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Talk and Reception for Opening Passages at BUILD CHICAGO

This pop up exhibition presented in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood is part of a citywide, multi-site photographic exhibition produced by Villa Albertine and its City/Cité program. It is also part of Art Design Chicago, a citywide collaboration initiated by the Terra Foundation for American Art that highlights the city’s artistic heritage and creative communities. It features recent works by ten American and French artists interested in the dynamic social landscapes of Chicago and Paris. Selections from all participating artists appear together downtown at the Chicago Cultural Center, while site-specific installations like this one highlight cross-cultural resonances between areas within the two cities.  

Both Sasha Phyars-Burgess and Karim Kal embrace traditional black-and-white photography to explore the urban environment and the communities that live within it. Both artists have photographs on display that were created in Greater Paris, while many of the images by Phyars-Burgess were created in Austin from 2018–19 while she worked with two local Heartland Alliance programs, READI Chicago and Mae Suites, through the Diane Dammeyer Fellowship in Photographic Arts and Social Issues.

On May 8 at 7pm, join us for a conversation with the two artists, moderated by exhibition curators Carl Fuldner and Pascal Beausse, Head of the Photographic Collection of the Centre national des arts plastiques in Paris. The conversation will be followed by a reception.

Sasha Phyars-Burgess

Invited in 2022 to benefit from a creative immersion residency at Ateliers Médicis.
During her 2023 residency in Clichy-sous-Bois, Sasha Phyars-Burgess set up a darkroom at a local community center, where she processed large-format black-and-white film negatives. Alongside her own work, however, she ran regular workshops, teaching youths and other residents at the center traditional photography techniques. Many of these people also became the subjects in her work, reflecting her combined process of art-making and community-building. She adopted this same approach several years earlier in the South Austin neighborhood of Chicago, where she mentored youth through a video production group at READI Chicago. Her video, Hail Mary, blends footage of READI participant DJ Looney Givenchy (Steve Walker) with clips she had gathered around Austin. Phyars-Burgess’s work rewards sustained looking, capturing moments that reverberate with presence and grace. 

JJ’S FISH + CHICKEN, series UNTITLED AND YET TO BE DETERMINED 41.8949°, 87.7654° W, AUSTIN, CHICAGO, 2019 ©Sasha Phyars-Burgess

Karim Kal

2017 laureate of the national photographic commission Regards du Grand Paris (views of the Grand Paris), led by the Ateliers Médicis in collaboration with the Centre national des arts plastiques (Cnap).

With “Ligne Dée”, Karim Kal’s black-and-white photographs critically examine areas left behind by the great urbanist and political projects of the past. Exploring the city at night, the artist uses a short-range flash to capture deserted spaces on the margins within working-class areas of Paris. The abstraction within his images invites us to delve into the intricacies of traces and visual clues. The series roughly follows a path along D line of the Paris metropolitan and regional rail system (RER), cutting through the center of Paris to access socio neighborhoods north and south of the city. Despite the apparent emptiness within the images, the objects and visual elements that are present—a dilapidated wall, graffiti, wild grass—offer clues not only to socio-economic tensions but also to the life that permeates this landscape.

Passage 1, series Dee Line, 2017, ©Karim Kal

Since 2021, the Paris-Chicago dialogue has been flourishing under the umbrella of “Clichycago,” with the support of the Ateliers Médicis in Clichy-sous-Bois / Montfermeil (France) and the Chicago branch of Villa Albertine. It is conceived as a platform for community-based cultural exchange and artistic experimentation.

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