Patchwork Pall by Marianne Fairbanks
  • Courtesy of the artist
  • Patchwork Pall by Marianne Fairbanks

One of the original aims of Gallery 400’s ongoing “Standard of Living” series was to create exhibitions and events based on key issues relating to labor and economics. “After Today,” the fourth exhibition in the series, is the first to respond directly to themes suggested by activists, UIC scholars, and regular Chicagoans, going beyond the original issues to explore larger economic shifts within various Chicago communities.

“We are not interested in simple categorizations,” says Gallery 400 director and exhibition curator Lorelei Stewart, “but in the complex ways that people are putting art and activism into play with each other.”

Each of the seven pieces in the exhibit attempts to mark a specific moment in time in a particular community. Patchwork Pall, created by Marianne Fairbanks, is a mourning quilt dyed with vegetation found in empty lots in Humboldt Park. Jan Tichy’s Chicago Nature (After Nauman) features a neon piece that blinks in response to police calls in Englewood. For the installation Flamin’ Red Hots, Amanda Williams painted a gallery pole Cheeto orange, a color she explains is part of “a symbolic and shared Black nostalgia of the south side landscape.”

Related programs outside the gallery include the unveiling of Jason Lazarus’s Image Monument, a collaboratively designed sculpture that will visualize the history of an as-yet-to-be-chosen community, and a natural dye workshop hosted by Fairbanks in Humboldt Park.

“Our city is changing,” says Stewart. “It always has been, but maybe this is a period of accelerated change. We wanted people to feel this was their forum to say something about what’s happening in the city and to share what they hope the city can become.”