Critics’ Picks

“View of Dana DeGiulio,” 2013–14.

“View of Dana DeGiulio,” 2013–14.


Dana DeGiulio

The Suburban
2901 N Fratney St
November 17, 2013–January 20, 2014

Over the past thirteen years, wounds and ruins (and ruined bodies) have occupied Dana DeGiulio’s paintings. With a similar gravitas, she is presenting new work at the Suburban, an exhibition space in the backyard of Michelle Grabner and Brad Killam’s home. DeGiulio is a former student of Grabner’s; to underwrite the expenses of her latest project, she sold a painting by Grabner that she’d received as a gift. DeGiulio consigned the work with James Cohan Gallery, which began representing Grabner recently. With the proceeds of the painting’s sale, DeGiulio purchased a 1996 Buick Le Sabre sedan. On November 17, she rear-ended the car into the gallery space. The building’s integrity has been compromised beyond repair, and whatever the future of the venerable venue, it will involve demolishing the current structure.

This would be institutional critique if it weren’t so personal. DeGiulio’s untitled intervention alludes to her relationship with Grabner, while it capitalizes on both of their shared social networks, taking the power relations often at work behind the scenes and rendering them visible in the resultant wreckage. Moreover, the work physicalizes a collision between Grabner’s roles as a teacher, a gallerist, a curator, and an artist with her own stakes in process and production. In some ways, it brings to mind Rauschenberg’s 1953 Erased de Kooning Drawing—only now the gesture is structural and systemic. Though DeGiulio shares in Rauschenberg’s contestation of authority, her objects of consideration are manifold: the resilience of her mentor, the assuredly destroyed Suburban, and a close-knit Chicago community that has reacted with a spectrum of shock, appreciation, dismissal, and betrayal.

A brochure that accompanies the wreck includes this passage from Adrienne Rich’s poem “Shattered Head”: “And I believed I was loved, I believed I loved who did this to us.” If the rationale of shattering the Suburban (as a figurehead in need of debasement?) is elusive, DeGiulio nonetheless presents her position by backing into the building: This is a process of letting go.