When you think of Chicago and culture what comes to your mind? I am sure it depends on your proximity to this wonderfully eclectic city, but where does quality fine art rank on you list? We know about the Blues and Jazz, the food, the museums, the literary scene, but there are numerous galleries and collectives in Chicago presenting amazing exhibits. Since I do consider this a "Chicago Blog", I feel the need to begin to bring more attention to the local artist, and the various galleries that have provided them the opportunity to share their work.
There is no better place to begin our look at the Chicago art scene then with colorful work of Kim Frieders. Kim is an abstract artist who explores color relationships and textural varieties through a materials focused approach, layering a variety of mediums and materials onto canvas and wood in a collagist fashion. She has exhibited throughout Chicago, most notably at Judy A Saslow Gallery and Ai Gallery in 2006 and in 2007, The Artist Project and Polvo. She has hosted, curated and coordinated group exhibitions and open studio events. She belongs to several local artists' groups including Infidel Group and ArtBitch. She sits on the Programming Committee for the Chicago Artists Coalition and act as Curator for the Bloomingdale Mural Project in West Bucktown. Plans are also in the works for her first public mural.
Recently, Kim was kind enough to answer a few our questions on her work and the growing Chicago art scene.
Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your work?
Kim Frieders (KF): Bright candy colors dominate my paintings, which are fun, energetic abstract collage. I explore color relationships and textural varieties by experimenting with materials. My primary medium is acrylic, but I also use latex, spray enamel and other paints, and a bunch of mark-making materials like charcoal, markers and pencils. I also cultivate texture both reductively and additively, carving into woodand paint, and attaching paper, fabric, wood, plastic and other found or recycled elements to the surface. When I paint, I play, and I think that a carefree, spontaneous quality shines through in most of my work. My compositions create unique structural environments that often feel three dimensional, like a landscape or interior, even though (or perhaps because) I turn my paintings as I work on them. Given this and the almost complete lack of representational imagery, it can at times be difficult to decide which way is up.
OA: Who are some of your biggest influences artistically?
KF: The artist I name as my favorite, and whose work seen in person takes my breath away instantly from way across the room, is Franz Kline. In some of my very first abstract paintings, I limited myself to intuitive gestures in black latex on raw canvas, inspired by Kline's powerful movements of black made crisp by surrounding white. It was not long before I began expanding my palette, but I enjoyed following his example for a while.
In 2000, I stumbled upon Jason Rohlf's solo show at Judy Saslow and was blown away. Since then, I have followed Jason's shows in the area, closely inspecting the complexity of his layering and the resulting surfaces, and the somewhat deceiving sense of simplicity of design, and how both aspects have evolved over time. I've only recently begun to figure out how to integrate what I love about his work into mine. Another more recent influence is Cody Hudson. I first came across a little square book about Cody that Bucket Rider had at NOVA 2005, which I bought and looked at regularly for a year, until I lost it. His colors and shapes, and his clean, confident, straight forward style has been in my mind since then and has begun to show itself, at least to me, in my own work.
I am also very much influenced by my dear friend Kristin Komar, who is an abstract painter with whom I am in a painters' critique group called ArtBitch. I don't always agree with her advice or opinion of my work, but I always consider it seriously. This spring, she and I collaborated on small canvases, and I learned even more about her techniques by observing the changes she made. I immediately began to integrate some of these observations into my work.
OA: What is your typically starting point for a new piece and how long does it take you to complete that piece?
KF: I start by creating or selecting the surface I'll paint on - I cut plywood into to square panels, build stretchers and stretch canvas onto them, and receive donations of scrap wood or canvas, all usually in bulk. I may do a little prep work on them, like sanding edges or the occasional priming, but often use surfaces in a raw form. I stack them up and begin painting on them a little at a time in groups of 2-4. At any given time I'll have an average of around 25 works in progress in my studio at once. How long a piece takes to complete can vary widely. None of my paintings ever get finished in one sitting, I always have to mull it over and do something more. On occasion, I am able to quickly reach an image that feels done and convince myself to leave it alone. By quickly, I mean less than 6 months. Most of my paintings take a year or more to finish. My large canvases take between two and five years from start to finish. This passage of time also adds to the collage feel of my work, as they are a piecing together of different, widespread moments in time.
