In 2013, despite significant protest, the City of Chicago closed 50 public schools (CPS), displacing 12,000 children, predominantly in the city’s south and west neighborhoods. Chicago-based artist and craftsman, John Preus gained access to CPS materials slated for the landfill, and redirected six semi-loads of damaged desks, tables, chairs, and bookshelves to a vacant storefront in Washington Park. Over the past four years the CPS material became the basis for Preus’ work, a natural tool for his interest in creating dialogue about contemporary social-political, civic, and labor structures, and spawned such projects as The Beast, his 2014 solo exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center, along with a growing list of solo and group exhibitions locally and internationally. Countless repurposed cubes, tables, domestic and commercial remodels, and sculptural furniture objects created by Preus have been disbursed throughout the world as Infinite Archive Series. But still, the warehouse remains packed floor to ceiling with CPS furniture.
Upon invitation to exhibit at Open House Contemporary (OHC), Preus invited over 50 national and international artists, designers and architects to produce work using or based on the stockpile of CPS furniture. Imagined as an expanding and mutating memorial archive, Infinite Games invites both a playful and critical response to the issues of social upheaval, collective trauma, race and class, memorial, the archive, collective memory, education, that this collection of furniture evokes, but framed by the necessity of maintaining a functional space.
Participating artists will create installations, objects, wall pieces, functional work, interventions, and off- site projects for a 6-month exhibition at Open House Contemporary (OHC), opening concurrently with EXPO Chicago and the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Located at 740 N Ogden, OHC is a gallery and award-winning AirBnb, owned and operated by artist and designer Matthew Kellen. OHC consists of three 3-br apartments in a single building, which will be completely open for artists’ projects and site- specific installations. Local artists will make work, with fabrication and collaboration as needed, while international participants will send designs for prototyping or adaptation to the CPS materials. By putting a community of artists and designers in contact with abandoned public materials, new dialogues and conversations will emerge that can point to more ambitious responses to these and other large-scale social upheavals.