Gapers Block has ceased publication.

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.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Tuesday, April 16

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


A 2001 graduate from Kansas State University with a degree in painting, Ian Etter has been a citizen of our "City on the Make" for five years. His childhood was spent being an "Army brat," and it was this transitional upbringing that has rendered his fixation on the concept of location and place. Etter's solo show, "Megaplace in Space," opens Friday March 9, 6-9pm, and runs through April 7 at AllRise Gallery, 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave. The series he presents are renderings of his frequented Chicago haunts. The charcoal series (2006 & 2007) represents various views between Bryn Mawr and Berwyn along the Red Line. The Constellation series (2004) represents video images of the underground subway tunnel while riding in the last car, and the illustrations that accompany are of actual plant-life that was found directly above ground along the Red Line on State Street. This is a must-see show for anyone interested in being transfixed by a furtive view into the city's presence.

Q: A sentence within AllRise's description of your show really resounds with me: "Stoic buildings appear as they might in a distant memory, though still effectively reproduce the way light filters through the night air." Does memory for you reside in the filtering light, or is it embodied by the night air?

Etter: I believe this statement picks up on the abstraction in the work. The drawings all begin from photographs that I take of buildings, mostly in my neighborhood. When I begin to draw them and eliminate a lot of the detail from the images, I feel that they begin to function more like archetypes. There is a tension between this universality of the buildings and the detail that goes into creating the atmosphere of the night sky and some of the smaller details like telephone wires and alleyways, which then give the buildings a sense of place. I believe that in this tension the works begin to function like memory.

Q: There is a noir presence to your work, albeit celestial. The radiant windows of the nighted buildings within your work might resemble ominous passages — ominous because of their "shady" edges, and because nowhere within any one does Man appear. I suspect mankind doesn't really exist in the realm of the imagination where this noir is coming from. Does it?

Etter: I believe man exists in these works as an audience to the mystery that they present. In all of the drawings the perspective comes from the street level. It's a small detail, but one that is important to me. I didn't initially make these drawings with the idea that they would be perceived as such dark and ominous works, although talking with people about them has had an influence on their direction that they have taken. A lot of people see the windows more as signs of hope in the darkness, this is the first time anyone has said that the windows themselves actually create the mood. I like that idea. I originally thought I was lightening the image buy subtracting detail, but I've been proven otherwise.

Q: What's one bit of advice someone gave to you pertaining to your art that you'd like to one day forget?

Etter: I can't think of anything recent, but as a student studying abroad in Norwich, England, I was working on small monochromatic screenprint/paintings. My main influence at the time was Francesco Clemente, and my imagery of my drawings consisted mainly of things like eggs, pearls, skulls, stars and the like. I would print these drawings onto canvas and layer them with acrylic washes. After about six weeks and 50 of these paintings, a classmate from Cleveland pointed out how a lot of the paintings looked like Grateful Dead t-shirts. They did look a lot like Grateful Dead t-shirts, and that pretty much put a stop to those particular paintings.

GB store

About the Author(s)

John Hospodka is a life-long Chicagoan, and today lives with his wife in Bridgeport. He does not profess to be an expert in anything; he's just a big fan of the arts and is eager to make more sense of them. Direct comments or suggestions for interviews to

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15