The Suburban, courtesy The Suburban
JC @ Suburban
Marcus Brutus Vol. II
Julius Caesar (JC) is an independent artist collective in Chicago's East Garfield Park neighborhood. Supporting Chicago’s contemporary art scene outside the commercial gallery ecosystem, JC began as a Sunday afternoon showcase of SAIC students, graduates, and teachers. Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, Dana DeGiulio, and Diego Leclery founded the artist-run experimental space in 2008 with a few rules in mind: all shows would be democratically voted on, but each director had one month for unilateral programming; the space would be free of commercial objectives; directors would pay dues to fund operations. The collective’s structure has persisted, although leadership has rotated over the years. The current directors are Josh Dihle, Tony Lewis, Roland Miller, and Kate Sierzputowski.
When the JC began in 2008, part of the appeal was being on the way to the Suburban. SAIC students would ride the Green Line from the loop out to Oak Park for openings at the Suburban, and stop at JC on either the trip out or the way back. It was a ritualistic passage, but the Suburban was more than just a destination. It was at once a model of generosity in labor and a call for artists to take ownership of their representation. JC became a rigorous space where students not only came together to put on exhibitions, but they also brough attitudes honed in grad school critiques. It was a space to interrogate how to be seen. More than a decade later, we continue to work with artists, offering opportunities for exhibitions struggling to persist in the commercially-oriented spaces of Chicago.
Years after the Suburban left Chicago, JC began a series of projects to re-engage with other artist run project spaces. Our first effort was in 2019 with Barely Fair, when JC hosted 24 galleries from around the world in a miniature art fair designed to bring attention to non-commercial spaces during EXPO CHICAGO’s Art Week. The Suburban was one of those galleries to present a booth at the 1:12 scale art fair. In 2020 JC hosted MONACO and their directors in an exhibition to share their curators with the Chicago art world, and JC later went to MONACO as a continuation of these efforts to grow shared communities and networks within the artist-run project world. We hope that efforts like these can help bring attention to these spaces beyond their localities where they already provide a rich cultural resource.
When JC was founded, Directors regularly present their own work in the gallery space, but as the space evolved over time we began to cut back on that kind of programming. Marcus Brutus series represents the only times current directors of JC have shown together on their own. We thank Michelle Grabner for giving us this exciting opportunity. These works are indicative of the directors’ larger practices and provide a vantage point into the creative values held by each director.
Josh Dihle’s recent solo exhibitions have featured wood carvings operating as bas relief paintings. The carved walnut wall relief Night Garden II represents a continuation of a series where familiar things like plants, letters, and teeth form the basis for moments of spiritual wonder. Along with Dihle’s dense carving is a sprawling work by Tony Lewis. The graphite on rosin paper originated as a floor rubbing of the Lune Rouge gallery space of Art Projects Ibiza in Ibiza, Spain. The architectural memory constructed through touch now travels to new spaces to be recontextualized by taking on new forms in new places. Roland Miller’s works present far less spatial interactivity with a series of hermetic objects reflecting on the packaging of disposable bodies as Americana. Miller mixes found objects with fictional materials to create a liminal space for contemplating the American male figure in pop culture. Finally, Kate Sierzputowski brings her curatorial project Chandelier. The collaborative, studio-based practice invites artists to create miniature installations for her ear with spare materials found around artists’ studios. Works are created during the course of a studio visit, and serve as both an archive and observation of process.
JC is open to the general public through free, monthly exhibitions. Programming features emerging and under-represented Chicago artists alongside national and international programming. Since 2014, exhibitions have featured artists from Chicago, Berlin, Portugal, Malta, Romania, Toronto, Paris, New York, Israel, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Boston, Michigan, Tampa, and Milwaukee. Exhibitions have been featured in The New York Times, ArtForum, Contemporary Art Daily, Hyperallergic, Frieze, Chicago Tribune, ArtSlant, New City, and Bad At Sports among others.
JOSH DIHLE (American, b. 1984) received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2012 and his BA at Middlebury College in 2007. Recent solo exhibitions include the McAninch Arts Center (Chicago,IL), Valerie Carberry Gallery (Chicago, IL), and Pleasant Plains (Washington D.C.). Group exhibitions include Essex Flowers (New York,NY), Unisex Salon (New York, NY), Annarumma Gallery (Naples, Italy), Shane Campbell Gallery (Chicago, IL), Elmhurst Art Museum (Elmhurst, IL), the University of Maine Museum of Art (Bangor, ME), and DUTTON (New York, NY). Dihle teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and codirects the Chicago artist project space Julius Caesar. His most recent solo exhibition, Root Music, was with M+B Los Angeles (2020).
TONY LEWIS lives and works in Chicago. His work has been the subject of recent solo exhibitions including Anthology 2014-2016, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2018); Plunder, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA (2017); Alms, Comity and Plunder, Museo Marino Marini, Florence, Italy (2016); and nomenclature movement free pressure power weight, Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH (2015). Lewis participated in the 2014 iteration of the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, NY and was the recipient of the 2017-2018 Ruth Ann and Nathan Perlmutter Artist-in-Residence Award at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA.
ROLAND MILLER (American, b.1987) is a Chicago based artist and curator. He is a co-founder of Barely Fair and co-directs Julius Caesar, an artist-run project space in Chicago. He graduated from SAIC’s MFA program in 2014, and Boston University’s CFA in 2009. Finding inspiration in contemporary body culture, Miller’s source material includes famous bodybuilders, their relationship to childhood toys and adverts, and a ritualized workout routine. Miller mixes found objects with auto-fictional materials to create a liminal space for contemplating the American male figure, specifically its indoctrination, construction, dissemination and consumption through pop culture.
KATE SIERZPUTOWSKI is a curator, writer, and arts organizer based in Chicago, IL. She founded the website INSIDE\WITHIN in 2013 to physically explore and archive the creative spaces of Chicago's emerging and established artists. She has been a co-director of the artist-run gallery space Julius Caesar since 2015, is a co-founder of the miniature art fair Barely Fair, runs a small gallery on her ear called Chandelier, and recently founded the apartment galleries FLOWER SHOW and SHOWER SHOW. She is currently the Programming Director at EDITIONS Chicago and EXPO CHICAGO.