RED76; BLACK MARKET EDITIONS · CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

 

Chandra Bocci, UNTITLED (pop-up book), 2004


Harrell Fletcher, who with Miranda July, operates Learningtoloveyoumore.com, sits across from Sam Gould at his apartment in Chicago. Gould is talking with myself and a radio producer from the local NPR affiliate about Black Market Editions. A secretive project to install art in the woodwork throughout the city, BM Editions has been contributed by Portland-based artist Eileen Finn and Mike Wolf. Fletcher's thinking of drawings, but he's not sure yet. Gould doesn't want to give specifics, he wants people to find his collaborative installations through word of mouth or even just by accident. For him, finding a piece of art unexpectedly, dropped in the bottom of a newspaper dispenser or taped to the wall behind a mirror in a restaurant bathroom-as Wolf's painting of a piece of paper is-would be heaven.

Installation view of Bocci's pop-up book placed by Red76


Red76 started off in Portland, where Gould lived before relocating to Chicago. He chose the city for its number of colleagues working in this pedestrian mode. Walking around his neighborhood and talking art gives him a chance to meet people. Besides Gould, Red76 members include Khris Soden, Matthew Yake, Katy Asher, and Jen Rhoads, all of whom live outside the city. Gould's definitely been the most active member to install work for the Black Market Editions project, however. And his efforts to install new contributions is the reason that all of the work except one has so far been installed in the Wicker Park neighborhood where he currently makes his home. The last one was installed in New York under a post office dropbox across from the bull statue in front of the Stock Exchange at 26 Broadway. It's a piece by Gabriel Mindel-Saloman (this reviewer has not seen it) known for his work with Collective Jyrk and sound band Der Yellow Swans.


Fletcher strolls along behind as Gould leads me and my producer down Division Street in his 'hood, scouting a place to drop a goodwill offering on behalf of the group: an opaque white container filled with Red76 paraphernalia: books, CDs, assorted goodies. He's hunting for a free box, a search frustrated and prolonged in the early summer heat by several blocks of dailies charging as much as half a buck to pull the lid. Eventually, he finds a free box for one of the alternative weeklies and moves to deposit his collection. Two cops are staring as he moves, with one fluid motion, to drape an opened paper over the opaque white box, which he then slips under the wire shelving at the box's bottom. He exhibits an impressive level of discretion considering the two guys loaded down by radio equipment standing right beside him. But then, he's a professional clandestine art operator. Seconds later it's all done, another edition installed. Fletcher nods in approval. We wonder aloud if it'll never be found. But Gould has planned to avoid this very possibility, listing all new projects and their locations, usually with a photo to document the occasion, on the Red76 website at www.red76.com.


In Portland, one of the projects undertaken by Red76 was “Art Stall,” an effort to install art in bathrooms throughout the town. Bathrooms were construed as a “single occupancy gallery,” viewable by one patron at a time and disconnected from much of the knuckle-knocking social constraints associated with opening night at any up-market venue. Pubs, lounges, cafes, and theaters were only a few of the places selected for inclusion in the project. No surprise then, that there's a second work in the Black Market Exhibitions line: Eileen Finn's “Postcards From the End of the Line,” taken on her tour of the destination stops along the TriNet bus lines. It's this same sense of curiosity that inspires travel and investigation of our specific surroundings that Gould and Red76 hope to inspire.


Michael Workman
New York, New York
2004