Alter Tyson Reeder's Sweater
Visiting SubCity Projects feels like stumbling on a secret. The 6' x 5' x 8' gallery is tucked into artist Candida Alvarez’s tenth-floor studio in the historic Fine Arts Building. It’s viewable only through a window in its door. In January, Tyson Reeder and Andrew Greene took over the closet-like space with an “evolving exhibition” on view through the end of the month.
“Small spaces demand unusual and inventive solutions,” Reeder says. The Milwaukee-based artist, who teaches at SAIC, and Greene, one of his students, transformed the space into an “art zoo” where participants can spend some time re-working Holiday Sweater (pictured), one of Reeder’s paintings. Retro hanging light fixtures, a calendar depicting beach scenes and a Fisher Price record player spinning old reggae 45s give the studio a cozy atmosphere. Reeder and Greene provide all kinds of paints, brushes and pencils to inspire participants, as well as a mysterious drawer labeled “Fun.”
As we watch Jacob, the project’s first participant, at work inside the studio, Reeder and Greene are visibly excited. Jacob carefully paints snowflakes and hot pink streaks over Reeder’s painting while sipping on a beer. He appears totally engrossed in the task at hand, which prompts us to laugh about the absurd fishbowl the artists have created.
I ask Reeder if he’s nervous about other artists commenting on his work by obscuring or altering it. He admits that participants have free reign while they’re in the studio, so they could even block out the original painting entirely, if they want. But he says he’s not worried—just eager to see the results and open to whatever happens.
This isn’t the first time Reeder’s challenged the typical exhibition model. As a member of the “think tank” Milwaukee International, he helped construct a kind of three-dimensional exquisite corpse during the “Great Poor Farm Experiment,” which artists Michelle Grabner and Brad Killam organized at their rural Wisconsin exhibition space in August 2009. Reeder built a pair of feet in an old jail and invited other artists to complete the sculpture from the ground up, one body part at a time. “It was similar in that we just set up a set of conditions and then stood back and let the ‘art’ happen,” Reeder explains. Even his individual practice is becoming more collaborative; Greene sees their SubCity project as all about community building, particularly the kind that takes place outside the prevailing art-world hierarchy.
“Tyson Reeder with Andrew Greene and Friends” runs Thursday–Saturday, 4–8pm through January 30. I hope Reeder and Greene continue to give us projects that make room for chance and serendipity, celebrating the creative process instead of its product.