Category Archives: High Culture

Michael Abramson: Pulse of the Night.

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all photos by Michael L. Abramson

What goes on at small clubs is ephemeral by nature: society created and dismantled night after night. A delicate hierarchy composed of drifters, dreamers, and those simply longing to escape. In the mid 1970s, a young white student, Michael Abramson, worked his way into the world of largely black South Side Chicago clubs. He brought his camera along for the ride, capturing images that otherwise would’ve vanished like smoke from a languishing cigarette.

The photos were taken at famous spots, such as Perv’s House (owned by Pervis Staples of the Staple Singers fame), the Patio Lounge, and Pepper’s Hideout. These clubs hosted live music that was a heady mix of blues, funk, and soul by artists like Bobby Rush, Hi-Fi White, Little Mac Simmons, and much more. The current South Side Chicago club scene (in terms of live, homegrown entertainment) is a shell of its former self. That fact makes these photos that much more valuable.

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Currently, dozens of Abramson’s photos from this period are on display through Columbia College’s Museum of Contemporary Photography. According to the Museum, “this work earned Abramson a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1978 and launched his successful career as a portraiture photographer and photojournalist. Abramson’s photographs can be found in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago History Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and the California Museum of Photography.”

These photos of grit and gold lamé, born amidst midnight debauchery, are displayed between reference materials at the Columbia College Library. The juxtaposition is not lost on me. Despite their stoic surroundings, they simply hum with electricity.

LadyFanPervs10776The Michael L. Abramson: Pulse of the Night exhibition is located on the second floor of the Columbia College Chicago Library, 624 S. Michigan Avenue. It is on display until December 19th, 2014.

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Shacks and Shanties: a temporary art project

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The “Shacks & Shanties” project is a South Side Chicago installation initiative organized by Faheem Majeed. Shacks were constructed as platforms for artistic performances and installations. I attended one such installation/performance, titled “Ghana Must Go” after the infamous plaid patterned tote bags that are so prevalent in West Africa. I talked to Faheem Wajeed as well as Abbéy Odunlami, the artist behind “Ghana Must Go”. We talked about community engagement, fashion, and appropriation.

 

The piece below was produced for “Reclaimed Soul” (hosted by Ayana Contreras). Reclaimed Soul airs Thursdays from 8-10pm on http://vocalo.org, and over the airwaves  on 89.5fm (NWindy) and 90.7fm (CHI).

This Friday, Shacks and Shanties is hosting a community open mic. See details below:

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Dreams in Jay-Z Minor: The Intersection of Visual Art + Excess + Lyrics

Krista Franklin, (Roc)oco, 2012

Visual Artists Amanda Williams + Krista Franklin have collaborated on “Dreams in Jay-Z Minor”, a new exhibition at Blanc Gallery in Bronzeville running October 5, 2012 – December 29, 2012.

Connected by dual recurring dreams of Jay-Z, Williams and Franklin explore the natures of upward mobility, excess, fantasy, and hip-hop luxury. In their works they utilize a variety of mediums including handformed paper, altered books, and collage.

Tonight on Reclaimed Soul, in anticipation of tomorrow’s opening, you can listen to the artists talk about their work and the Societal cravings for Fabulousness and Upward Mobility that inspired it.

We’ll also listen to loads of samples and feature other audio surprises.
OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, October 5th, 2012, 6pm-9pm
Featuring Sounds by Jamal “JayToo” Jefferies

Blanc Gallery
4445 S. Martin L. King Dr.
Chicago, IL 60653
773-952-4394
www.blancchicago.com

Of course, this wouldn’t be Darkjive without a throwback Chicago hook, so without further ado:

One of Jay-Z’s most memorable collabos (that recently begat a wife and baby makes three) was his verse on Beyonce’s 2003 hit “Crazy In Love”. The song samples Chicago legends the Chi-Lites, and their single, “Are You My Woman (Tell Me So)”.

Perhaps the lesson learned is that if you are “Crazy in Love” but unsure if she is “Your Woman”, maybe you ought to “Put a Ring On It”, lest she be a “Single Lady”. Jive on.

UPDATE: In case you missed the Reclaimed Soul broadcast mentioned above, below is the link to the podcast version. Also, there will be a Curator/Artist Coffee Talk on Saturday October 20th at Blanc Gallery from 2pm-4pm.


The Listening Room: at Seattle Art Museum, the artists’ medium is wax.

click here to hear the original radio piece.


Theaster Gates’ Dorchester Projects

What do you get when you mix a maverick artist with strong community ties and an Urban Planner? For one thing, Theaster Gates. For another, the Dorchester Projects, pictured above. Theaster has been purchasing properties in the Woodlawn/Grand Crossing neighborhood for a few years now, and has quietly acquired the stock of the former Dr. Wax record store as well as the now defunct Prairie Avenue Bookstore (both businesses were revered in their respective collector communities). He created a home for glass lantern slides that depict the canon of Western Fine Art. Using reclaimed materials, he is turning his properties into cultural community hubs, featuring curators and programming that reflects the collections and the community.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll be curating the record collection in May and June of 2011, culminating in a series of talks on Chicago Music History (details to follow) and a couple of good, old-fashioned dance parties starring local-born music.

