John Preus: The Beast

Gallery 1

Upcoming events for The Beast (or visit the events page)

Intertwining spectacle and site, John Preus’ The Beast, becomes a new space for cultural inquiry, public dialogue and creative production within the Hyde Park Art Center. Preus will transform the main gallery’s interior with a complex architectural framework inspired by the form of a dead steer emblematic of violence and sacrifice, fabricating the structure from harvested materials including upholstery leather and discarded wood and furniture from recently closed Chicago Public Schools. Existing as an type of community center throughout the span of the exhibition, The Beast will be activated through corresponding performances, discussions and educational offerings programmed by the artist and collaborators. An updated calendar of events is provided.  The belly of The Beast includes storytelling, live music, sermons, panel discussions, dinners, and more to explore the use and social value of public space, and how collective experience can encourage the development of a better city.

Best known for his work as the lead fabricator for Theaster Gates, and the principal designer and builder of the Dorchester Projects, Archive House, Preus founded Dilettante Studios in 2010, which designs and builds cabinets, furniture, and residential and commercial spaces, relying almost exclusively on second-hand materials. He co-founded SHOP (Southside Hub of Production), a collective of artists, educators, and local civic organizations, and has collaborated with countless others on projects that make up his multifaceted practice. The Beast is the culmination of Preus’ yearlong participation in the Jackman Goldwasser Residency at Hyde Park Art Center, and is his most ambitious solo exhibition to date. The exhibition showcases his skill in adaptive design and architecture as well as his interest in creative placemaking, and draws heavily on new and longstanding collaborators, including Jim Duignan, Iker Gil, Jamie Kalven, and Laura Shaeffer among others.

The large-scale, two-floor intervention designed and built by Preus responds to the Art Center’s experimental architecture by Doug Garofalo, and echoes its mission to engage the community through participation in the arts. The belly of The Beast, which will resemble the skeletal structure of a cathedral interior and will open to the Art Center’s outdoor plaza, will include storytelling, live music, sermons, panel discussions, dinners, and more. The diverse programming schedule will be determined by Preus and collaborators to raise questions about the use and social value of public space, and how collective experience can encourage the development of a better city.

About the artist:
John Preus (b.1971) is a Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist. He holds an MFA from the University of Chicago (2005) and studied furniture-making in Minnesota with John Nesset. Preus founded Dilettante Studios in 2010, co-founded SHoP (2011), and Material Exchange (2005). Preus was the creative director of the Rebuild Foundation shop until 2012 and project lead for Theaster Gates' 12 Ballads for Huguenot House, at Documenta 13. Preus is currently a Jackman Goldwasser resident at Hyde Park Art Center leading up to his solo exhibition, The Beast. His work has been exhibited at EXPO Chicago, The Heilbronn Kunstverein in Germany, The Experimental Sound Studio, The Portland Museum of Contemporary Craft, The Huguenot House in Kassel, Germany during Documenta 13, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Betty Rhymer Gallery, The Chicago Cultural Center, The Devos Art Museum, The St. Louis Art Guild, and The Smart Museum of Art.

This project is partially supported by: The Andy Warhol Foundation, Patricia Kay Swanson, Theaster Gates, and The Chuck Fund. The Beast program is made possible in part by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly and Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

The Jackman Goldwasser Residency at Hyde Park Art Center positions Chicago as a worldwide destination for visual art by bringing local and global artists together to work side by side in our studios, deepening engagement between local, national, and international contemporary art practices.

Image: John Preus, sketch for The Beast, 2013, pencil and ink on paper, 24 x 36 inches