“I would say that art is not just a single object on a wall, it’s not a single thing on a pedestal. It’s surrounded by a discourse. It’s a conversation that is already happening.”

JEREMY SUBLEWSKI (BFA 2019)

SPEAKS WITH

JOSH RIOS AND GIBRAN VILLALOBOS

two of the founders of Chicago's new Latinx Artists Retreat 

JEREMY SUBLEWSKI: It is no secret that conceptual and contemporary art can sometimes be a very specific interest. I am curious about how the demographic of people not educated in the arts be taken into consideration by curators and artist showing work in public venues. Do you see it as a problem, not being able to easily explain art to someone without a art education?

Josh Rios: I don’t see it as a problem. I’m kind of in to that issue. For my practice and for my thinking I’m not really interested in easily digestible things. Like common sense notions, naturalized ideas about the world, about what were supposed to get or understand or not understand. I kind of prefer things messier and less resolved.

So I’m always striving for that, for complexity. To embrace that opacity of knowing what things mean. That’s the first thing I would say to someone that was trying to understand the work. The first thing you have to do is be OK with not knowing what it means. And that’s part of it. That kind of 'What is the point of going to see these types of things?' Being confronted by something that you don’t know what it is, and not reacting immediately with, 'Ahh, screw that!” But instead reacting in a way that’s like, 'I don’t know what that means, and that's ok.'

Then let’s start with that place, and see what we can work up from there. So the second thing I would say is that art is not just a single object on a wall, it’s not a single thing on a pedestal. It’s surrounded by a discourse. And that’s a big word that can be confusing. It’s a conversation that is already happening. And if you don’t really want to be in that conversation, that’s ok but it takes to understand what it is you’re looking at you also have to interested in the conversations that are happening around the thing, and you have to be ok with this awkward moment of trying to get into that conversation. 

Jeremy Sublewski: How do we solve this dilemma, of having people have access to this great art, without belittling the the experience and work that people put in, in order to become specialist in there field?

Josh Rios: The first thing we have to think about is, 'How do we define the criteria of evaluation for great art?' Who defines that? Under what context does that get defined? What I’m interested in, more than making art accessible is thinking more about how creativity works in a general way. And there are existing alternatives to the way that creativity functions outside of the art world. Like art therapy for example is a way where creativity, thinking, making alongside the same way artist think. Thinking in those ways but not directing the output into the same systems. Not directing it to the gallery, or museum, but still using some of the same kind of methods, and then directing them in a different way. 
To me that is the more sensible or reasonable thing to think about: Access to creativity is maybe more important than access to art. Because students should have access to science, to technology, but everyone may not become an astrophysicist. But the access should be there engage creative thinking as much as possible. Critical, creative thinking. And also unpredictable forms of thinking, where you don’t know what the outcome is.

So the kind of thinking that isn’t defined by the goal.

I think that’s what art is to some degree. It’s like a process. My idea is that the best art is the process where it doesn’t already know what the final outcome is in advance.
 

photo: Josh Rios and Anthony Romero

JEREMY SUBLEWSKI: What role does curating play in your current practice as an art administrator? 

J. GIBRAN VILLALOBOS: Recently, I’ve been really disappointed in the way the term 'curator' is protected in a sanctimonious way. To me, curatorial work is a process. It’s a method that is really a tool, that is used by artists and is used by administrators.

So I wouldn’t defend it, and I wouldn’t only call myself 'a curator.'

Jeremy Sublewski: How accessible is contemporary art right now to those without an art education?

J. Gibran Villalobos: I often think about my dad. My dad is a truck driver in Arizona, and I remember one day I was on the phone with him when I was in graduate school. I was so frustrated because I couldn’t write an essay critiquing the white walls of the gallery. And I was say things like, ‘Dad, it's not welcoming and it's not the right conditions.' I took some time to think, 'Well, why would this matter to a guy that is working 10 hours a day doing things that actually matter in the real world?' 

So, for me it's creating a balance between artistic merit and artistic vision, but also inviting people to have comfort. Making mistakes, and understanding or maybe not understanding...is fine and it’s part of the process. 

But as I think about art education, I want to acknowledge that we have a grave problem in the United States right now. The cost of education is way to high. This institution is a private school, again, with a very heft price tag. So for me, if I can be a conduit to bring resources, whether they be artistic, whether they be experiences to a public, that doesn’t have to be validated by an institution or an organization, I welcome that. I want to make it accessible. There will always be a high-class art party happening. Let’s acknowledge that. It will always be there.  So why are we concerned with whether the people that are participating get it at our level or not. It doesn't matter to me. I just want it to be more hospitable, so that they have a place where they can see themselves. 
This is where my public art background really comes in. I encourage people to think of creative practices, of creative industries as a way for them to give value to the work that they do, not give value to the object, but give value to their own understanding of the object. 

