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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, July 6

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Feature Mon Jul 28 2008

An Interview with Peter Kepha

This Friday, Aug. 1, 32 & Urban hosts Framed: A 59-person show featuring the work of designers, photographers, illustrators, graphic designers, painters, collage makers, muralists, installation-based artists, street artists, printmakers, graffiti artists, comic book artists, and other art makers. Gallery curator Peter Kepha gave participants frames of various sizes, then gave them two rules to follow: 1) leave the wooden frame alone and 2) produce work with the idea of presenting "great, affordable art." Recently we asked Kepha about Framed, and about his other work.

Tell us about your development as an artist.

My development as an artist goes like this: cartoons-comic books-graffiti-graffiti-graffiti-Gallery 37-Marwen Foundation-graffiti-Chicago public art group-apprentice artist-murals-graffiti-teaching assistant-co-lead artist-lead artist-classically trained oil painter-graffiti-street art-corporate America-freelance graphic designer-32nd and Urban-curating-designing-silk-screening-showing art-and a little more graffiti... Although I'm a retired graffiti artist now.

Besides working for the gallery I run my own small design studio, Detour Studio.

I went to the Academy of Art because I hated high school and barely made it out. I didn't take the SAT or ACT, and I knew that the Academy only cared if I was eligible for student loans, which i was.

My art encompasses a lot of different subject matters and mediums. I really enjoy doing a lot of everything. Recently, my main focus has been on working with vintage fabrics and creating a collage of cutouts that make up my bandit-looking characters. I've also been doing some drawings on paper of cars -- mainly ghetto-fab Caprices on 26-inch rims on top of vintage floral patterns. I like the juxtaposition of the two. I've also dived head-first into silk screening and the retail market; Renegade Fair, to be exact.

How long have you been curator at 32? How did you become Curator?

I've been the curator/graphic designer since the conception of 32nd. I kind of just fell into the curator role. I didn't initially seek that title out -- I was just excited to meet new artists and look for cool new work, and since I was the only one out of my three other partners who had any artistic/creative background, it was a no-brainer that I take up the role. Plus, I was the only one who could hang anything level on the wall!

What is the biggest challenge as curator?

Staying fresh, staying current, and staying inspired.

What are your guidelines for shows?

My guidelines really depend on the type of show that were having. My ideas come from complete random thinking. That's one of the great things about being an artist, too: being able to to pull inspiration from just about anything. My creative background is also very diverse, so I have a lot of different pools to take from.

What's the inspiration for Framed?

One of the main things was that I wanted to really challenge myself with the size of the show, and I wanted to challenge the artists to work within a constrained size. I think it's important for an artist to constantly challenge themselves creatively. Another reason for the show was that at the end of the day, we're a business, and a business needs to make money to survive. So it was a carefully planned show that allowed me to include a ton of artists and make it very affordable for everyone to buy something.

How did you choose the artists for Framed? What do they all have in common?

I went through the roster of artists that I was familiar with: some who have shown with us in the past, and some whom I had met through the gallery or out and about. What they have in common is that I liked their work.

What are the particular challenges of holding such a big group show?

Hanging the show is obviously the hardest part, but for me a major obstacle to get around was to figure out a way to marry all of the different types of work into a cohesive, flowing look. I take time to observe what work compliments each other color-, balance-, subject matter- and style-wise. I think it's really important to create a solid look for the entire show, and not just the individual pieces. Another challenge is trying to organize and juggle all of these different artists, contracts, press releases, design work, sponsors and general gallery work. My partners - Pedro Soto, Lauren Pacheco, and Monika Lee - are really supportive. Lauren, the gallery director, is a wiz at getting a lot of this together, and we would not be able to function and attempt to tackle a show of this size without a strong focus on organization, relationships and all the business stuff that goes on in the background of galleries. They believe enough in my crazy ideas to let me roll with them.

What are some upcoming art projects and gallery shows for you? Any more street art in the works?

I'm always working on something. A few group shows this year ... my solo at 32nd&urban ... and I'll be in the Renegade craft show in September with my design group, Detour Studio. I'm working as a creative director for a entertainment venue in Portage, Ind. [called] "Portage 9" -- simply helping out with the interior look. I've got a couple of clients that I do design work for ... planning the '09 calendar for the gallery ... always working on new art. You know, keeping myself busy, trying to make some that loot!

What would be your "dream" show? strong>

A dream show would allow me to bring in artists from all over the world. Give them a budget to create something amazing inside the gallery, and have a opening that hit on all of your five senses. As for who I would include: I don't want to really name any names, but I do have a running list of about 40. I had a great opportunity to hang a gallery's show out of Los Angeles during Artropolis this year, and I got the chance to see a lot of the work before it went up, so I did my research.

What are some of your favorite local galleries?

Again, I'm no name dropper. But there's a lot of good things happening here in Chicago!!!

The Framed reception lasts from 6-11 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 1. Show runs through Aug. 30. 3201 S. Halsted.

Official Gallery after-party at Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave., 9:30pm-2am. Featuring sounds by Deejay Pickel, DJ Trew and DJ Intel. Presented by OkayWithUs. Discounted admission with flyer or password, "FRAMED." $4 Stoli cocktails, free Miller High Life 9:30pm-10:30pm.

About the Author:

A native of Johnstown, PA, Lauri Apple is a contender for the title, "world's most renowned bag lady," thanks to her somewhat popular (at times) website, FoundClothing. Lauri has a JD and doesn't know why, but it will take about 30 years for her to pay it off, and that worries her. Her favorite cities are Prague, Pittsburgh, Austin and Chicago. When she's not looking through people's trash, she's either painting, taking pictures, or making/thinking about making cartoons about her weird life.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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