Read the New York Times article about what’s poppin on the South Side with the Dorchester Projects.


Tour Guides: Take a Tour of the Real Chicago

For six nights only, poetry meets the stage meets Chicago in this theatrical exploration of urban life. Collaboratively written by members of the Poetry Performance Incubator, this ensemble piece offers a lyrical tour of the Chicago tourists never see.

According to the Guild’s Coya Paz:

“This is a collaboration between 10 spoken word poets, 7 of whom perform. The piece offers an insider’s look at Chicago culture(s), covering things like the difference between catcalling on the Northside and the Southside, how you can tell when a funeral procession is for a youth or an elder by the rims on the cars, what do do when your white friends want to go to a rib place waaaaaay down south, and why Time Out shouldn’t be the expert on culture in Pilsen. We tell real life stories about people pooping on trains, plotting murders on trains, and falling in love on trains. We passionately detail the reasons why Mexicans and Irish people should be in solidarity, especially when it comes to beer. We talk about toxic spills in Pilsen. We talk about why Rogers Park is for hippies. And so much more!” 

This reminds me of the “Ghetto Bus” that was in the News back in 2007.  The Bus took folks on a tour of inner city Chicago… the part of the city that tourists tend not to see.

Does anyone remember this?

From MSNBC.com July 22, 2007

CHICAGO — The yellow school bus rumbles through vacant lots and past demolished buildings, full of people who have paid $20 for a tour of what was once among the most dangerous areas of this or any other city in the United States.

But for the woman with the microphone, this “Ghetto Bus Tour” isn’t just another way to make a buck from tourists. It’s the last gasp in her crusade to tell a different story about Chicago’s notorious housing projects, something other than well-known tales about gang violence so fierce that residents slept in their bathtubs to avoid bullets.

“I want you to see what I see,” says Beauty Turner, after leading the group off the bus to a weedy lot where the Robert Taylor Homes once stood. “To hear the voices of the voiceless.”

click here for the rest of the article.


Hip Chicago Jazz with Soul!


Darkjive has been on Summer Vacation, but always digging deeper… I’ve been really into swinging sixties jazz from Chicago, like “Coming to Atlantis” a hip mover produced by Monk Higgins and credited to Freddie “The Creeper” Robinson (on Lead Guitar).  The Flip of this 45, called “Before Six” is wonderful, as well.

During the late 1960’s, there was, of course, lots of overlap between soul and jazz scenes in Chicago, and many instrumentals charted on Soul-formated radio (like “Burning Spear” by the Soulful Strings [a pet project of Charles Stepney and Richard Evans at Cadet],  and “Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited).  

Below is from one of my treasured Dorothy Ashby albums (arranged by Richard Evans), “Come Live With Me” (originally featured in the film, Valley of the Dolls).  Many of my favorite cuts, not surprisingly, are not on youtube.   After all, the revolution wasn’t televised. 
Jive on.


African Art and the Modernist Eye: at the Art Institute

For my art-lovers: something to check out tomorrow evening…African Art and the Modernist Eye, a lecture exploring how traditional African Art was catapulted to the cutting edge of the Modern Art scene

Thursday, February 18, 2010 @ 6:00 p.m.

Inspired by a modernist fascination with the “primitive,” the first half of the 20th century saw a developing aesthetic appreciation for objects from sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, which formerly were dismissed as mere curiosities or classified as ethnographica. In this lecture, Christa Clarke of Newark Museum considers the influence of modernism in shaping Western perceptions of African art, as reflected in exhibition display as well as the formation of institutional and private collections in the United States. 

 The Art Institute of Chicago – Price Auditorium 111 South Michigan Ave                             Tickets FREE

art pictured: Fang; Gabon. Reliquary Figure (Nlo Bieri), Late 19th/early 20th century. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Wielgus.


Woman of the Ghetto: marlena shaw dealing the cold truth

 

I just found a copy of “Woman of the Ghetto” by Marlena Shaw for 4 bucks! Killer Chicago recording from 1969.  The song has been sampled multiple times, among them:

St. Germain sampled from “Woman of the Ghetto” from Live at Montreux used in “Rose Rouge” on Tourist (2000)

9th Wonder and Buckshot also sampled “Woman of the Ghetto” in the track “Ghetto”, and Evil Dee (of Black Moon)’s remix of the same song.

Early integration of a Kalimba in popular western music. Richard Evans production. Jazzy Funk mastery. Lyrics below.  Nuff said. 

I was born, raised in a ghetto
I was born and raised in a ghetto
I’m a woman, of the ghetto
Won’t you listen, won’t you listen to me, legislator?

