charles irvin


Artist Taryn Simon’s series of works, The Innocents, documents the lives of people who have served long prison sentences for crimes they did not commit.  Each photograph depicts the subject at a site relevant to their incarceration, such as the scene of the crime, arrest, or alibi.  The Innocents has been exhibited worldwide, and you can view the accompanying documentary here.

From top to bottom:

  • Charles Irvin Fain, Scene of the Crime, Snake River, Melba, Idaho. Served 18 years of a death sentence.
  • Ronald Jones, Scene of arrest, South Side, Chicago, Illinois
. Served 8 years of a Death sentence, 2002
  • Frederick Daye, Alibi location, American Legion Post 310, San Diego, California.
 Served 10 years of a life sentence.
  • Vincent Motto, Scene of identification and arrest, Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Served 8 years of a 12 to 24 year sentence.
  • Calvin Washington, C&E Motel, Room No. 24, Waco, Texas
. Where an informant claimed to have heard Washington confess
. Served 13 years of a Life sentence for Murder

Damon Albarn’s BOOK HAUL.

This is a compilation of all the books Damon has ever mentioned in interviews. Here’s the list and what Damon said about them:

  • London Fieds by Martin Amis: It’s one of the reasons why I moved here [just off the Portobello Road]. It gave me a key to a language that I was interested in, but didn’t know how to focus on. It’s a sort of dirty, speedy London dialect which he uses, and that’s sort of what I use in my songs now. I also liked the way he’s able to flip between low and high culture, as that’s what I’m sort of about as well.
  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse: Hermann Hesse was the first writer who actually had any effect on me. All his books seemed totally at odds with the 20th Century, he never had any pretence of trying to be a futurist, there was never an agenda. All his books were good, but I suppose the key ones were “Steppenwolf” and “Siddhartha.” He was always trying to define a spirituality but at the same time he stayed clear of any sex or dogma. He was just there. One of the first urban pagans.
  • The Boarding House by William Trevor.
  • The Buddha Of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi.
  • Undisputed Truth by Mike Tyson: That was a special book. It’s beyond just a story isn’t it?
  • Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh.
  • The Blind Owl by Sadeg Heavat: Really fantastic story. That’s the thing that’s excited me the most. It’s so very mad. The imagination of the man is very strange but very compelling.
  • Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke.
  • When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods & Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age by Justin Kaplan: The most interesting book I read, utterly fascinating about the psyche and invention of what we know as America.
  • Ping-pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game.
  • The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries by Carlo Ginzburg.
  • Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters; And, Seymour: An Introduction by J.D. Salinger.
  • Another writers he has mentioned: Charles Bukowski, Ray Bradbury, Saul Bellow, DH Lawrence and William Blake.

Vincent Darmody’s “Evil Show”

Law Office -1837 W. Evergreen #3 - Chicago - 773.276.4681

an apartment show featuring : Mark Booth, Eric Campbell, Derek Fansler, Willie Gregory, Charles Irvin, Rebekah Levine, Matt Lingenfelter, Rick Mallette, Kirsten Stoltmann, & Rob Weingart

Ethically, there is no way I should be writing about this show. First, I’m in it. I’m invested. In my defense, I seem to be the the only person willing to take up the pen and give this good exhibition its due. Events like this one are a force of positivity and a great declaration of existence and autonomy in the Chicago art world and they need to be recognized. Anyway apartment shows are all about tooting one’s own horn when no one will do it for you. Asserting one’s own validity to exist. So here I am honking, HONK.

My apologies to any artist in this show who I am omitting, or whose work I am misrepresenting. I am, however, “on the clock” so to speak and my memory of the evening’s events are a little hazy as they were filtered through cheap champagne, romantic turmoil, and a grant application. I can’t address most of the work, but a few of these pieces are like tenacious burrs on the legs, so I’ll pick at them and leave it for you, the readers, to discover the rest.

The Evil Show is an apartment exhibition curated by Vince Darmody, a visual artist, primarily known for his work with the performance group Lucky Pierre. It is Darmody’s second exhibition – last year he curated Ten White Male Painters Paint the Same Thing at the Rainbow club. This was an irreverent, humorous, and intriguing exhibition of ten 2’ x 2’ paintings produced by ten artists in response to a set of uniform open-ended criteria. It was a refreshing and unexpected exhibition, as is Darmody’s the Evil Show.

