October 16, 2012

HPAC saddles up for new artists-in-residency exhibit

With a few exceptions, live horses and Turkish culture have little representation in the Hyde Park community. But the two new Hyde Park Arts Center (HPAC) resident artists, Deniz Gul and Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, are dedicated to bringing their exotic visions of contemporary life in the Near East and equestrian culture, respectively, to the South Side community.

This Saturday, Gul, who arrived three weeks ago from Istanbul, and Hulsebos-Spofford, a Chicago local, opened their adjacent studios in upper floors of HPAC to the public. They engaged in informal conversation over beer, cheese, and crackers about upcoming projects, which include an exhibition featuring lives horses and all other things equestrian-related (Hulsebos-Spofford) and a complex multi-media social studies project that explores identity (Gul).

Gul works with a complex amalgam of media, including photography, text, film, and objects that explore human identity, behavior, and ritual. In 2008, she completed a residency in Japan during which she created a compelling series of videos called “Mama Stop!” which examined power dynamics between mothers and daughters.

Her photography of Turkey is singular. The walls of her studio are filled with hundreds of small images of Turkish life; she truly has a knack for finding quiet, intimate moments in urban street scenes. The photos’ subject matter include an empty alley behind a bazaar in the afternoon, the glow of minarets at twilight, hanging laundry in the shadows of the exotic Turkish rooftops, a strapping Turkish man on a motorcycle stopping for a soda on the banks of the Bosporus, and a stunning collection of building facades around the streets of Istanbul. Her art is filled with historical references, especially to the Ottoman Empire and its reputation for opulence and decadence.

In her upcoming project at HPAC, Gul will compile her photography and sound poetry collected from TV, radio, and film to create character studies that explore domestic identities. This is Gul’s first time in the United States; she will stay in Chicago until mid-November.

Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, who teaches art classes at DePaul University and Chicago High School of the Arts, is also working with a variety of media—including live horses. His exhibition Hall of Khan (in reference to Genghis Khan, who ran the great Mongolian Empire from his horse) will be on display in HPAC’s main gallery. The exhibition will explore a number of equine-related topics.

“I am interested in bringing horses to urban space,” says Hulsebos-Spofford, who was born and raised in Vermont’s Green Mountains and has been a Fulbright Scholar. His vision is to teach the Hyde Park community about horses. The show will feature several horse events, including a high noon ride to HPAC by the Broken Arrow Riding Club of Chicago’s South Side, horse-drawing classes, and a Horse 101 information class. Two to three live horses will generally be in the exhibition space, for which Hulsebos-Spofford is building large colorful foam horse saddles, what he says is contemporary art’s response to old equestrian monuments of Europe.

Hulsebos-Spofford’s show will also draw influences from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair held in Hyde Park and the Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park that was built to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. During the show, the central gallery of HPAC will contain a mini–Crystal Palace, modeled after a replication that Hulsebos-Spofford discovered on the Italian isle of Sicily, in combination with replicas of the University of Chicago’s Charles M. Harper Center (home to the Booth School of Business) and a few derelict buildings from the South Side. Together, these replicas will form a collage of Hyde Park’s architecture.

The plans of these emerging artists will add much diversity and vibrancy of the continuously expanding art scene in Hyde Park. It is not clear whether Gul will be having a showcase of her art before she leaves in mid-November, but the Hulsebos-Spofford horse extravaganza will take over the lower floor of HPAC in April 2013.