Work by: Annie Anderson Levi Budd Dana DeGiulio Josh Dihle Molly Zuckerman-Hartung Diego Leclery Tony Lewis Roland Miller Maddie Reyna Kate Sierzputowski Ezara Spangl Hans Peter Sundquist Sean Ward
Special thanks to the Morrison-Shearer Foundation and the Dan Gunn Collection
X @ Julius Caesar
We began talking about a 10 year anniversary show back in 2017. In the life cycle of artist run project spaces in Chicago, 10 years old is ancient. People usually get tired of unpaid jobs, burn out on programming, or come to a natural conclusion. JC has seen that happen, but has sustained itself by finding new members with energy, new ideas, and different perspectives on what JC has been. Since its inception in 2008, JC moved spaces. Since 2014 it has doubled in floor space. We have increased our work with national and international artists, while maintaining a strong presence of underrepresented Chicago artists. But one consequence of having so many people pass through a space made elegant with fresh white paint is the loss of the touch, presence, and past. As we began working on a 10 year anniversary show centered around the directors who have come and gone, was to find out its history. Was the name really found by opening an encyclopedia to a random page, pointing blindly, and landing on Julius Caesar? That’s what Molly and Dana always said. I’ve since found out that yes, that’s what happened. I bumped into a stranger at Devening Projects here in Chicago who was visiting from Vienna, she said her name was Ezara, she was there when they fell upon the name, and she wanted to try again.
Putting together the show involved emails with people we’ve never met nor knew were a part of the space. There could be others we still don’t know and still haven’t met. One of the first people I reached out to was Diego, who was happy to give his version of events. Other directors were offered to add written contributions, and their accounts follow Diego’s.
RE: Caesar Anniversary
The story of caesar was that Hans had signed a lease on a space for his studio and couldn't find someone to take the other half of the space. This was at 3114 W Carroll. Hans painted with sprays and dust and it was hard to find someone who was cool with it. And the rent was pretty high--250--so he decided to ask recent mfa grads and his friend Annie if they wanted each get a turn having a gallery space to do something in. This was November 2007. The space opened in March 2008 with a show by yours truly.
The original line up was Hans, Colby, Dana, Annie, Ezara, Molly, and me. After Ezara had her show, she left, and likewise Annie and then it was five. The five lasted until October 2011, with Colby having been in and out the last few months. Molly and Dana remained and added Sean Ward and Min Song and Chris Naka. I left afterwards and lost track of the cast.
I have the archive of all the images from my time there. I was the computer man. I moved recently so I may have to dig it up. But I definitely remember everything and as far as I know all original members (I mean the original 5) would happily tell their stories. Actually come to think of it I think during our acrimonious breakup (my breakup) I wrote an angry break up letter. I'll send it if you want. It's bitter AF
I remember today waking up early in Chicago to drive to Cleveland for the inaugural Keithley Symposium at Case Western Reserve University, while listening to an audiobook describe a Greco-Roman definition of a “symposium” consisting primarily of casual philosophy, strong wine mixed with water, and sex primarily without women. It’s midnight now, and I just ate Arby’s with my mom. It was delicious. I’ll wake up early tomorrow, participate in a “symposium”, and immediately drive six hours back to Chicago for an opening at an artist run-space I’m a part of. I will only do this for work, people I love, and Julius Caesar.
Thank you to the previous directors, art workers, and educators.
I decided to join Julius Caesar at a precarious time when the smoke of drama still might have been in the air, and people might have been in their feelings. I frequently conjure dust clouds of graphite powder in the studio, so I didn’t mind this much. I first encountered Julius Caesar as a graduate student, and what was wonderful about the opportunity to be a Caesar, is what was wonderful about my introduction to work in general. Urgency of critical thought, compassion, and curatorial collaboration are a few basic tenets of anything “artist-run”. Combine this with an incessant questioning, and a gaping welcome to different people that I had not seen before. There is where the building blocks for an exhibition started. There is where the space for dialogue began. Five years later I believe it still begins there, Here. Love is still here, and I’ll leave if it’s not. I believe we all will.
Thank you Kate, Josh, and Roland.
Assembly worker John’s car echoed Nate’s defeat. The hollow grind of tire over gravel spoke of the failed campaign.
John had invited Nate to accompany him on a visit to the local steel mill. Both men were looking to climb the town’s small government ladder. John spoke to the people about practicality. Nate spoke to their hearts of UFOs and of renaming the town, Portland. The later was a mission to increase tourism. Portland, Montana.