In short, the Evil Show is a nasty, ratty, great exhibition of uncomfortable unpolished work. It’s a large exhibition of small means. Vince’s apartment mates supported it, put up with it, put out for it monetarily (after all it's their rent), and the public showed up for it. It’s an exhibition which is short on pretension and long on talent. If it’s worth my time to write about it it’s worth your time to look at, because like Linda Evangelista, supermodel, I don’t get out of bed for less than ten grand a day.

To begin, the theme of “Evil” as a unifying principle of the exhibition is questionable. Instead, it’s a show, plain and simple, of a group of well selected artists exhibiting wonderfully edgy and depraved work.

Granted, like the Ten White Painters exhibition, the art in the Evil Show was chosen by the individual artists selected by Darmody. This theme “thing” is not airtight. It’s chancy, and half the excitement for Vince as curator must be selecting artists he trusts and letting them take he ball where they will.

And sometimes the ball falls a bit far from the initial concept. Fundamentally the theme issue is of little consequence. The vaporous and ill-fitting title is a common trap encountered in many “themed” exhibitions in the contemporary exhibition world. After all, a show has got to have a name, and a catchy one is best to hook art viewers. Curiosity being what it is in the age of ambulance chasers, “evil” is what draws them in.

Really the bottom line is that all can be excused because of the element of chance – that’s right, “CHANCE” – which is so infrequent in the anemic and bleached gallery world. Darmody good-naturely invites chance, demands it, and is willing to take a risk, and fuck up gloriously. The apartment exhibition is the first offensive strategy for the disenfranchised of the art community.

The exhibition system is not, and perhaps cannot, serve all artists. It cannot serve all the hardworking, productive, talented people with ideas and a will to create who are out in the human sea. Nor, for that matter, can it serve the slacker, dilettante, long term professionals, or he greater “majority” for that matter, who want to exhibit their work and have same degree of contact with a world outside themselves.

So, in response, artists are creating their own venues outside the established systems in temporary spaces such as apartments, store fronts, moving trucks, rental storage units, anywhere a work of art con be housed and seen on a shoe-string budget.

Phlegmatic galleries can’t take a chance on much new work for fear of not making the rent. And of course the galleries and museums can only show a limited number of artists per year. It’s a legitimate limitation of exhibitions. I’m stating he dubious of course, and these issues have all been articulated by sharper minds than my own. In a way it’s ridiculous to even discuss it because we all know the score.

Law Office, otherwise know as Vince’s apartment for the other 11 months of the year, is on the 3rd floor of a substantial three-flat across from the “fun church”, on Evergreen just south of Milwaukee in Wicker Park. Its a big apartment. It can house a lot of art and thankfully a lot of people.

The opening was a gas. Approximately four hundred visitors climbed through snow mounds, dotted by dog feces, traversed the barely shoveled walks, ascended the three flights of stairs, finally passing over the threshold into an apartment filled with generous, funny, unpretentious kick ass work. Worthwhile gleeful inflection.

Got to hand it to Vince – fantastic party. It was the most heavily attended opening in recent memory at an independent space. He got the people out on a Friday night and drew them away from the usual halls of art with their coveted cheese tables and wine – and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

There are some great works in this show. Talented interesting artists. Not everything exhibited is terrific but it’s all worthy of a viewer’s attention. Not bad for an apartment show. Not bad at all.

Hidden in the foyer, behind coats and the front door is Matt Linqenfelter’s small chart-like framed computer print “HONOR FOR VLAD.” It employs the slick graphic language of a contemporary men’s magazines and is the image of a Swedish death-metal musician, Vlad, presumably, with his lyrics downloaded from the web. In Sweden, I’ve been told, the death-metal kids have been eating flesh and burning towns in the grand old tradition of their forefather’s. Vlad is serious.

In the living room Rob Weingart exhibited a slick wall sculpture that’s fresher than tomorrow. A futuristic white sculpty wedge, a techno-ghost, riddled with a few eye holes and on organic computer keyboard on its side. Its more wedge than ghost, but very curious.

Video artist Kirsten Stoltman showed videos and drawings. The videos are great, in particular “Self reflecting.”

