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Sunday, August 14

Gapers Block

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Chicago artist John Salhus has served as curator for "4Chicagoans," the first show of paintings and drawings at the Franconia Sculpture Park in Taylors Falls, Minnesota. In addition to Salhus, the show, which opens this weekend, will feature Chicago artists Duk Ju L. Kim (who also served as co-curator), E. Williams and Rodrigo Avila. As Salhus explains, "4Chicagoans" is a first step towards building a relationship between Chicago and Franconia, which offers residency fellowships. Born and raised in Minnesota, Salhus graduated from Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1993, and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1992. He moved to the Windy City in 1998 and now lives and works in Bridgeport. A regular feature in the Birdhouse Museum shows, Salhus currently has a piece featured in the stellar show at Juniortown, 1255 W. 18th St., "Back to Basics: Drawing," which is part one of an ongoing series. He will be featured in part two of the series, "On Color," from Sept. 29 until Oct. 14.

Q: Stepping into the role of curator, have you felt you should be less or more of a critic in the process of selecting the show's artists and works? I mean, an artist can be an extremely critical — almost too opinionated an individual, and I'm curious if you noticed any change in your critical demeanor during this brief spell as curator?

Salhus: Less and more of a critic. You can't let your personal taste direct the show if you want it to be a cohesive, well-rounded affair. But you need to have high standards because you are related to the whole show rather than being a single artist in a group show. The group show can be poor as a whole, which might make certain artists stand out and be noticed where they wouldn't as much if the show stands together. My goal is to have the show stand together.

Q: When I'm in the presence of your work, I sense seriousness. Not that your work is refined, it's just that, to me, even the slop is calculated. I don't sense improvisation has a large place in your work. So then, how might this "calculated slop" speak for your approach to the task of art?

Salhus: Calculated improvisational slop. My work is calculated to a point, but I see it more as an active dialog with the piece. I let the work direct me to the end — I see it as a search, the painting or drawing is the map that I make as I go. There is a need I have in the art-making process; the need is for the work to bring me to somewhere I haven't been before. If it brings me to the same place every time, what's the use?

Q: In your bringing artists from Chicago to show in Minnesota, you seem to be particularly proud of your involvement within Chicago's art community. You've been in Chicago yourself for a while now. How has the Second City found its way into the choices you make as an artist?

Salhus: Bringing Chicago-based artists with me up to Minnesota is an exciting idea. I think dialog with other artists in other places is essential to strengthen your own experience and vision. One thing I try to do in a small way is open up opportunities for artists I know up there to come down here and participate in Chicago events, and vice versa. Minneapolis and Chicago have very vibrant artistic communities, but if you don't have a connection it can be a very difficult thing to tap into a scene on an intimate level. The Second City has a great gallery scene, but I have been more involved with the DIY end down here. There are few really good underground currents that flow through the streets here, and I have found that to be a way to really find the cutting edge. This city makes you stand on your own two feet.

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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

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