NORMAL PROJECTS, CHICAGO
Fresh from a Saturday morning trip to the 61st Street Farmers Market at Dan Peterman’s Experimental Station one bright winter morning, Emily Schroeder doused her apartment-gallery with the evergreen scent of rosemary. It was a warm welcome from a crisp day, as I had already said goodbye to my beloved farmers market; unknown to me was that Peterman’s South Side market runs year-round. Schroeder plucked a book from her recently unpacked library—she moved to Bridgeport in July from New York City—artist Fritz Haeg’s “Attack on the Front Lawn” about suburban gardening projects. I frowned upon studying a seeding chart in the book’s appendix, seeing that the winter months were simply a barren grid, the frozen ground not ideal for growing. “Ah, but things are going on underground,” said Schroeder, likely referring to tuber vegetables but also a perfect metaphor for her own project, an independently-driven apartment-gallery whose programming focuses on its owner’s interest in the intersection of art and ecology.
Schroeder’s focus may be social and political, but so far the two-person exhibitions have hardly been didactic. Work in drawing, collage and video grace her apartment just as one might see it in any art lover’s living space—tastefully arranged above the sofa, on TV and on the refrigerator. The fridge space is a witty addition to the gallery, consisting mostly of work on paper hung with magnets, and is curated by Nate Hitchcock. Through December, Angel Otero’s “Leftover Princess” is on view, while on view in the main space are Hisham Akira Bharoocha’s drawings and collages of man’s interventions in nature—animal husbandry, hunting, and nature walks—and Conrad Ventur’s appropriated video of Marlene Dietrich singing “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”
Where have all the flowers gone? When will we ever learn? Schroeder is currently engaged in work with the Chicago Park District in a huge effort to revitalize Stearns Quarry in Bridgeport as a green park. The site has a fascinating history. In the early 1800s, the lot now located at 27th and Halsted was found to contain an ancient coral reef. Its rock was mined and used as foundation for many Chicago-area churches and buildings. Once gutted, it was used as a landfill. Now, with ecological efforts underway to transform the lot into something useful for the community, Schroeder and others are working on educational material about the quarry’s history and redevelopment. Back at the apartment, Bharoocha’s drawing envisions a fairybook child lost in a thicket of lines.
Published in Newcity (December 1, 2008)