Working the Room
Upholder's Metaphysics at The Gaucho Social Club
When considering the layout of an exhibition space, "furnishing" is not the verb that readily comes to mind. Other more physical words, such as mount, hang, and install, are typically used to describe that crucial process. However, that no frills attitude would have been hard to maintain while preparing Jerome Acks's "Upholders Metaphysics" at The Gaucho Social Club, at least not with a straight face.
What's unique about this situation, and what makes the "furnishing" suggestion plausible, is precisely the room itself.
It's nothing new of course to attend an art exhibition hosted in someone's apartment, at least not here in Chicago. It's a fairly common practice. However, in light of the work presented here, some attention must be paid to the significance of these four walls and their particular social value.
Firstly, and most commonly, this space may be called a living room. We've all had one at some point or another in an apartment or house, some common area for the general use of the household. Usually there's furniture, like a sofa or an armchair, maybe a bookshelf or television set. Its purpose is for comfort and relaxation. Due to the absence of furniture (that you can sit on) and the not so comfy replacements, it's probably safe to say this is not a living room. If anything it's post living room, having left behind that initial function in exchange for art and discourse.
It's interesting to note also that the term living room originates from an affirmation of its association with the living as opposed to the dead. Essentially it was custom not so long ago for families to use their parlors, the precursor to the modern living room, for funerary visitations. Over time the term living room, came to replace parlor as its gloomier function was mostly taken over by professional funeral parlors. Is it too much of to suggest that Acks is laying out his dead here? Probably.
Among all the various other terms that could apply, front room, sitting room, family room, drawing room, and lounge, one fitful term arouses a set of associations a little closer to the mark. That is to say a salon. Though it does harbor an uneasy affiliation to the Salon de Paris of the nineteenth century, the word salon also beckons to an era less stifling and more alive with opinion and insight. The private salons of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries gathered together intellectuals (of both sexes) to discuss and refine ideas of taste and politics. It's a lovely thought, if not over-flattering, to consider this rinky-dink little apartment gallery in Wicker Park among that rank.
Entertaining that notion, it's easy to draw up correlations. This is after all, a semi-private gathering of individuals with a mind to view and discuss works of art. Missing of course is our grand Hostess, directing and stimulating the conversation, but in her place there is the work itself.
Acks's odd and exceedingly stubborn paintings, which in three cases play at being furniture themselves, offer an awfully eccentric interpretation of what it means to show inside a home. The objects and the more traditional wall works humorously play off ideas of interior design and function. The shows title, "Upholder's Metaphysics," suggests just such a bizarre happening, leaving us to wonder whether these objects can transcend their modest stature.
Essay by Kaylee Rae Wyant