The thinking was to be like Oregon, the Portland of the Midwest. But there was already plenty of other Portlands floating around - North Dakota, Minnesota, and they didn’t have much to show for it. John explained to the town that it would cost more to rename everything than the revenue it could produce. Unfortunately, even the saucer seers couldn’t back Nate.
He was doing it for his wife. She was a tour guide for camping groups. Bringing them into the woods, she appeared and disappeared whenever at their home. He explained his renaming proposal to her — increase tourists, better for her business. But she was barely there, her mind haunting the woods.
The ride to the steel mill was silent expect for John’s facts about the history of steel in town. As they pulled up the candidates topped off their heads with hard hats and entered. Meeting the supervisor, the agenda was laid out, the glowing ballet of gigantic caldrons began.
The scene reminded Nate of the Terminator battling the T-1000 to protect humanity’s future, John Connor. It became hard to think of anything else while meeting and greeting. Nate began to question his own role, was he John? Sarah? The Terminator? Or perhaps the mimic and hunter of humans, Prototype Series 1000?
I've always been writing in Chicago. I've also always been visiting studios—engaging with artists at the site of their practice in spaces that span the city. It wasn't until I was invited by Maddie to join Julius Caesar that I began to think about how I could interact with artists outside of these intimate spaces. JC was the perfect place to begin this exploration with practices outside of the studio (yet inside the comfort of a studio building). Our exhibitions aren't curated as much as they are put into the hands of artists we've visited with, loved, respected, and trusted to transform the space in ways not possible at commercial galleries or institutions. Working with JC has enriched my initial location of engagement with artists—allowing me to greater expand my dialogue in the studio while also giving me yet another excuse to knock on studio doors. It seemed only appropriate that I show a project that came out of my practice of studio visits, one that examines my fellow Caesars work outside of our directorial relationship + friendship.
I saw this note that I'm thinking went to your painting class last week. Sounds like you're into some good meaty topics. For the sheer fun of making my brain sweat, I wrote a few general-type thoughts regarding your line of questioning...
I have to think about the answers to these questions in terms of my here-and-now: Chicago and a couple of shreds of the world beyond. There's no way I'll have anything worthy to say about some imagined, generic, all-purpose Artist out there in the Art World.
So then. The role of the artist in this place naturally fractures because the artist who is paying attention inevitably has opinions about the work he or she sees. This is where it all starts. If I'm not happy about which work is shown in the galleries I visit (versus the work in the studios I visit), then I'll want to change what is shown. I'll either start a gallery in my living room, basement, or woodshed because rent is cheap in this city, or I'll start pitching exhibition proposals to my friends, former classmates, or colleagues who permit such things in their living rooms, etc.
Here's my favorite rationale for this thinking... I bother to make art because I have something to express or share or get out of me and because my activities falls into the category of fine art, as opposed to crazed street screaming or outright arguing, I must care about how what I do is done. Hence, my investment in my art signals an investment in art in general. So if I'm seeing art that is dead, uninteresting, or backwards, I have an implied stake in the situation. To me, this is the basic transaction that underpins so-called "artistic discourse."
This discourse becomes the basis for all manner of activity outside of the studio. Everyone can show art in their living rooms, but that still doesn't mean that it's alive or interesting. It's hard to tell the truth though when it's friends showing friends because friends don't want to hurt each other. Thus, the role of a well-informed, openly opinionated loudmouth seems necessary. Good critics create criticality. I happen to think that the friends showing friends state of much of the Chicago art land leaves audiences stuck without much of a critical economy. A few voices dominate unchecked and the largely lacking mid-level gallery apparatus does little to pull from the grassroots level. So once again, the same people who bother to make art often bother to write about it.
I don't know enough about what happens to all of the arts administrator types that a place like SAIC generates after school, but I don't see them around much. They must decamp to warmer climates. So there is a ton of fertile soil and lots of indebted little seedling artists being sprinkled around this cultural environ and plenty of wide open space in the canopy, so artists branch into every nook and cranny that they can find. It's mostly a lateral branching across activity zones, since resources* above the grassroots level remain so scarce.
In the end, I think it's totally, one-hundred percent legitimate to say that any fucking thing you do is part of your practice because the same phobias, pathologies, desires, whatever motivate the whole enterprise, and our favorite word ("art") is a special one that contorts to the thing it describes, not vice-versa. For better or worse, most of us in Chicago know very well that this is not a translation of corporate structure into cultural production: corporations are designed to and succeed at making money, we do not.
Ugh. This email makes me sound so . . . broke. Anyway, cheers to the your painters. May they all slit each other's throats.
