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1709 West Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
312 535 4555
DOCUMENT is a commercial gallery located in Chicago that specializes in contemporary photography, film and media based art. The gallery has organized more than 60 solo exhibitions since its opening in 2012 and actively promotes the work of emerging national and international artists. Since 2016, DOCUMENT started exhibiting historical artists and has continued to anchor its program in a conversation between emerging voices and established figures. Operating conjointly as a professional printmaking studio, DOCUMENT facilitates the production of works by artists from Chicago and the US.
Artists Represented:
Elizabeth Atterbury 
Geraldo de Barros 
Mary Helena Clark 
Julien Creuzet
Victoria Fu 
Gordon Hall 
Sterling Lawrence 
Laura Letinsky 
Christopher Meerdo 
Erin Jane Nelson
John Opera 
Sara Greenberger Rafferty 
Paul Mpagi Sepuya 
Greg Stimac 
Andrew Norman Wilson

 

 
Paul Mpagi Sepuya: Stage
Elizabeth Atterbury: Letters and Souvenirs
Elizabeth Atterbury: Letters and Souvenirs
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Current Exhibition

Gordon Hall

TURN BACK



September 16, 2022 - October 29, 2022
DOCUMENT is pleased to present TURN BACK, Gordon Hall’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. TURN BACK includes new sculptural, photographic, and light-based works which range from recreations and “un-makings” of recognizable items to wholly abstract forms. These sculptures interrogate the potential for objects to affect us emotionally, socially, and physically, asking us to consider the poetics of everyday objects by shifting their recognizability and functionality. As a sculptor and performance-maker, Hall’s background as a dancer informs their approach to sculpture, inquiring into the capacity of static objects to function like performing bodies. The artist’s ongoing interest in furniture continues in TURN BACK, in which altered recreations of a table leg, a step stool, a mirror, and a bench for trying on shoes operate to conjure absent bodies and alternate possible uses. Forms related to clothing also appear – a belt, a tank top, a ribbon — under dimmed lights in the gallery creating a suspended sense of time in an intimate, even erotic, interior space. A projected animation depicts the barely-there movement of a stream of light cast along the floor at the end of a day, the first work of this kind the artist has produced. This video projection extends the artist’s creation of subtly rendered surfaces that request slow forms of attention to subtle formal and chromic differences, evoked here also through sculptures covered in ballpoint pen marks, colored pencil, enamel, and graphite. In reformulating objects ordinarily in the background, Hall wishes not only to bring forth that which recedes into the periphery, but to emphasize horizontal modes of relation between forms as they touch the floor and walls. Hall’s focus on backgrounds is embodied here through a blue-black cast concrete replica of a stone lion who faces away from us in the gallery, refusing its job as an outward facing ornament or protector of private property. A photograph of the original lion where Hall first encountered it has been rubbed onto the gallery wall. Hall’s recasting and rearrangement of objects refuses their normative roles in order to open up different webs of relation between people and things. A mirror cast in stone serves not just as a revocation of its material function — a transformation into “a matte surface that rebuffs reflection" — but also, in taking away one use, offers another: an inversion of our own perception as bodies in space. This negotiated existence is further engaged by the exhibition’s titular invitation, which unfolds as a “spatial choreography.” TURN BACK is at once a prompt and problem: an angle of approach, an embodied position in relation to the installation, a visual reorientation.

 
Past Exhibitions

Laura Letinsky

The indignation of counting spiders



June 24, 2022 - August 13, 2022
DOCUMENT is pleased to present The indignation of counting spiders​​, an exhibition of photographs and ceramic works by Chicago-based artist Laura Letinsky. This is the artist’s third solo show with the gallery. The exhibition includes unreleased photographs from Letinsky’s on-going series, Coming to the Commons, Italy, and To Say It Isn’t So, along with debuting ceramic works from her new series From Preparing for Flowers. Letinsky’s photographic compositions are rooted in the historical exploration of seventeenth century still life painting. These domestic interiors feature subject matter akin to that of a classical Dutch still life wherein the fruit was honestly devoured and the wine readily consumed, leaving the viewer with only a peach pit on a stained tablecloth or a wine glass emptied to interpret. Through photographing objects and spaces that have been touched, devoured, or discarded, Letinsky explores the intimate tensions and banality of contemporary domestic life. Preparing for Flowers, the title for the series of new ceramic works on view are influenced by Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. In the artist’s humble interpretation of this tradition, she pushes the materials, porcelain and ceramic glaze to almost its breaking point, then resuscitates them, mending the works with colorful epoxy. Letinsky intentionally unmasks the repairs as evidence of care and continued desire. The repairs in their celebratory colors echo the tradition of Kintsugi, pushing away from the obsolescence of quick consumer culture. Similarly to the subject matter of Letinsky’s photography, these ceramic works retain a story. Each sculpture has been handled, worn thin, and then diligently arranged. Using these works as an invitation to experiment, the artist explores color similarly to the way she plays with the light in her photographs, stating; “It’s sort of like picture making with analog materials in that I don’t know what they will look like until after they are fired. Alchemical. Magic.” However, unlike the photographs on view, Letinsky relinquishes herself from any theoretical or conceptual framing, allowing the ceramics to act as more of a compulsion, a pleasure, a set of questions playing out through the materials and the process.

