Chicago Art Review

Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies @ Spoke by Steve Ruiz
December 7, 2009, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Reviews

As someone easily distracted, I have mixed feelings on music at galleries. As much as I enjoy looking at paintings, when there is music at a gallery I’ll spend more time staring at the performers or tracking the locations of speakers than I spend focusing my attention on the art. Some spaces are able to double up, like when the Co-Prosperity Sphere dims the lights after an opening’s regular hours have passed and segues smoothly into a middle-young rock concert. Other times, a smartly curated audio piece will color a whole show with its ambient clicks and whispers from across the gallery space or with the occasional bass fall hummed through a project space wall. Most of the time, though, music just distracts.

John Henley and Peter Frederiksen, Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies

John Henley and Peter Frederiksen, Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies

Spoke‘s latest exhibition, Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies, brought together the collaborative work of John Henley and Peter Frederiksen, along with some extra entertainment. It did have a live performance, and it did distract me from the work – but not as much as did the puppies, a half-dozen of which yelped and fought and tumbled and pissed around the gallery’s newspapered floor. Attendees pressed as near as possible to the walls, watching the band and dogs and blocking the art. There were paintings on the walls, but who could care? While the trio on my left put down a hypnotic, clinking, harmonium-led improvisation, I watched a puddle of urine bleed into an unfolded newspaper’s art section.

John Henley and Peter Frederiksen, Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies

John Henley and Peter Frederiksen, Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies

Unlike at a crowded opening, where an elbowed observer may think to come back in the morning when the space is clear and work visible, as this was a one-time event, with collaborative paintings created as a body separate from the artists’ primary work, it would feel wrong to discuss the paintings outside of the setting created for them by the artists. The paintings themselves were pretty cool, nets of heavy strokes and reductions which occasionally revealed scenes of docks and moorings from otherwise layered, painterly abstraction. All kept to a similar palette, shown grouped and spaced in gangs. It isn’t that they weren’t interesting, only that in a small room with great music and adorable wrestling puppies, they were the least interesting thing going on.

John Henley and Peter Frederiksen, Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies

John Henley and Peter Frederiksen, Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies

While I really enjoyed Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies, I wasn’t sure whether to view it as an enjoyable experience made to include artwork in a marginal sense, or an art show which, in bringing in other entertainment, ended up distracting itself from the art. Keeping that question in mind (and acknowledging that I really, really like dogs), I give it a:


John Henley and Peter Frederiksen‘s Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies was held on November 5th, 2009 @ Spoke, 119 N. Peoria. Emmett Kelly, Jim Dorling, and Michael Hartman provided the music.

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

In the links that you have set up, you spelled Peter’s last name wrong, it’s FrederikSEN, not FrederikSON.

Comment by Liz

Haha, also there’s no “c” in Frederiksen. (It’s spelled right in the captions. . .)

Comment by Liz

Great catches – you should be my editor! :)

Comment by Steve Ruiz

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