Jeremy Sublewski: How do we make art more accessible, without belittling or denying the fact that art is a field of study that can require years of schooling, practice and research in order to be a specialist in the arts.  

J. Gibran Villalobos: I think what were getting at is an issue of time. Because I think the idea of a specialty of the prized degree, of having two degrees in this field, is just to demonstrate time. I’ve been engaged in this practice for 15 years, that’s why I’m a professional in this field.  And I think the separation really comes in when you have people that want to participate in the arts, but  don’t have the time to really engage in dialogue long enough to become this prized idea. So I think it’s a matter of opportunity and time. And, are there resources in place or structures in place where people can go and invest time in the practice in learning? 
I think that we’ve done a real poor job at making art accessible to people, just point blank.
If the museum charges twenty-five dollars just to go in, and if I have a family of four, that's a hundred bucks. And if we’re going to spend time with the art, that's four hours, and then we’ll be hungry, then all of the sudden it’s four meals, and all of the sudden it’s two hundred dollars.

If I’m being challenged with that, I can go to a free entertainment, public program done by a corporate organization doing something way cheaper. Less quality but more entertainment. So I think it’s a hard look at what the art world is trying to prize or value as, like, this old school, very private thing. 

Jeremy Sublewski: Anything else?

J. Gibran Villalobos: I have a personal urgency to talk about leadership, and the dismantling or the decolonizing of these spaces that we’re thinking of. We are going to come up against a very grave problem with not having pipelines toward leadership for individuals of color or people from different classes and socio-economic backgrounds.  So if we are really thinking about diversity, diversity unfortunately in our current state is administered in a hierarchical way. Because you have CEO’s, you have directors, and they’re the ones that make decisions on this trickled-down version of how we move in the art world.

As I was coming up in my own education, I was very hungry to have someone mentor me, to have someone teach me the ropes. I was actually recently speaking to a realtor for a building on Michigan, and he said, 'So you’re in the arts, you an artist?' That already tells me that there is very little public understanding of what an arts administrator does, first. And second, and I have to clarify and say I actually don't know a lot of this has been self taught, or it’s because my education at SAIC, but I guess we’re still coming up against this problem of who is teaching the emergent generation about how art administration works in a contemporary manner?

If we look at education programs, arts administration hasn’t really come into play as a field that was recognized by an institution up until like late 80’s, early 90’s, where we have some of the first art administration programs. So the people that are currently in director positions or CEO’s, they came from a different class, they were not trained in this way. So we need to be connecting emerging leaders, emerging students and be putting them on a pathway where they can also visualize how they are going to take the tools that they’ve learned and actually put them into use in institutions. So that’s my red flag that I’ve been waving for a couple of years now, thinking, as I start aging, 'What does this field look like for the next generation?' 

 “I would say that art is not just a single object on a wall, it’s not a single thing on a pedestal. It’s surrounded by a discourse. It’s a conversation that is already happening.”

JEREMY SUBLEWSKI (BFA 2019)

SPEAKS WITH

JOSH RIOS AND GIBRAN VILLALOBOS

two of the founders of Chicago's new Latinx Artists Retreat 

JEREMY SUBLEWSKI: It is no secret that conceptual and contemporary art can sometimes be a very specific interest. I am curious about how the demographic of people not educated in the arts be taken into consideration by curators and artist showing work in public venues. Do you see it as a problem, not being able to easily explain art to someone without a art education?

Josh Rios: I don’t see it as a problem. I’m kind of into that issue. For my practice and for my thinking, I’m not really interested in easily digestible things. Like common sense notions, naturalized ideas about the world, about what we're supposed to understand or not understand. I kind of prefer things messier and less resolved.

So I’m always striving for that, for complexity. To embrace that opacity of knowing what things mean. That’s the first thing I would say to someone that was trying to understand an artwork. The first thing you have to do is be OK with not knowing what it means. And that’s part of it. Being confronted by something that you don’t know what it is, and not reacting immediately with, 'Ahh, screw that!” But instead reacting in a way that’s like, 'I don’t know what that means, and that's OK.'

Then let’s start with that place, and see what we can work up to from there.

