The Chicago Artists Coalition is pleased to present The Strange Fields of This City, a HATCH Projects exhibition featuring new works by Alejandro Waskavich, Haerim Lee, and William Camargo.
Through objects, photography, printmaking and painting, these artists explore the triangulation of place, identity, and culture. Such a triad reinforces that the broad idea of “place” extends beyond mere geography, and instead is actively shaped by a multitude of social, political, and economic factors.
On a structural scale, we witness and endure the spatial hegemony produced through state power, capitalism, mass media, and architecture. Responding to how those mechanisms can mold the perception of a place, Waskavich’s works on paper interrogate the dissemination of visual tropes and archetypal imagery to reveal how some aspects of place-based identity are ideological constructs. On an adjacent trajectory, Lee’s paintings and photographs grapple with the consequences of how urban planning bureaucracies, real estate development, and speculative capital exercise control over space – particularly seen through residential segregation, the dissolution of public housing, and displacement of poor and working-class communities of color. Meanwhile, Camargo’s work shows that notions of place or culture are equally and simultaneously created from within a community itself, often through countervailing tactics of resistance, resilience, antagonism, and adaptation that persist on an everyday level. This is amplified in his practice through a dual enactment and documentation of rasquache aesthetic strategies which emphasize material resourcefulness and improvisation in the vein of hacer rendir las cosas (“making do”), while also serving as potent expressions of Chicanx identity in order to claim space and visibility in the face of gentrification, cultural erasure, or pressures of assimilation.
Threaded among these three projects, and embedded in the individual narratives of each artist, is a sense of transition between two places – a disconnect or rupture to contend with – which generates further queries about movement, (im)migration, dispossession, boundaries and edges, home and homeland, belonging and “dis-belonging”.
The Strange Fields of This City is organized by Greg Ruffing.