Minimalism and Shit | Letters | Chicago Reader

News & Politics » Letters

Minimalism and Shit


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Dear Reader,

After reading Fred Camper's review of the Richard Tuttle gallery exhibition (November 24), I wish to invite him to attend a new show by the underappreciated Chicago minimalist Sky Brown, which will run indefinitely in the alley behind my apartment. The show features many of his more important works, such as Rock, Stick, Crack In The Cement, and Partially Crushed Empty Detergent Box #6. This courageous show is being mounted entirely without sponsorship, structure, or public interest. None of the pieces are "exhibited" in the usual sense: completely absent are the choking constraints of spotlight, frame, and pedestal so typical of more mundane gallery showings; our focus is entirely unforced. There are no labels as to title, materials used, or date of creation. Initially, one is unsure that he is actually viewing an installed piece and not just some naturally occurring bit of debris instead. Additionally, the unenclosed and undefined space (it is difficult even to know when one is "at" the show) encourages exploration with a uniquely open mind.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with "Rock." Upon searching for this work one first encounters many rocks that are not in fact "Rock" itself, but here and throughout the rest of the show, diligence is richly rewarded. At first glance the viewer sees merely a rough stone lying in a shock of untrimmed grass by a garage door, but as he relaxes and lets his preconceptions fall away he is struck violently by the insight that he might not be seeing a stone at all, but quite possibly a slightly dehydrated dog dropping. Conversely, since the underside of "Rock" is completely obscured from view by its ingenious, seemingly cavalier placement, one can't be certain that it doesn't conceal a portal to an intergalactic wormhole. The irony of the piece is completed by the knowledge that, since it might be dog doo, we shall never pick it up to find out.

This exhibit tears open the doorway to the future of minimalism, and we can never look back. While traditional minimalists ask the question, "Why do anything more than is absolutely necessary?" Mr. Brown leaps ahead of the pack to strip the question to its essential, "Why do anything?" Then, determined that his piercing examination is still too shallow, he asks us simply, "W?"

Sky Brown


Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →