(click image above for slideshow of installation images)

Julia Arredondo, Stella Brown, William Camargo & Yvette Mayorga, Monica Chadha & Carlo Parente, Angela Davis Fegan, Alejandro Jimenez Flores, Alfredo Garcia, Danny Giles & Sharmyn Cruz Rivera, Jaclyn Jacunski, Leo Kaplan, Morten Kvamme, Kirsten Leenaars, Ruslana Lichtzier, Fran Lightbound, Kelly Lloyd, Lora Lode, John Lusis, Jesse Malmed, Nicole Marroquin, Victoria Martinez, Gabriel Montero, Josh Rios, Bailey Romaine, Luis Rodriguez Rosario, Edra Soto, Third Object (Ann Meisinger, Raven Falquez Munsell, Gan Uyeda), Selina Trepp, Rafael E. Vera, Lisa Vinebaum, Aaron Walker, and Latham Zearfoss.

Organized by Brandon Alvendia and Greg Ruffing.

Spring is here and the flowers will bloom as boldly as the coroplast signs announcing the hottest-of-the-hot real estate opportunities and open-houses galore. With them, the ambitions of the creative class often pave the way for the investment class to foist cranes into many a busy bike lane and impose more formulaic zombie urbanism into our storied cityscape – transforming large swaths of neighborhoods into veritable open-air shopping mall entertainment complexes, while other areas remain tragically under-resourced. Colorful histories are literally and figuratively painted over with zeal in the cold yet fashionable flat grey of 21st century corporate urban renewal.

It is in context of the ongoing resistance to a hubris-in-chief who made a name developing real estate (among other problematic ventures), an endangered national art fund, a pushback against "art-washing", and a world dividing further and further along spatial and cultural lines, that this exhibition gains a necessary urgency.

Standards Variance is a group show of speculative proposals around what is possible for urban space (empty lots, abandoned buildings, storefronts, green-space, etc.) in Chicago.

Something radical?
Something practical?
Something fantastical?

What would it look like? What would happen there? How would it function? What needs or wants might it help fulfill that perhaps aren’t currently being addressed?

Standards Variance considers what the future might hold for urban space in this new era of volatile market optimism, political turbulence, and widespread uncertainty. It seeks to open a discussion around speculation of land, resources, and real estate – typically centered on economic outcomes and future profit potential – toward a more expansive and inclusive set of concerns derived from a grassroots level. This project is not necessarily against development – but it is, in many ways, anti-developer.

The participants were invited to devise alternative forms of “speculation” that are rooted in a local right to self-determination: the latent desires, aspirations, and needs of communities. Such perspectives are often overlooked, ignored, or given lip-service in top-down, bureaucratic urban planning and “placemaking” – where real estate developers, planners, markets, and governments are not adequately accountable to residents. This unjust lack of voice becomes especially devastating in the many urban neighborhoods dealing with gentrification and displacement.

Standards Variance enlists the creative thinking of artists and non-artists alike to imagine alternative notions of urban space that are perhaps more egalitarian, useful, critical, inclusive, accessible, or progressive, while at the same potentially utopian, whimsical, anti-commercial, experimental, absurd, far-fetched, etc. The proposals needed not consider any limitations in budget, zoning, availability of space, feasibility, or the laws of physics. We recognize, embrace, and indeed hope that this would yield a wide variety of incongruent or conflicting proposals, whose differences would reflect something of the diversity of our communities as well as the different modes of commitment to them.