THE SEEN | Chicago's International 
Journal of Contemporary & Modern Art
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Online Issue 35
by Caroline Picard

Instead of counting sheep at night, I imagine the floor plans of places I’ve lived in an attempt to match scale, function, space, and memory. Invariably I discover blind spots—an impossible void in the middle of an apartment for instance, or the ambiguous depth of a closet—the puzzle of these projected architectures puts me to sleep. In dreaming, I appear similarly preoccupied by the details of space, for though I’m usually unable to recall the expression of a friend’s face, my waking-self will return to the incoherence of a given dream-room: how a bathtub sat in the middle of a kitchen that simultaneously conducted itself as an indoor corridor and an outdoor bridge. Perhaps it is strange to reference the nebulous expanse of dream life in a review of Robert Grosvenor’s recent Renaissance Society exhibition, but I was encouraged when I came across the artist’s 1968 statement, “I like things I’ve seen very fast and I don’t remember what they are; but I remember the outline, the image. I’d like my sculptures to be remembered the same way.”

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By Vanessa Gravenor

Laughter, the antithesis of misery, can be an axe to combat ailments in uncertain times. One can note the emergence of a certain absurdity when censorship reigns and trauma weighs like heavy fog; yet, what to say of our current moment where nationalism thickens and financialization looms as the final reckoning? In her paintings, Tala Madani, Iranian-born artist living in L.A., blocks out an uncertain visual terrain attesting to the crisis of comedic impulses in current times. Her images are not parodies or clear caricatures, but instead simply a comedy of errors. Here the errors are generated within the images themselves, casting men as sometimes-Arab performing self-flagellation or women narrating their own oppression and taking pleasure in the process. In the light, one can see victims illuminated, acting out the dramatic relief while also digesting something akin to pain. In the absence of heroes, her work instead focuses on the chaotic mass of peoples that often are swept asunder. Shit, the material of pure degradation becomes the sole commodity people can barter, and in a trickster turn, Madani seems to use it as a way to both transgress and move forward.

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By Elliott Mickleburgh

After reading through the headlines of your local newspaper, do you ever curiously flip to the business section and puzzle through the jargon found on those pages? The articles themselves are intelligible enough—tech startups are bought and sold, American pharmaceutical corporations are contemplating tax shelters in the Republic of Ireland, Wall Street seems forever straddled on the threshold between the writ and spirit of the law. Read through to the back pages though, and you will find yourself buried in the more abstract data of market gauges: lists of percentages and ratios, the +/– symbols, line charts, bar charts, yield curves, numbers, numbers, numbers. To the uninitiated, these figures are almost entirely meaningless. Reading them can actually make us feel despondent, ashamed of our ignorance. We might even come to wonder why this information is even distributed in the admittedly sluggish medium of print. Does the global economy not ebb and flow faster than a newspaper can usefully record?

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Issue 04 in Print 


Available Online: May 24, 2017

THE SEEN Issue 04 (Spring / Summer 2017) will launch in print May 24, featuring Astrid Klein on the cover to align with her two-person exhibition with Chicago-based B. Ingrid Olson at the Renaissance Society. The full-color, oversize journal will be produced as a limited-edition 7,000 count run available for distribution at multiple public locations throughout the city of Chicago, as well as select national and international distribution. Issue 04 will feature exclusive pieces and new commissions on the best in international contemporary art.

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Image: Robert Grosvenor, Untitled, 1989-90. Photo by Tom Van Eynde. Image courtesy of The Renaissance Society and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

Published by EXPO CHICAGO

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