Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

BOOKS/ART Local man releases sketches by famous artist uncle
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2020-11-19

This article shared 2306 times since Thu Nov 19, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Cuban American painter Gustavo Ojeda (1958—89) is best known for lush and meditative urban nightscapes that brought him recognition in the 1980s downtown New York art scene. He exhibited works alongside artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and David Wojnarowicz before dying from AIDS-related complications in 1989—just two weeks shy of his thirty-first birthday.

Now, Ojeda's nephew Gabriel Ojeda-Sague (a Chicago resident) and Erich Kessel Jr., are co-editors of An Excess of Quiet: Selected Sketches by Gustavo Ojeda, 1979—1989, which (re)acquaints people with more than 200 of Ojeda's sketches.

Windy City Times: You have an interesting background: You're currently at the University of Chicago and you've written about Cher, pornography and even jazzercise. [Ojeda-Sague laughs.] What compelled you to tackle the works of your uncle?

Gabriel Ojeda-Sague: It all feels outside of the [usual] stuff I do, like poetry. I always grew up with my uncle's works around me. There's this interesting situation where a lot of his work fell out of circulation after his death; his works ended up in family members' houses but not in places like museums, so I was immersed in his work.

As I got older, I got more and more interested about why his work fell out of circulation and what it would take to bring it back into circulation. My uncle's longtime partner was Lester Edelstein—who I also considered my uncle. Lester died in 2016 and left Gustavo's sketchbooks and paintings to my brother and myself. At this point, I knew that I really wanted to do something. I'm not [well-]versed in the world of art, but I am in the world of books—so I wondered how I could bring Gustavo's works back into circulation.

Around 2015, Lester introduced me to the sketchbooks. He didn't think they were very special, but I was so impressed by what was in them. The paintings were very impressionistic landscapes of New York City, but the sketches were these decontexualized, haunting faces of people on public transport. So then it became a major project for me.

WCT: I get the title [which comes from how critics viewed Ojeda's works]. There is a sense of quiet in his works.

GO-S: Yes. The title was never something he used about his works but, for me, there's something quiet—but there's something more than quiet. It was said that there's almost an energy moving beneath the painting—even when it seems like there's not a lot going on. I was using the phrase "an excess of quiet" to describe his works, so I thought that'd make a great title. [Laughs]

WCT: There's something you wrote in the intro that resonated with me: "Growing up near his paintings, I felt that they had something charging beneath them."

GO-S: Yeah. When I was a kind, I saw the kids as almost spooky; there was something imposing about the nightscapes. I saw them as spooky yet calming. They had a real presence that almost seemed a non-presence. It was like something that initially seems simple but is more complex the more you look at it.

I also realized what was making him quite a popular artist at this time. One of the paradoxes about him is that he was a big artist in the '80s New York art scene but most of the other artists were more pop art, like Warhol and Basquiat and Haring. Gustavo's works look more traditional at first, but there's something beyond those traditional impressionist works. When you look at these sketches together, there's something meditative and unsettling at the same time. It looks impressive how the drawings bleed across the pages.

WCT: The sketches span 1979 to 1989. Do you see a progression or evolution in the sketches from the beginning to the end of the decade?

GO-S: Sure. I would not say it's exactly a clean arc, but there's some obsession and it becomes more refined. The works are not arranged chronologically and the dates are not given to the reader, but I can say that the works from '79 to '81 [feature] Spanish parks and traditional figure drawings, like nudes. Once he comes back to New York, he became more interested in the urban landscape. His most productive year was probably 1984, when he was making the nightscapes that would make him famous. But during the mid-'80s, he's also doing all of these facial sketches. It's funny that they both happen at the same time, as the nightscapes don't feature people.

Once we cross the mid-'80s, he developed his style a bit more but stays with relative themes. However, the drawings get a little less simple. A friend of his told me that what Gustavo would not look at his subjects on public transport because he didn't want them to know he was drawing them, so he would just look out and they were done quickly.

He got sick in 1987 and his productivity lowered significantly, and he passed away in 1989. It's unclear to me where his work would have gone if he had lived longer, but I can tell you that his paintings moved to daytime urban landscapes. What I like about this book is that some of the sketches are really technically impressive—and others are not.

I also wanted to keep in how much erasing there was with the sketches—the screw-ups and do-overs. With some, you can see extra lines and blurring. One of the things Soberscove [Press] did well was that it really shows the extra marks; that was a way of [conveying] a tactile sense of the works to the reader.

WCT: You mentioned contemporaries such as Basquiat and Haring. Do you feel that your uncle—with all his talent—was underappreciated?

GO-S: During his time, I don't think he was underappreciated. He was never a celebrity artist, like Haring or Basquiat. When [Ojeda] died, my grandparents—Cuban exiles who don't speak English—took over, in a sense, and they weren't able to keep up with bringing his work out into the world. Gustavo was very productive and very charming; once he and his friends died, there was a real loss of the foundation of what kept his work going—and my family was not able (or possibly willing) to keep up things. Lester archived Gustavo's works and there were a couple well-received retrospectives. I think Gustavo's works fell out of renown.

