To be a designer is to adhere to a precarious kind of label that never quite fits the nature of the work. The trend of “Designer as…” qualifiers tries to broaden the variety of other disciplines that contemporary design sidles up next to and gets comfortable with: “Designer as author.” “Designer as activist.” “Designer as academic.” “Designer as writer.”
“Designer as artist” has always seemed paradoxical, but Chicago has nurtured it for decades. The latest show at LVL3 Gallery, “CHGO DSGN: WHEREVER, ” a group show presented with CHGO DSGN, is the latest check on the city’s century-old lineage of a design-as-art pedigree that began with the “commercial artists” found in the back rooms of turn-of-the-century print shops. Once typographers, binders, illustrators and photographers began to identify more with an emerging, proto-creative class than the proletariat, design stepped out from behind the closed doors of commercial production and into the realm of personal expression. And Chicago has been at the center of the map since.
The assembly of neon, collage, sculpture, print, video, app and installation works from Chicago (and former Chicago) designers Yuna Baek, Adi Goodrich, James T. Green, Emily Haasch, Andy Hall, Clay Hickson, Cody Hudson, Ania Jaworska, Quinn Keaveney, Chad Kouri, Jason Pickleman, John Pobojewski, Alexa Viscius and Bryce Wilner is reminiscent of the velocity and variety of objects from last summer’s CHGO DSGN megashow, albeit with the chatter here having more of a focus on connectivity, rather than influence.
The show presents Chicago as a hotbed of designers who also happen to make art. It is a confident display of designers-as-artists in a community of creators; a community whose members may have international sights but still always find the “here” in the “wherever” they happen to be working. (Jessica Barrett Sattell)
Through August 16 at LVL3 Gallery, 1542 North Milwaukee, Third Floor.
Ben Schulman is the editor of the design section of Newcity and co-host of “A Lot You Got to Holler,” the Newcity podcast on design, architecture and urbanism. His work with Newcity is one of many ventures he engages in to communicate the value of design and cities. Ben serves as the communications director for Small Change, a real estate crowdfunding platform that works to catalyze the development of transformative real estate projects. Previously, he was the communications director for the Chicago chapter of The American Institute of Architects, editor of Chicago Architect magazine and communications director for the urban think-tank, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU). His writing has appeared and been noted in outlets such as ARCHITECT Magazine, Belt Magazine, ICON, New Geography, Streetsblog, The National Review, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pop City Media and as a contributor to The Urbanophile, among others. When not writing about cities, Ben serves as an editorial assistant for the journal New Media + Society, and helps head the Contraphonic Sound Series, an attempt to document cities through sound.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | Website: benschulman.com