Failed Cosmos: 618 Spiders. Based on a poem by Tish Markley (2018)
I Heart Communist Space Pirates on the cover of December 28.2 (2017)
Spilled Kiosk / Image Picking. Stickers, post-card display, cards. (The Barista Who Disappeared, 2018)
After You Leave (13 Baristas). Acrylic, coffee and gum on canvas (2015).
Part of the Revolt of the Swivel Chairs installation is a big rectangle of stickers from which gallery goers can take sticker(s). The stickers are sourced from a mix of hand-made images, digital images, surreal and historical images, etc., built around the working-class informed mythology of this (and previous) installations/painting series. The above photographs are in chronological order. Click for larger image.
The Healing Properties of Post-Industrial Debris: IH Bricks (The Barista Who Could See the Future). Acrylic, coffee, glitter ash, stickers, wig-hair, Sharpie on canvas with bricks from the abandoned International Harvester plant in Canton, Illinois and wood (2017).
Red Mars (2016). Acrylic, coffee, meteorite dust, glitter, stickers on canvas with telescope, LED sign, cups, found objects and "comic." (Top Photo: James Byard/Washington University)
Luries. Gold painted cat shit. (2018) (Adam Turl)
Kick the Cat
This is a recreation of an exhibit organized by Mary Hoagland in a Peoria garage in 2041. It included her own work as well as work by the 13 Baristas Art Collective (13BAC), an association of artists spearheaded by Sidney Williams, Maggie Cromwell and Amy Sverdlov.
Hoagland was born in Peoria, Illinois in 2012. Her father, Mark Hoalgand, worked at Caterpillar for 29 years before losing his job when Mary was three years old. Mary eventually moved to Chicago to study painting at the University of Illinois. She dropped out a year later, found work as a barista in the Bucktown neighborhood and joined 13BAC. 13BAC produced most of their work in a uniform style reminiscent of old punk rock zines, comics and political broadsheets. They were also known for covering their paintings in coffee and using disposable coffee cups as painting surfaces. Amy Sverdlov also recruited Mary into the Socialist League for a United Revolutionary Party (SLURP).
In 2037 Haogland was seriously injured in a car accident on Lake Shore Drive. During her recovery she moved back home to Peoria and began a series of ctional paintings about the children of Caterpillar workers—“Kick the Cat”—named for the rank-and- le union newsletter produced by union militants in the 1990s.
Unfortunately, Hoagland’s output was limited by injuries and poverty. She depended on SSI and food stamps and frequently could not afford painting supplies. She lived in her brother’s garage until her death in 2049.
Kuato (Red Mars). Acrylic, stickers, wheat-paste, glitter and meteorite dust on canvas (2016).
Povich Deer (Revolt of the Swivel Chairs). Acrylic, stickers, marker, photocopies, buttons, post-it notes, coffee and mixed media on canvas banner with poles (installation view). (2017-2018) (Adam Turl)
"I can see and hear the future of colonized Mars, including people’s thoughts, using the telescope on my back porch, off old Highway 13, between Murphysboro and Carbondale, Illinois. My visions came to me jumbled and out-of-order. But I have re-organized my observations to make them comprehensible and grouped them by subject." (Alex Pullman, aka, the Barista Who Could See the Future, 2038)
A note: Alex Pullman was briefly a member of the 13 Baristas Art Collective. In the mid-2030s he moved back home to southern Illinois.
Athena Correctional Facility (Red Mars). Acrylic, stickers, wheat-paste, glitter and meteorite dust on canvas (2016).
America's Spiritual Heroes (2014). Oil, acrylic, cotton, ash, concrete and mixed media on canvas with food, found materials and iron.
Dead Paintings no. 10 (2014). Acrylic and mixed-media paintings placed in an earth trench.
America's Spiritual Heroes
about the work (statement from 2014):
What I am trying to do in America’s Spiritual Heroes is to move towards a contemporary history painting. The title is a direct response to Anselm Kiefer’s Germany’s Spiritual Heroes. My installation, however, points to a different understanding of history. While Kiefer put Germany’s heroes away in a forgotten attic I have coated mine with concrete, cotton and ash — weighing them down with the actual material history of the nation. I have combined them with other paintings and laid them out on the floor. I intentionally invoked the popular cliché of the political artist painting portraits of radical heroes (and not necessarily radical cultural figures). I did this as a declaration of sincerity and a rejection of the remnants of post-modern irony.
As Jason Hoelscher recently wrote:
“Writing in 1993, David Foster Wallace noted that American literature and pop culture had replaced sincerity with a distant, emotional flatness, a 'pervasive cultural irony' that is 'a variation on a sort of existential poker face,' in which staking out a position and saying what one meant was considered banal. Exploring the corrosive effects of such a stance, Wallace predicted the rise of a new avant-garde, of 'anti- rebels' who reject ironic distance and 'have the childish gall actually to endorse single-entendre values." (Art Pulse No. 17, Vol. 5, 2013)
These figures, however, are not exactly icons of hope. We live in apocalyptic times. My heroes are ghosts in the post-industrial ruins. I think of Walter Benjamin writing about Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus:
“An angel is depicted there who looks as though he were about to distance himself from something which he is staring at. His eyes are opened wide, his mouth stands open and his wings are outstretched. The Angel of History must look just so. His face is turned towards the past. Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet. He would like to pause for a moment so fair [verweilen: a reference to Goethe’s Faust], to awaken the dead and to piece together what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise, it has caught itself up in his wings and is so strong that the Angel can no longer close them. The storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the rubble-heap before him grows sky-high. That which we call progress, is this storm.” (Walter Benjamin, “On History”)
Red Mars (2016). Acrylic, coffee, meteorite dust, glitter, stickers on canvas with telescope, LED sign, cups, found objects and "comic."
