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On Chicago’s once bustling Motor Row in the South Loop, few hints of the area’s automotive past remain. The cavernous buildings that used to house dealerships and mechanics’ garages are now mostly storefronts and residential properties. For the past three years Suzanne Weaver has operated a U-Haul rental outpost on this stretch of South Michigan Avenue, and over the summer she reorganized the interior to make space for her new venture, Motor Gallery. Its inaugural group show, featuring nine Chicago artists, is up through December 7.
The building was originally home to a car manufacturer in the early 20th century, but the address’s more recent history is quirkier: in the 90s it housed a company called Motherboard that repurposed circuit boards as binding for journals and cases for business cards; in the aughts it became the Cocoa Room, a chocolatier specializing in creating colorful confections. Now it’s filled with work by artists such as Bryan Sperry, whose sculpture series “Warriors of the Apocalypse,” featuring characters assembled from old car parts and other discarded materials, feels especially at home at Motor Gallery.
Weaver is trying to find synergies between the U-Haul side of the business and the art gallery, like using her fleet as pop-up galleries once the weather allows. She envisions monthly shows for which anyone will be welcome to rent a vehicle and display their work among other artists’ trucks in the gallery’s back lot, sort of like a more regular, less furniture-centric version of Fulton Market’s annual Guerrilla Truck Show.
“I’ve always found the art world to be really stuffy. We don’t want to have a stuffy art gallery,” Weaver says. “We want to invite people who might not have a place in the downtown or River North galleries to show their work and get somewhere. It’s sort of for the underdog artists.”
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