Rick Mallete showed a grid of small scanned biomorphic drawings, printed on adhesive acetate, and affixed to front windows in the living room. His imagery is like some nasty melanoma pulled from Carrol Dunham’s back. It’s testicular cartoons and more. The kind of decals that Toys-R US should really sell to kids.

Rebekah Levine’s puffy satin wall sculpture above the fireplace in the living room is entitled “clammy” and resembles a large abstract sexual organ with antlers or flames. Levine also showed a video collaboration with Darmody, Rob Davis, and Mike Langlois. Darmody & Levine lip-sync the duet “Be Careful,” by Sparkle, featuring R. Kelley in a sort of karaoki music video.

Derek Fansler’s “Drinking Beer and Watching Television in my Living Room” (Nothing Spectacular) is a small sculptural tableaux glued to top of the cable box on the living room TV.

In the dining room is a salon style installation of Charles Irvin’s seedy ink drawings. Theta work, are drown in a style that is like Raymond Pettibone doodling on crisp white paper with Mike Kelley’s spent penis drooling ideas in his ear. “Lucifer Intellect - Thrice Removed” is my favorite as well as a twisted take on the “teletubbies.”

Irvin also showed two videos. One fantastic tape, “Feelings,” is an appropriated nature documentary over dubbed with with shorts (and other creatures) asserting their sensitivity and “humanity” while critiqueing the evil nature of “superior” humans. Irvin is a demented moralist, pointing a finger at our shortcomings and hypocrisies.

Eric Campbell’s Five Sex Paintings (Redneck, Charlie’s Angels, Mono, Nerves, Reign), a victory hung across the room from Irvine’s. They are a series of chunky odd paintings. Campbell is destined to become Chicago’s favorite living decoupage artist. Or mine at least. I am reminded of those libidinous musicians who paste photos of nude women on their musical instruments. (I saw a bass like this ones.) Pot paint enveloper found images of naked body parts. Breasts poke out like sores everywhere.

In the hallway hang two Drawings of Kirsten Stoltmann’s - “I Loved All My Friends, April, 11. 1998”. It’s is a handwritten listing of all of Stoltman’s friends rated in numerical order. No need to explain this at all other than it is great. I wish I was on it.

Kirsten’s got one video in the living room and another in the kitchen too. Extremely wry and witty work.

Vincent Darmody the “evil draftsman” and architect of this exhibition has an overwhelming pile of drawings strewn on the kitchen table which are free to be pawed by the admiring crowds.

My work is on the back porch, out in the cold that’s Mark Booth’s “Nobel Prize people.” I have a sound piece dedicated to the the woolly mammoth and to the extinction of bombastic progressive rock drumming a'la Carl Palmer. It’s an installation of two fur covered speakers playing an endless loop of wind and a manipulated children’s song about a pachyderm. Its cool. Or cold. There’s my plug. Toot.

Willie Gregory exhibited a number of great pieces around the apartment. Of particular interest is “dead cat (Remake of Dead Cat by Walter Paisley as Played by Dick Miller in Roger Corman’s 1959 movie A Bucket of Blood)” in the living room. A sculpture of a dead cat. The title explains the rest.

On the kitchen wall is Jeanne, Me, Tony, Judy – the hilarious and unassuming center piece of the show, perhaps most succinctly embodying the gesture of this exhibition and apartment shows in general. Jeanne, Me, Tony, Judy, a casual framed 8 x 10 copy. It filled me with an “evil” mirth and I had to laugh out loud. It’s a photo of established Chicago artists Jeanne Dunning, Tony Tasset, and Judy Ledgerwood appropriated (I think) from an issue of the fascinating (yes fascinating) Chicago Social magazine. It is an image lifted from the magazine’s section devoted to photographs of gleaming young socialites at charitable events and swank elite bar openings, prior to the flush of drunken rung climb'N moves.

Vince Darmody’s “Evil Show” asserts that we have a scene here, a collective gestalt. Perhaps we Chicagoans don’t have a media apparatus erected yet to project our work, our Chicago work, and our Chicago wills into the national collective arts consciousness, but it doesn’t mean we can’t try. Fade in “Mary Tyler Moors’ theme. Roll credits (my apologies to Gregory for making him my ventriloquist’s dummy).

– Mark Booth 2/4/99

Originally appeared in Gravy Magazine #3