Erasure Chancellor/Carlo Montemagno Eats Brains (The Barista Who Disappeared). Acrylic, marker, Sharpie, photocopies, coffee, stickers, post-it notes, and mixed media on canvas tarp
The Barista Who Disappeared
Alex Pullman, the "Barista Who Could See the Future" has gone missing. This installation is a recreation of his studio at the time of his disappearance, including his final predictive works -- New Lubberland vs. Ohio Erasure Castle. In his final vision Pullman imagines the last human PI who discovers a spate of missing persons and realizes that some are escaping to a "Big Rock Candy Mountain"-like paradise called New Lubberland, while others are being kidnapped by a government entity known only as the Ohio Erasure Castle.
The Certainty of Math (13 Baristas). Acrylic, coffee and gum on canvas (2015).
Spilled Kiosk / Image Picking. Stickers, post-card display, cards. (The Barista Who Disappeared, 2018)
Social Practice Art Ate My Baby (Artspace 304) (2018)
Utah Debt Collector (The Barista Who Could See the Future) (2016). Acrylic, Sharpie, wig hair, glitter, stickers and mixed media on canvas.
Revolt of the Swivel Chairs
After the great floods most of humanity moved into the Tower. Robots replaced more and more workers. The unemployed were placed in cryogenic suspension in the basement. The wealthy lived on the upper floors of the tower and collected gilded cat turds called Luries. The workers, on the lower floors, lived in fear of being frozen and sent to the basement. Their leaders were corrupt. The Beggar Queen enriched herself at her supporters’ expense. Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaires blamed refugees from the floods and ‘foreigners’ for the hardships inside the Tower. When the police came to take Emily Slubbing, the last human barista, she resisted and was killed in a stand-off. Her martyrdom sparked the Revolt of the Swivel Chairs. But in the middle of the uprising everyone started speaking in tongues. No one could understand each other. All was lost… until a robot sex worker, Rahab, fused the minds of the robots with the sleeping humans…
Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaires (Revolt of the Swivel Chairs). Acrylic, stickers, marker, photocopies, buttons, post-it notes, coffee and mixed media on canvas tarp (2017) (Adam Turl)
The Barista Who Disappeared (2018) at Artspace 304
The 13 Baristas Art Collective were a group of radical artists and coffee shop workers who were "disappeared" by the authorities following the Chicago uprising of 2037. They chronicled their stories, their dreams and those of their co-workers in paintings and manipulated objects.
From the final edition of the 13 Baristas newspaper (2037):
IN 2028 two art school drop-outs and baristas formed the “13 Baristas Art Collective.” While we always claimed to have 13 members, largely for narrative purposes, we never had more than four members at any one time.
Maggie Cromwell, now missing, and Sidney Williams, the son of the late painter Calvin Williams, were the main force behind the “collective.”
Four years ago Amy Sverdlov moved into their southwest side studio. Maggie and Sidney met during the 2025 strikes. Amy, a former coffee shop employee and adjunct art professor, joined them after the planning meetings for the 2033 relief demonstrations.
The goal of our collective was always to elevate the complex narratives of oth- er “proletarians”—not reduced to some abstraction, nor seen in isolation from social class.
Maggie believed that our work should serve two purposes:To assert the pathos of proletarian morality in the present. And if we failed to abolish the current order, serve as a cultural building block for those remaining, those who would rebuild in the ruins.
13 Baristas (2015). Acrylic, coffee and gum on canvas with coffee cups, found and sculptural objects, printed newspapers.
Revolt of the Swivel Chairs at The Cube Las Vegas (2018)
The Last Barista. Acrylic, stickers, marker, photocopies, buttons, post-it notes, coffee and mixed media on canvas banner with poles (installation view). (2018) (Adam Turl)
Cover art for Octavio Quintanilla's If I Go Missing (Slough Press, 2014)
Social Practice Art Ate My Baby (Cube Gallery) (Las Vegas 2018)
A Painter for Our Time
This is a reproduction of the studio of Calvin Williams. In 1999 Calvin, a failed painter, became involved in anti-capitalist politics and stopped making art. In 2009 Calvin was fired from his typesetting job at a progressive non-profit book publisher. He fell into a deep depression that was only (temporarily) broken when he began a series of abstract paintings about the U.S. Civil War.
After his unemployment ran out Calvin worked as a barista but was unable to pay his rent. He moved home to St. Louis and stayed with his brother's family. They allowed him use of a single room to continue painting. Calvin desperately tried to find an image, a process or combination of images that would salvage both his own life and the idealistic dreams of his youth.
Neglecting his health, and once again fallen into despair, Calvin passed away in December 2014.