Making Art in the Midwest / Hyperallergic

From left to right: Assaf Evron, “Untitled (Egyptian Embassy Tel Aviv),” 2013. Dry wall, split-face blocks, and acrylic. 6′ x 5′; Conrad Bakker, “Untitled Project: SIGN [Relax and Take Your Fucking Time],” (2013), oil paint on carved wood, 82 x 108 x 58 inches; Aaron Van Dyke, “Untitled” (2013), inkjet print (double-sided), 42 x 64 inches. (all images courtesy of Hyde Park Art Center unless otherwise noted)

From left to right: Assaf Evron, “Untitled (Egyptian Embassy Tel Aviv),” 2013. Dry wall, split-face blocks, and acrylic. 6′ x 5′; Conrad Bakker, “Untitled Project: SIGN [Relax and Take Your Fucking Time],” (2013), oil paint on carved wood, 82 x 108 x 58 inches; Aaron Van Dyke, “Untitled” (2013), inkjet print (double-sided), 42 x 64 inches. (all images courtesy of Hyde Park Art Center unless otherwise noted)

CHICAGO — The Midwest is no place for haters, slackers, and anyone who can’t admit that they secretly love hot dogs and regularly daydream about living on a farm, or at least somewhere in the woods. Michelle Grabner, co-curator of the 2014 Whitney Biennial, conceived and organized Midwestern Appropriation at the Hyde Park Art Center with the idea of aestheticizing the upper-Midwest as a region, more specifically a style of art and language that is apparent in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis.

But first, what is Midwestern about this Midwest? According to the works by more than 30 artists in the exhibition, some of these themes include not taking oneself too seriously, not talking too much about feelings and identity, focusing first and foremost on hard work — which is also greatly evidenced in the usual winners of Grand Rapid’s baffling ArtPrize competition, where greatness is measured by making really big sculptures out of lots of little objects — and recognizing being second runner-up to the coasts. Smack dab in the middle of the country, Chicago is both a destination city and flyover zone, a place that is here on the way there and there itself, for those who choose to live in it. What do you do when you’re destined for the middle but not for mediocrity?

You work. A lot. Because you are not part of a New York City where the artist is “a literal servant to corporate elites, hired to impart ‘creativity’ to children whose bank accounts outstrip their own.” And because you know that it’s damn hard to be creative when you are broke, uninspired, drinking too much, wasting money on snacks and cigarettes, and giving in to total consumerist escapism.

This sort of heaviness is apparent in A Study in Midwestern Appropriation, where much of the works indulge in a one-two punch joke, a lewd FU to the art world elite, or a readymade reproduction of a consumer culture object at times where there could have been something more. Of the 40 artists whose work is included in this show, however, not everyone featured is Midwest born-and-bred, which cleverly proves that this part of the country does have a readily apparent regionalist aesthetic, but it’s up to the artist whether they embrace or reject it. That said, artists must, to an extent, become part of the culture they are in regardless of whether that place is a temporary or permanent home.

Read the full story on Hyperallergic: http://hyperallergic.com/99642/making-art-in-the-midwest/