Kiah Celeste

All the best, Kiah Celeste



April 30, 2022 - June 18, 2022
“Life today is very bewildering,” the textile artist Anni Albers wrote in 1938. “It is no accident that nervous breakdowns occur more often in our civilization than in those where creative power had a natural outlet in daily activities. And this fact leads to a suggestion: we must come down to earth from the clouds where we live in vagueness, and experience the most real thing there is: material.” Life today, in 2022, remains as bewildering as ever, yet All the Best, Kiah Celeste makes a compelling argument for coming down from the digital clouds and experiencing what Albers would call “the adventure of being close to the stuff the world is made of.” In the half-dozen sculptures Celeste created for the exhibition, material is the adventure, evidence of a tactile thinking that can excavate aesthetic pleasure from the rubbish heaps of contemporary industrial culture. Some artists begin with an idea and procure the materials to create it, resulting in works that often look pretty much like the visions in their heads. Celeste’s process is much more precarious — with results that don’t so much reward her riskiness as reflect her skillfulness in teasing out relationships among forms and materials, imbuing the overlooked and invisible with purpose and significance. Celeste is a forager, scrounging the neglected corners of her urban environment for objects with which she feels an aesthetic attraction, but without knowing how she’ll incorporate them into her works. She rarely combines more than three or four elements in a single piece, though she often repeats a particular form, such as a steel pipe or rubber wheel, to create a visual rhythm of theme and variation. This minimalist ethos is amplified by what is left out: joinery, fasteners or any other kind of stabilizing device. Instead, Celeste manipulates the inherent properties of the objects to compress, abut, lean, lever and cantilever her sculptures into a natural, if tentative, balance. Celeste has worked in this manner since early 2020, when she started a series called I Find This Stable. At that time, Celeste’s sculptures exuded a playful quality: rubber exercise balls featured prominently, as did pink pigment and comically undulating vacuum hoses; one piece, which included an inert light bulb inserted into flagpole weights painted baby blue, was titled “Max Wall” after the famously flexible English comedian. The following year, she began incorporating fabricated components to her work, sewing rectangular bags of vinyl and latex in various shades of brown, green and beige and filling them with sand. Slumping and unstable, the sacks suggested bodily forms, a physical vulnerability in the midst of an ongoing pandemic and continued violence against Black and Brown bodies. With All the Best, Kiah Celeste, the artist maintains a delightful capacity to amuse herself and her audience — one needs look no further than “Bum 81,” a collection of linear fluorescent light bulbs with vibrant green tips rolled in a lavender-grey rubber wheel to resemble a giant cigarette, a loosie for an imaginary giant who lives among the rubble of an abandoned industrial park, perhaps. And yet these recent works also espouse a different intensity of elegance and restraint, a newfound sense of pleasure and, at times, a sumptuousness that belies the materials’ proletarian origins. Take, for example, “Bow,” with its long, tall, skinny metal pipe that, in a softly curved right angle, reaches out and over the horizontal radiator tube that holds and anchors it. Celeste, abandoning the use of pigment for this exhibition, has covered the pipe in a tight sheath of creamy upholstery vinyl. In its haute couture costume, the once-discarded metal now holds itself with an air of luxury, a metamorphosis wrought from a working-class textile. A single square of colored vinyl similarly transforms “Squared Circle,” forming the base for a cube of glass that rests on a larger square of safety glass. Light brown sand surrounds the edges of the cube, as if spilling out from under it; a layer of sand, about an inch thick and impressed with a small gridded pattern, rests on top of the cube. As light streams through the four sides of glass, the royal blue vinyl casts a regal glow; the sand reads as gold, not brown; the gridded surface like tufted velvet. Sand appears elsewhere in All the Best, Kiah Celeste — the playfully minimalist “Silly Snakes,” for instance — but only in “Squared Circle” does it become an idea in itself, rather than a buttressing element. If Celeste’s sculptures can be seen as artifacts from her “adventure of being close to the stuff the world is made 0f,” sand is stuff reduced to its most elemental: these tiny, ancient grains, weighted with history and at the same time ready to be remade yet again — to be pressed into pattern, molded into form or even melted and transmuted into the sheets of glass that hold it in “Squared Circle.” At a time when life can, indeed, feel “very bewildering,” it is a comforting thought that it all might yet be an adventure and not a catastrophe. It’s tempting to respond to periods of uncertainty by imposing more order — scheduled working hours in the absence of an office routine, or an overly regimented diet when sweets have proven to be an irresistible indulgence. But what if we instead resisted the urge to want things to be a certain way? Could we find, as Celeste has done, that there is great joy to be found in working with what we have been given? Perhaps then we could “experience the most real thing there is” — not material, as Albers would have it, but rather the satisfaction of discovering the stuff that attracts us and brings us pleasure; to be as malleable as sand, and just as open to possibility.