So Gustavo wasn't underappreciated at the time [when he was alive] but he was kind of an odd figure. He had a very successful career. I'm trying to bring some attention to his works because I feel they still offer a lot—and there's a lot that people haven't seen.

WCT: Ultimately, what would you like people to take away from this book?

GO-S: Good question… I think what I'm trying to do is show people a really tender but yet obsessive practice that artists had during this time. It was private and personal, but I'm trying to bring out [Gustavo's] image and renown.


This article shared 2306 times since Thu Nov 19, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Lighthouses in the Desert
2021-11-27
Title: Lighthouses in the Desert. Playwright: Richard James Zieman At: Schwartz Stage at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St. Tickets: $25; GlassAppleTheatre.com. Runs through: Dec. 19 Nowadays, the term "one-act play" can be applied to nearly ...


Gay News

SAVOR Mango Pickle offering 21 Days of Thali supper Dec. 3-20
2021-11-27
The Indian bistro Mango Pickle (5842 N. Broadway; https://www.mangopicklechicago.com/) will hold its next 21 Days of Thali event Dec. 3-20. Marisa Paolillo and Gregory Bazire—the founders and chef-partners of Mango ...


Gay News

Five Worth Finding: World AIDS Day, 'Benedetta,' books, wine in a can
2021-11-26
—World AIDS Day event at Belmont Harbor: —The Chicago Parks Foundation will hold a World AIDS Day event on Dec. 1, 9-10:30 a.m., at the Belmont Harbor Yacht Club. Antonio King, LGBTQ health and outreach liaison ...


Gay News

Virtual reading, Q&A of 'The Normal Heart' with mostly LGBTQ+ and/or BIPOC cast on Dec. 4
2021-11-26
ONE Archives Foundation, in collaboration with Invisible Histories Project, announced today that a brand-new Q&A will follow an encore and final presentation of the historic virtual reading of Larry Kramer's Tony-winning play The Normal Heart. The ...


Gay News

Designer and entrepreneur Kiki Bryant discusses future of 'Lollipop Lola'
2021-11-26
On Jan. 21, 2021, Kiki Bryant set a $2,000 fundraising goal on Kiva.org to launch a children's doll based on her original book character, Lollipop Lola. The goal was met that same day. "That was a ...


Gay News

Chicago Bears score Thanksgiving win over winless Detroit
2021-11-26
In his first start in 10 weeks, quarterback Andy Dalton looked sharp with no signs of rust in helping the Bears edge the Lions 16-14 on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit. Replacing the injured Justin Fields, the ...


Gay News

COVID Chicago's travel advisory back up to 40 states and one territory
2021-11-24
The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) added two states to its weekly COVID-19 travel advisory on Nov. 23. The advisory stands at 40 states and one territory. Connecticut, whose daily COVID Case rate per 100,000 ...


Gay News

Local chefs to take part in James Beard series dinner
2021-11-23
Chef Cedric Harden, of the River North restaurant River Roast, will participate in the James Beard Foundation's 2021-2022 Taste America culinary series in collaboration with featured guest Chef Darnell Reed (of Luella's Southern Kitchen) o ...


Gay News

DuPage Democrat employee resigns after Wisconsin parade posts
2021-11-23
Mary Lemanski resigned from her role as social-media manager of the Democratic Party of DuPage County after being criticized for insensitive tweets she made about the parade tragedy in Waukesha, Wisconsin, according to NCTV17.com. In now-deleted ...


Gay News

Missouri district returning LGBTQ+ books to high school libraries
2021-11-23
In Missouri, the North Kansas City School district said it would return two books exploring LGBTQ+ themes to its high school libraries following public outcry, The Hill noted. The district announced its plans to reshelve All ...


Gay News

TV JoJo Siwa in finale of 'Dancing with the Stars' and the winner is…
2021-11-23
Queer social-media and reality-show figure JoJo Siwa made history on this season of Dancing with the Stars by being part of the series' first same-sex couple (with partner Jenna Johnson)—and the twosome made it all the ...


Gay News

Activist projects names of trans dead on Netflix HQ
2021-11-21
--From a press release - LOS GATOS — On the Trans Day of Remembrance, the names of trans people who died this year were projected onto Netflix's Silicon Valley headquarters. The words of light were visible from Winchester Boulevard, over the ...


Gay News

VIEWS Reporting on queers of color needs to investigate absence as much as presence
2021-11-19
Earlier this month, I pitched a Windy City Times article that sought to explore how role playing games (RPGs), such as Dungeons & Dragons, enable queer people of color (QPOC) to explore their gender and sexuality ...


Gay News

Brave Space Alliance, partners plan Memorial Luncheon, Town Hall on trans violence
2021-11-19
--From a press release - CHICAGO, IL — Nov. 19, 2021 — Brave Space Alliance and other community partner organizations will host a memorial luncheon and town hall to honor the memory of transgender people who have been murdered over the ...


Gay News

MOVIES 'Dante and Beatrice in Florence' Nov. 28-Dec. 5
2021-11-19
Porchlight Music Theatre is partnering with Hershey Felder Presents: Live from Florence and its second season of productions. The launch of this new season from Hershey Felder is the new musical film Dante and Beatrice in ...


 



Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.