially help boost the local restaurant and bar economy and so on… Optimistic as this may seem, we must understand that cultural influence works at a glacial pace, spanning generations.

To bring together these artists and their projects is not about examining how personal history inform artistic practice, nor is it a melodramatic rags to cultural riches redemption afternooon special. It is a subjective mapping of the influence of abstract and experimental culture in this very specific time and space. The artworks and gestures presented here act as markers of a knowledge and experience gained elsewhere, markers of departure, flight and migration to a more hospitable locale, or perhaps just mere markers of cultural Exile? Nonetheless, the artists will keep thinking and making their work in order to continue to ask the same questions of themselves as Gauguin did over 100 years ago, knowing full well that “You can’t go home again.”

Work by John Almanza, Ben Foch and Dennis Hodges.

Curated by Brandon Alvendia.

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