(ging, gi-gi-gi-gi-ging…)

How do you raise your kids in a ghetto?
How do you raise your kids in a ghetto?
Do you feed one child and starve another?
Won’t you tell me, legislator?

How do make your bread in the ghetto?

How do make your bread in the ghetto?

Baked from the souls in the ghetto

Tell me, tell me, Legislator?
Strong true,
my eyes ain’t blue
I am a woman
Of the ghetto

I’m proud, free,
Black, that is me
But I’m a woman of the ghetto

(ging, gi-gi-gi-gi-ging…)

How do we get rid of rats in the ghetto?

How do we get rid of rats in the ghetto?

Do we make one black and one white in the ghetto?

Is that your answer, legislator?

How do you legislate, brother?

How do you legislate, brother?

When you free one man and try to chain up another,

Tell me, Tell me legislator?
How does your heart feel late at night?
How does your heart feel late at night?
Does it beat with shame, or does it beat with pride?
Won’t you tell me, legislator?

(na-na-na-na-na-na-na, …)

My children learned just the same as yours
As long as nobody tries to close the door
They cry with pain when the knife cuts deep
They even close their eyes when they wanna sleep

We must all have identity

That’s the only way that we can be free

Now peace, you say
is all that you ask
But self-respect is a separate task

You may be sitting up there
in your ivory tower
60 stories tall

Now you may have seen at least one ghetto
But I wonder have you lived there at all?

Places like Watts,
ah, Detroit, tell me
Chicago, ah tell me,

Harlem, tell me,

Washington, tell me

See the women cry

See  the children die….

(ging, gi-gi-gi-gi-ging…)


AREA/Chicago Release Party… inside and outside Chicago

pigasus for president chicago 1968

(above, Pigasus [the pig candidate for President from the Yippie party] at a rally, Chicago 1968.  classic Windy City protest)

AREA/Chicago announces a publication release / art happening….

(AREA Chicago Art/Research/Education/Activism is a publication and event series dedicated to researching, supporting and networking local social, political and cultural movements.)

AREA #9 Release Party marks the release of AREA #9 Peripheral Vision: A Local Reader Inside and Outside Chicago…November 1, 2009 from 2:00pm till 5:00 pm.

The release party will be coinciding with the closing party for the exhibit/event series titled Demise of the South Side Community Art Center at the South Side Community Art Center, 3831 S. Michigan Ave. (CTA: Indiana stop on the Green Line)

So there will be lots of great things to see alongside two events which are scheduled:

3:00 Peripheral Feminism: Readings by contributors
and 4:00 Performance by Sebastian Alvarez

This issue’s contributions are by/about:

Notes for a People’s Atlas of Calumet, Claire Pentecost, disability activism, Paul Durica, deindustrialization, Stephanie Farmer, Sean Noonan, Compass Group, Hobofest, Jayne Hileman, Ishpeming, Anthony Rayson, Forgotten Chicago, Dinah Ramirez, James Lane, Crandon mine campaign, Sarah Kanouse, Nick Brown, suburban segregation, The Brownlands, Mairead Case, rural pilgrimage, Beth Gutelius, feminism, Dale Asis, Southeast Environmental Task Force, Sarah Kavage, the Burnham plan, Lorenza Perelli, Chicago Otra, Donna Kiser, Erin Moore, immigration detention, Mara Naselli, used bookstores, Sue Simensky Bietila, Mary Patten, donation diasporas, Joann Podkul, MAS, Brian Schultz, ecology, Joey Pizzolato, regional energy, Alex Yablon, Native American sites, Carrie Breitbach, HIV in minority communities, Quincy Saul, Gary, Bert Stabler, Great Lakes waterways, Charlie Vinz, teaching urban studies in the suburbs, teaching art on the south side, Larry Shure, Southworks, Laurie Jo Reynolds, Dan Wang, Nazis in Skokie, No Se Vende, Mike Wolf, Human Action Campaign Organization, Ashley Weger, demolition, Ryan Hollon, Andrew Greenlee, Gloria Ortiz, Steel Shavings, Paul Sargent, slumming, Laurie Palmer, neoliberal poetry, Michelle Lugalia, world systems, Steve Macek, distribution, Rebecca Zorach, Nicolas Lampert, sprawl, Daniel Tucker, Tamms, Carol Ng-He, STAND, Wade Tillett, Nicole Marroquin, CTA, anarchists in the suburbs, Sam Barnett, Chase Bracamontes, Sergei Chrucky, Generations for Peace, Matthias Regan, Just Farming Small Farmers Confederation, parking meter protests, radical memory.

RSVP here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/event.php?eid=150798202534&ref=ts 

For more info, email areachicagointern@gmail.com

(below, the South Side Community Art Center. The Art Center, which was established as part of the Works Progress Administration’s [WPA] Federal Art Project, has been influential in the development of the city’s African-American artists. It is the only continuous survivor of the more than 100 centers established nationwide by the WPA during the 1930s and ’40s.)

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