Stan VanDerBeek

Panels for the Walls of the World: Phase I



March 5, 2022 - April 23, 2022
DOCUMENT is pleased to present their second solo exhibition with the Stan VanDerBeek Archive. “Panels for the Walls of the World” is the title of a series of murals realized by Stan VanDerBeek from February-April of 1970. Conceived in 1967 as “telephone murals” VanDerBeek used newly available Xerox Telecopier machines to transmit and output hundreds of mixed media collages combining topical news imagery of the time with the artist’s hand drawn and painted interventions to a variety of public locations simultaneously. When assembled following a particular order designated by VanDerBeek, the black and white, graphic fax transmissions formed a network of multiple larger images that were constantly in process. The core of this exhibition is Phase I of “Panels for the Walls of the World” which will be transmitted by the Stan VanDerBeek Archive in Brooklyn, NY using the original transmission copies and installed in stages throughout the length of exhibition at the gallery as well as at two other sites in the area — Hyde Park Art Center (March 19–May 22) and EXPO Chicago (April 7–10). A select portion from the 1970 Phase I mural in the form of its original collages will also be presented in addition to a twelve-panel collage mural made by VanDerBeek in 1969 for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago exhibition “Art by Telephone.” DOCUMENT’s exhibition marks the first time original components from VanDerBeek’s fax murals will be publicly displayed as well as the first re-transmission of Phase I to multiple sites simultaneously. Phase II of the mural will be the focus of an exhibition at the Box in Los Angeles in September 2022. The hundreds of collages made by VanDerBeek over fifty years ago on 8.5 x 14 inch pieces of paper to make “Panels for the Walls of the World” used daily newspaper headlines regarding persistent, interrelated worldwide issues of racism, war, poverty, and divisive politicians alongside advertisements featuring images of perfected bodies, commodities and abundant food. As described in an essay commissioned by scholar Kirsten Gill for this exhibition: “More than a mere index of the news saturating the media in the late-1960s, the overall scope [of “Panels for the Walls of the World”] gestures at a quite intersectional understanding of interrelated phenomena: racial oppression and anti-Blackness, neoconservative politics, U.S. military aggression, anti-communism, poverty.” Similar to VanDerBeek’s use of computers in 1965 to create his series of films called “Poemfields” in which individual pixel-like frames were programmed to generate moving images of language and forms — VanDerBeek’s murals were at times described by the artist as mosaics and designed to be output via the use of a newly accessible technology into a larger, ever-changing image to be seen by as many people in numerous sites at the same time. As Gill states, “Its pieces plucked from an endless media stream and only provisionally tethered to a grid, the mural is a testament to the “visual velocity” with which VanDerBeek described the intensifying flood of images and a record of the media preoccupations of the era.” “Panels for the Walls of the World” is a stunning example of VanDerBeek’s intense desire to integrate technology and art for the purpose of accessible, international communication amongst the larger public who would otherwise be passively subjected to the violence and alienation enacted by those controlling commercial media at the time. As with many of VanDerBeek’s multimedia installations, “Panels for the Walls of the World” was conceived as a project that would evolve over and with time. In a 1969 proposal for AT&T to help sponsor his project he wrote, “I think it’s extremely important to point out that the “Telephone Mural” concept is a genre or a new art form which can take on almost endless variations, so that its extrinsic value lies not in this one opportunity but in its continuing use in the future.” For the first re-staging of this time-based media work, the Stan VanDerBeek Archive will be experimenting with the various ways to understand and implement one of the most essential components of the project as simultaneous, electronic transmission of the mural. Various issues surrounding conservation, preservation, labor, technology, obsolescence, and performance will inform the ultimate methods of transmission used to represent VanDerBeek’s intentions and the work’s ongoing preservation.

