“When that funding dried up, that’s really when apartment spaces kind of exploded in Chicago,” Gross said.
A new generation of spaces popped up in the 1990s. Most notable among them were the so-called “Uncomfortable Spaces”—MWMWM Gallery, Tough Gallery, Ten in One Gallery, and Beret International Gallery. The Uncomfortable Spaces coordinated publicity and openings, and mounted exhibitions that were regularly reviewed in Artforum, Art in America, and the Chicago Tribune. All had shuttered by 2000.
In conceiving this exhibition, Quinn and Hanna wanted to help visualize how spaces have transformed over the decades. “We saw a big change in how galleries present themselves: less DIY, more polished white cube, but still very artist-run,” Hanna said. In some ways, these changes make sense. In recent years, art schools have leaned into the professionalization of the field, and arts administration programs have proliferated. The advent of social media has made it easier to communicate a particular aesthetic, making your project space look professional, even if in reality it exists in your kitchen. The curators are quick to note that though spaces in general have changed, there remains a diversity of approaches.