Installation view shows a diamond shaped purple-blue canvas hung above a white shelf on which sits candles, dice, and other talismans.
Exhibition view of "Temple Of" from the outside. Credit: Marisa Klug-Morataya

The first thing I noticed when I walked into Roots & Culture recently, on one of the better weather days in Chicago, was the smell of earthly incense wafting through the air. I stood in the entrance for awhile to take in the smell, but also to give myself a moment to realign my thoughts before proceeding to take in the work of Chad Kouri and Julia Arredondo. I walk to my right and am immediately struck by a vibrant purple, blue, and green canvas and the entrance to what feels like a courtyard in a church. You can see the plants from the entrance peeking over the wall, adding to the courtyard feel. The two pillars of the entrance are adorned by Kouri’s Hand Chimes and Bell Rope. A bench is in the middle carving out one of the many spaces throughout the exhibition that allows the viewer to take in the art. Three of Kouri’s Reflection Pool canvases are stacked in front of the bench in descending order from smallest to largest. They remind me of prayer statues often found in sites of worship. People pray directly to these for guidance, but there is something playful occurring with these stacked canvases. Their reflective surface is asking you to see yourself and look inward for guidance, an iteration of what a prayer statue is meant to do. On both sides of the courtyard are amulets by Arredondo. Although they are small in scale, they are overflowing with meaning. Each is used to amplify the space and has its own significant meaning. The ones in this courtyard are “to root an individual in place” and “to root place in an individual.” Coupled with Kouri’s canvases, this meaning of reflecting inward and outward to ground us is vital. 

Photo is of a vertically rectangular painting. The background is purple, there is a silver circle at the top, above a green squiggle and a blue C-shape, turned on its side.
Open Arms by Chad Kouri
Courtesy the artist

After spending some time in this area, I exit and let the tiny vinyl figures of eyes and notes on the walls guide me. Three of Kouri’s Jazz Movement Studies line the wall with three more of Arredondo’s amulets in between each one. The significance of three is really embedded in this show. Three has many meanings across cultures and religions. For example, in Christianity, three pertains to the holy trinity: the son, the father, and the holy spirit. In Hinduism, there is the Hindu trinity: Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. In astrology and numerology, three pertains to the planet Jupiter, taking on the properties of good luck, fortune, and abundance. One of Arredondo’s amulets here reads, “To bring luck to the apartment hunt—to appease feelings of displacement.” These properties align with those of the number three and, even more in depth, angel numbers are also signifiers of guides pointing you in the right direction. The use of the number three acts as a guidance in much of the exhibition and leads us to a better understanding not only of ourselves but also of what direction our guides are pointing us in.

Two hanging talisman-like sculptures, made of painted bread, fabric, stone, and other materials. One has a lightning bolt painted on the front and the other a bullseye.
Brick Whimsy #1 and #2 by Julia Arredondo
Courtesy the artist

Following the canvases and amulets, I arrive at the source of the smell of incense sitting on the windowsill. This area allows for another refuge to stop and think about the show while looking at the material. The two walls are lined with Arredondo’s three prints Stomping Ground Centerfold, Charm Centerfold, and 69 Centerfold on the left side; on the right, there is a mini library pertaining to their bibliomancy practice. There is a zine located here that talks about the historical context and a guide of how to do it yourself. Arredondo writes, “Bibliomancy is a divination method that uses books to examine the present to possibly peek into the future.” Not only was a space carved out to take in the three works but also to be able to practice this divination method yourself, with the books on the wall further emphasizing the vinyl on the wall: let the book read you.

I finally make my way to the back of the exhibition where an altar is showcased with a painted wall representing an arch and works adorning both sides. The arch is the focal point of this area with a candle, Kouri’s Reflection Pool piece, and the all-seeing eye on the wall in black vinyl. More of Arredondo’s amulets are found here coupled with Kouri’s pieces of cut vinyl and canvas. I begin examining each piece and notice the intricate details, like in Arredondo’s Blessing Magnet Talisman, which I later find out is used to attract blessings. Both artists complement one another in terms of style, color, and material use, but it is the collaborative experience they are creating for others to view that ties it all together. Kouri states, “It is important to utilize exhibition and publishing spaces (traditional and otherwise) to actively serve and care for the community.” They are creating space for people to take it all in while also continuing to offer dedicated programming towards establishing a greater sense of community through care practices. 

Installation view shows an alter in the center of the frame, with a reflective painting on the wall, hung above a red candle on a white stand. To the left hand more paintings and talismans. To the right hang three other paintings, with rainbow-colored paint.
Both artists complement one another in terms of style, color, and material use but it is the collaborative experience they are creating for others to view that ties it all together.
Credit: Marisa Klug-Morataya

Programming will include an “Ambient Service” by All Handy on Sunday, May 21, from 1-4 PM. This will be a church alternative and it is suggested that visitors bring their own yoga mat to stretch out and take in this instrumental sermon. This offering will be a masks-required event to help keep the immunocompromised community safe. Kouri will also be having a closing duo performance with Vincent Davis. Performances will be done with hand chimes and bell ropes that are placed throughout the exhibition in cohesion with Davis’s “little instruments” that he has been collecting since the 80s. Lastly, Katia Pérez Fuentes will be conducting guided hypnosis and astrological readings on a sliding scale in the space on Saturday, May 20 and Friday, June 2. These can be scheduled here

In the center of the frame hangs a talisman by Arredondo, with a crescent moon atop a square frame, from which hangs a cross adorned with smiley faces. On either side are paintings by Kouri, with dark blue backgrounds and bold graphic shapes.
Support Structure 16 and 15 by Chad Kouri and Mercurial Totem by Julia Arredondo Credit: Marisa Klug-Morataya

From Arredondo’s amulet properties to Kouri’s Support Structures, both artists are embedding meaning and healing aspects for us to ponder. Arredondo’s pieces are small enough to fit in your pocket and take with you on the road as protection  against the evildoers in the art world, but also to bring you abundance and much more. Kouri’s work has a sense of inner reflection but also calls for remembering the many people, places, and things in our everyday lives that bring us joy, healing, and overall support. Instead of gorging on everything all at once, Arredondo and Kouri are serving us a meal where we can enjoy every bite slowly in a welcoming space they created for us.

“Temple Of: Julia Arredondo & Chad Kouri”
Through 6/3: Fri 4-7 PM, Sat noon-6 PM, or by appointment, Roots & Culture, 1034 N. Milwaukee,

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