OA: What is your opinion of the current Chicago art scene?
KF: I love it. There are so many opportunities for dedicated, hard working artists at all career levels. This is in large part due to artists and friends making things happen for themselves and each other. Around half of the shows I participate in were conceived and executed independently by participating artists. Most of the artists I have met here are interested in helping one another rather than competing. This is evident from the many artist groups, co-ops and collaboratives I see, in the bevy of apartment shows and events like Version festival. The galleries, museums and many businesses in Chicago are also devoted to exhibiting a range of artwork, including that of local artists. So an artist can really get involved with a wide variety of projects. My only complaints would be that recognition of the art scene is needed from more of the local media outlets, and that we need more fearless collectors who buy artwork because it is strong and because they want to encourage the artist to continue.
OA: Do you listen to music while you create? Who are some of your favorite artists to listen to while painting and in general?
KF: The first thing I do in my studio is put on music. I love to sing and become engulfed in sound while I paint. When I do tedious detail work music can be a distraction, but otherwise it energizes me and gets mei n the mood to play. My most listened to bands are The Postal Service,The White Stripes, Arcade Fire, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse and local band Mr. Gray (of which my boyfriend and web developer, AndrewTibbetts, is a part). Depending how frequently or how long I am in my studio, I'll get into Lisa Loeb, They Might Be Giants, Billie Holliday, a Brilliante Records sampler featuring Justin Sconza and New Sense, Portishead, 2 awesome mix CDs from the wedding of artist Niki Kriese and architect Mat Snethen, and the soundtrack of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. On occasion I'll switch to CDs from my high school and college years, including tons of bands from the 90s and various musical soundtracks. But, when I'm really into what I'm working on, my go to is always Radiohead (almost always Hail to the Thief).
OA: What is next for Kim Frieders?
KF: I have two events coming up in June that should be a lot of fun. First, the Chicago Artists' Coalition's Paint-A-Thon on June 10 at FLATFILEgalleries (217 N Carpenter). I find people to sponsor me, like for a charity marathon, except I will create a painting live at the gallery from 1-4:00 with a slew of other artists including John Himmelfarb and Barbara Koenen. The paintings will be bid upon via silent auction while they are being created, then at 4:00 the live auction will begin. It will be a challenge for me and I'll have to pullout all the stops to create a work with complexity in such a short period of time, but I'm looking forward to it.The next weekend, on June 16, I'm in a show entitled Summer Meat with18 other artists put on by the Parts and Labor Collective at 3144 W Carroll-3rd floor (call 773-407-7279 for entry). In my studio, I've been working on a 48x48" canvas and a few really nice medium sized canvases, which I hope to finish and show within the year. A subtle change is coming about in my work that will become more evident in the coming months.
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
KF: If I'm going to just have regular coffee, I don't care where it comes from as long as its free. I'll want to put some hot chocolate in it, though, which I always do when I'm at work. I do get cravings for mochas, which I usually resist, but once in a while I'll indulge. Probably my favorite coffee spot in Chicago would be Sip on Grand - I used to live nearby and would stop in there for a mocha, but just after I moved away a Starbucks moved in on the same corner, so I don't know if they are still there. It was a nice spot to either stop in and run or sit and relax. They had good bakery stuff, too.
OA: What was the most unusual job that you have held while supporting your art habit?
KF: I don't know that any of the jobs I've held to support my art making have been all that unusual... While I was getting my BFA I waitressed for a while. Much more enjoyable, I worked at Hobby Lobby as the head of the art supplies department just before I graduated. Then I moved to Chicago and started temping. My first temp assignment was one day, second was a few days, my third was supposed to be a week long - three months later they hired me and I've been working there for seven years. Currently, I work just 3 days a week, but I get benefits and good pay and I can commit most of my time to my artwork.
For more information on or to purchase the work of Kim Frieders please visit her website.