Anneke Eussen

Blank Pages



January 8, 2022 - February 26, 2022
In Blank Pages, Eussen utilizes the formal principles of Minimalism evoking geometric seriality, yet deploys a quietly emotive aspect by implying hidden narratives and secret histories. Her practice revolves around cultivating found materials and repurposing them into meticulously detailed and ghostly wall sculptures. The artist compiles found glass panels sourced from buildings and automobiles into glass assemblages in clean-edged plexiglass boxes. Contrasting these ethereal glass works, Eussen suspends slabs of marble to the wall by fastening them with geometric vertical black rope holds. Her use of negative space can imply a thing that has outlived its intended purpose and has been reincarnated. She leaves markers of their past—outlines of where a sticker would have been attached, faint residues, and small nicks. Through interventions of layering, arrangement, and assembly, Eussen is never manipulating the original shape of the objects and insists on using their original framework. Eussen’s interest in the malleability of edges and borders emerges from growing up in a Dutch town neighboring Germany and Belgium where the delineation of countries seemed redundant and arbitrary. Questioning the idea of the border through overlapping, Eussen also questions the linguistic and political construction of borders. Temporal divisions are perhaps as significant as spatial ones in Eussen’s assemblage. The dark marble sourced from the State Library in Berlin, re-assembled for Little Triumph 02, references Berlin’s particular history of shifting borders–a reference perhaps furthered by the use of time-stained car windows, like those of the now extinct East German Trabant. Eussen evokes a history popping in and out of existence with the erection and fall of border walls, containing both specificity and a frustrating indecipherability. Retaining an undeniable anonymity, the materials prompt open-ended questions: Who looked through this glass? Whose face once reflected on its surface? The works emanate the tangibility of human contact, visualizing the sensuous connection between past, present, and future through our relationship with built space.

Sarah Greenberger Rafferty

Views from Somewhere



November 5, 2021 - December 18, 2021
In the bootleg stock photos of Lens Line, 2021, women are no longer laughing alone with salad. Instead, a woman rotates a camera lens in one hand like a fidget gadget. The sequential images are fused into slim lengths of colored, translucent glass that encircle the gallery space, enacting a basic animation. Sometimes the object is clearly legible as a lens, with a clear view through the aperture to the other side. Sometimes it’s just a piece of black plastic. Rather than the manicured nails of white women in stock photos, we get something closer to the media used as training data for computer vision, an unmanicured middle-aged hand. Proportionally, the glass invokes color negative film and the late 20th century’s post-color pre-digital period, channeling 1980s Yashica camera advertisements. Their tints cycle through the hues of the rainbow to cast colored shadows on the wall below. In the solar panel-like grid of Reflection Piece (2021), we might see the dry plates of silver bromides too, but their polished surfaces suggest the black mirror of a fingerprint-smudged phone screen. Stylized shadows on each panel meanwhile suggest the skeuomorphic icons of flat design. They are the neon yellow of tennis balls and hi-vis vests, an indexical color that points as if to say look through my lens. Can you see what I see? This is a spare monologue, not an ensemble production. It is a show about managed expectations and the human scale of a single artist working alone during a pandemic, or a woman reading alone in a room. It’s not trying to overwhelm you. It distills down to a line; a continuous stripe of highlighter against the white gallery walls, like a blank page.

Claude Viallat



September 7, 2021 - October 30, 2021
One of the founding artists of the French movement Supports/Surfaces, Viallat engages with a post-structuralist philosophy by treating stretchers, fabrics, and pigments as their own objects of investigation. This movement was founded during the 1970s a period of general disenchantment with painting. Viallat creates these paradoxically austere yet exuberant objects and installations that reframe the traditional materials of painting, completely free from aesthetic commitment. For example, utilizing fragments from tents as supports and sheets as surfaces. Viallat has continually reproduced an ambiguous, amoeba-like shape throughout his career. Moving beyond the systemization of his Supports/Surfaces years, in this exhibition the artist returns to innovative textures and materials using kaleidoscopic colors, playing with the blank canvas space to create unique optical vibrations and wave-like effects. Viallat has been a contentious defender of modernism since 1964, when he began working with the idea of a repeated pattern to refuse the artist’s subjectivity.. Since then he has also eschewed stretchers or frames. The repeated shape has become Viallat’s trademark and signature and figures on all kinds of surfaces, from rugs, tents, curtains and other loose fabrics, endlessly repeating itself, yet always creating something new. In addition to the growing success of its exhibitions in France (at the Pompidou Center in 1982) and abroad (Venice Biennale in 1988), he devoted himself to his work as a teacher in the art schools following: Nice, Limoges, Marseille, Nimes (where he was director for many years), then Paris at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. Claude Viallat has been a contentious defender of modernism since 1964, when he began working with the idea repeated pattern to refuse the idea of subject. Since then he has eschewed stretchers or frames. This repeated shape has become Viallat's trademark and signature and figures on all kinds of surfaces, from rugs, tents, curtains and other loose fabrics, endlessly repeating itself, yet always creating something new.