THE INDEPENDENT VOICE OF THE VISUAL ARTS

 

Siblings Has a Kindling Feeling

Siblings Gallery, Chicago

 

Siblings, formerly known as the Condo Association, is a small, risk-taking apartment gallery housed in the second-floor walk-up of a North Avenue condominium. It is sexy, it is playful, it is drop dead serious. It is queer. Cruising Toilets, the bathroom signage announces. The free-for-all bar is stationed in the Pervert Kitchen. Dark red mood lighting upstairs invoked a club environment. This reviewer caught more than a little make-out action in the bedroom-cum-video installation room.

An eponymous group show officially launched Siblings’ renaming, which more accurately reflects the capacious, familial spirit of its shows. “Siblings” feels like a reunion for a queer chosen family. For this show, curator Stevie Hanley invited artists to extend their invites further, to bring along even more extended family for the show. Queer family is a chosen family made up of kindred spirits, and it’s real as fuck. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.

A salon hanging greeted the entrance to the main floor, displaying the dizzying family tree. Yet this was no ordinary hall of portraits—from Caleb Yono’s transmuted alien femmes to Zachary Hutchinson’s hirsute, bra-bearing androgyne, here stood the refused, the abused, the kicked out. Juxtaposed in jagged rows on the wall, the queer outliers found family. If you looked closely enough, you’d even find sibling resemblances. Perhaps a splash of yellow, or a thematic echo, or interplay of text and images conversing side by side.

 

Siblings installation shot. Photo courtesy of Stevie Hanley, Siblings gallery.

 

Consider, for example, Steve Reinke’s high-hanging paper sign, Bury the Corpse Ass Up, which was kissing cousins with Stevie Hanley’s magisterially cadaverous gouache and graphite drawing, Lord of Mictlan. In turn, that portrait’s myth mining and sharp angular canvas shape jutted below Dutes Miller’s beak-like archeological remnant (first pleasuredome). This remnant could pass for the head of a very gay pterodactyl—spray-painted an ostentatious lime green, it is foaming with silver and ruby.

 

David Nasca, MSDS Unknown, 2019, Leather. Photo by Michel Ségard.

 

These bright colors dialogued with the adjacent floral ceramic pop of Pete Brooks’ Favorite Afflictions 1 and 2, whose work called across the room to David Nasca’s playful large tubular porcelain sculpture, MSDS Unknown. I’ll stop here, though, of course, the relational lines circled out even further, like tracing messy blood relations at a family reunion; you know, your uncle’s third cousin once or even twice removed.

When a siblings’ photo actually made an appearance in B. Quinn’s diptych, My brother and I, the conventionality of its all-smiles riverside pose was punctured by a handwritten caption: “When I was ten, I chased you through the house with a kitchen knife.” The menace of memory unnerves the steady waters with ominous affective undercurrents, as the specter of siblings’ violent play troubles the photograph’s seeming innocence.

This dark upending of heteronormative kinship extended to Annie Chang’s work. In the context of the siblings theme, the four floral-covered albums sitting in the center of the room could have been mistaken for family photo albums. Instead, Photo Documentation Series no. 1–4 held intimate photo diaries, primarily fastidious documentation of fast food “happy meals” and recipes cooked through grad school, seemingly consumed alone for the most part. Chang inverted the expected family photo album which one might imagine to be populated with “happy” shared dinners.

 

Siblings installation shot, auxiliary room. Photo by Michel Ségard.

 

For all the times we lump heterosexuals together, not all families are unhappily bundled together the same (to bastardize Tolstoy). For instance, Kenneth Guthrie’s photograph, Faggot, staged the literal etymology of the reclaimed gay slur, a bundle of sticks. Oh bundled sticks, you campy incendiaries, gathered tonight to burn the house down. Sticks won’t break our bones, nor your words even touch us. Together we belong, together we hold strong.

 

Noa/h Fields

 

Siblings is an artist collective that shows by appointment only
at 2700 W. North Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. For a viewing appointment, call 773-664-6618.

 

Noa/h Fields is a nonbinary poet and teaching artist living in Chicago. Their chapbook WITH is out from Ghost City Press, and they are writing a book on the poetics of queer nightlife.)

 

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