I joined Caesar in 2014 after finishing 3 years of SAIC and attending JC shows. Molly and Dana, the last of the founding members had just left the space. Maddie and Levi were charged with killing Caesar, renaming it Marcus Brutus, and finding new directors. As we began a new chapter of Caesar, a familiar pattern emerged: former members calling for the project to end, but new members wanting to preserve it. This happened with Diego, again after Molly and Dana, and yet JC lives on. Here’s to 10 years of contentious relationships, meaningful conversations, and kick ass programming. Eternally grateful to have stumbled into this beautiful space.
Caesar is dead, Long live Caesar
Annie Anderson is the Manager of Research and Public Programming at Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site in Philadelphia, where she interprets America's past and present prison systems. She recently researched and co-wrote Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, which won the 2017 American Alliance of Museums' Excellence in Exhibition Award. She is a cultural historian and a member of MASS Action (Museum as Site for Social Action).
Levi Budd b. 1988 lives and works in Minneapolis, MN.
Dana DeGiulio co-founded Julius Caesar in 2008 with Annie Anderson, Diego Leclery, Colby Shaft, Molly Zuckerman-Hartung and Hans Peter Sundquist, and co-directed the space until 2014. She now teaches at Columbia University.
Diego Leclery is an artist living in New York who wants to be discovered. Help him by remembering his name and mentioning him to your successful friends.
Josh Dihle (1984), MFA 2018 SAIC, BA 2007 Middlebury College: recent solo exhibitions at 4th Ward Project Space, Andrew Rafacz, Valerie Carberry. Recent group exhibitions at Shane Campbell, Essex Flowers, Adds Donna, Annarumma, Elmhurst Art Museum. Cusp virgo.
Tony Lewis was born in 1986 in Los Angeles, and lives and works in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include: Alms Comity and Plunder, Museo Marino Marini, Florence, Italy (2016); nomenclature movement free pressure power weight, Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, OH (2015); and 48 • Keep a tight rein on your temper, The Bindery Projects, Saint Paul, MN (2013). His work has been included in museum group exhibitions including: The Revolution Will Not Be Gray, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO (2016); Walls and Words, Museum at Eldridge Street, New York, NY (2014); LUMP Projects, organized by John Neff, Raleigh, NC (2013); People of Color, Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL (2012); and Ground Floor, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL (2012). Tony Lewis participated the 2014 iteration of the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Roland Miller (American, b.1987) is a Chicago based abstract figure artist. He also co-directs Julius Caesar, an artist-run project space in Chicago. Programming combines young and under-represented Chicago artists with national and international artists.
Maddie Reyna (b. 1987, Raleigh) received her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013. She was a Julius Caesar co-director from Summer 2013 - Summer 2016. Her work has been shown at The Chicago Cultural Center, Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago, 1-800-Bad-Drug, Queens, and Unisex, Brooklyn. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY and hosts the art review podcast, Wang.
Kate Sierzputowski is a freelance writer and curator based in Chicago. Fascinated by artists’ studio processes, she founded the website INSIDE\WITHIN to physically explore and archive the creative spaces of Chicago's emerging and established artists. In addition to running INSIDE\WITHIN, Kate also contributes art writing to Hyperallergic, the Chicago Reader, and Teen Vogue, is a co-director of the artist-run gallery space Julius Caesar, and is half of the curatorial project Episode with Mary Eleanor Wallace.
Ezara Spangl (b. Hoffman, Silver Spring, Maryland 1979) lives in Vienna, Austria. She holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institut of Chicago and a BA from Oberlin College. Her writing has been published with THE SEEN, Textem and on https://threethirtypm.wordpress.com/. She co-curates the Artist Lecture Series Vienna and its publications. Solo exhibitions include at Song Song, Vienna; Skestos Gabriele Gallery, Chicago; and Devening Projects, Chicago. She has been included in group exhibitions at Essex Flowers, New York; Ve.sch, Vienna; Mauve, Vienna; • (Francis Ruyter), Vienna. Publications include BLACK PAGES and Moby Dick Filet.
Hans Sundquist uses his sense of curiosity to explore a range of themes and imagery from geometric abstractions to matter-of-fact landscapes to the mysteries of the universe. His practice tries to convey a sense of humor using a range of materials including oil, spray paint, gouache, and video-based work.
Sean Ward received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011 and was a director at Julius Caesar through 2013.
Molly Zuckerman-Hartung (b.1975) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She received her MFA in 2007 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work is included in the collections of The Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN), the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (Chicago, IL); and the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago (Chicago, IL).