The second thing I would say is that art is not just a single object on a wall, it’s not a single thing on a pedestal. It’s surrounded by a discourse. And that’s a big word that can be confusing. It’s a conversation that is already happening. And if you don’t want to be in that conversation, that’s OK, but it takes time to understand what it is you’re looking at. You also have to be interested in the conversations that are happening around the thing, and you have to be OK with this awkward moment of trying to get into that conversation. 

Jeremy Sublewski: How do we solve this dilemma, of having people have access to this great art, without belittling the the experience and work that people put in, in order to become specialist in there field?

Josh Rios: The first thing we have to think about is, 'How do we define the criteria of evaluation for great art?' Who defines that? Under what context does that get defined? What I’m interested in, more than making art accessible is thinking more about how creativity works in a general way. And there are existing alternatives to the way that creativity functions outside of the art world.

Like art therapy, for example, is a way of creativity, thinking, and making, alongside the same way artist think. Thinking in those ways but not directing the output into the same systems. Not directing it to the gallery, or museum...but still using some of the same kind of methods, and then directing them in a different way. 
To me that is the more sensible or reasonable thing to think about: Access to creativity is maybe more important than access to art. 

Similarly to how students should have access to science, to technology, but everyone may not become an astrophysicist.

But the access should be there engage creative thinking as much as possible. Critical, creative thinking. And also unpredictable forms of thinking, where you don’t know what the outcome is.

The kind of thinking that isn’t defined by the goal.

I think that’s what art is to some degree. It’s like a process. My idea is that the best art is the process where it doesn’t already know what the final outcome is in advance.
 

photo: Josh Rios and Anthony Romero

JEREMY SUBLEWSKI: What role does curating play in your current practice as an art administrator? 

J. GIBRAN VILLALOBOS: Recently, I’ve been really disappointed in the way the term 'curator' is protected in a sanctimonious way. To me, curatorial work is a process. It’s a method that is really a tool, that is used by artists and is used by administrators.

So I wouldn’t defend it, and I wouldn’t only call myself 'a curator.'

Jeremy Sublewski: How accessible is contemporary art right now to those without an art education?

J. Gibran Villalobos: I often think about my dad. My dad is a truck driver in Arizona, and I remember one day I was on the phone with him when I was in graduate school. I was so frustrated because I couldn’t write an essay critiquing the white walls of the gallery. And I was say things like, ‘Dad, it's not welcoming and it's not the right conditions.' I took some time to think, 'Well, why would this matter to a guy that is working 10 hours a day doing things that actually matter in the real world?' 

So, for me it's creating a balance between artistic merit and artistic vision, but also inviting people to have comfort. Making mistakes, and understanding or maybe not understanding...is fine and it’s part of the process. 

But as I think about art education, I want to acknowledge that we have a grave problem in the United States right now. The cost of education is way to high. This institution is a private school, again, with a very heft price tag. So for me, if I can be a conduit to bring resources, whether they be artistic, whether they be experiences to a public, that doesn’t have to be validated by an institution or an organization, I welcome that. I want to make it accessible. There will always be a high-class art party happening. Let’s acknowledge that. It will always be there.  So why are we concerned with whether the people that are participating get it at our level or not. It doesn't matter to me. I just want it to be more hospitable, so that they have a place where they can see themselves. 
This is where my public art background really comes in. I encourage people to think of creative practices, of creative industries as a way for them to give value to the work that they do, not give value to the object, but give value to their own understanding of the object. 

Jeremy Sublewski: How do we make art more accessible, without belittling or denying the fact that art is a field of study that can require years of schooling, practice and research in order to be a specialist in the arts.  

J. Gibran Villalobos: I think what were getting at is an issue of time. Because I think the idea of a specialty of the prized degree, of having two degrees in this field, is just to demonstrate time. I’ve been engaged in this practice for 15 years, that’s why I’m a professional in this field.  And I think the separation really comes in when you have people that want to participate in the arts, but  don’t have the time to really engage in dialogue long enough to become this prized idea. So I think it’s a matter of opportunity and time. And, are there resources in place or structures in place where people can go and invest time in the practice in learning? 
I think that we’ve done a real poor job at making art accessible to people, just point blank.
If the museum charges twenty-five dollars just to go in, and if I have a family of four, that's a hundred bucks. And if we’re going to spend time with the art, that's four hours, and then we’ll be hungry, then all of the sudden it’s four meals, and all of the sudden it’s two hundred dollars.

If I’m being challenged with that, I can go to a free entertainment, public program done by a corporate organization doing something way cheaper. Less quality but more entertainment. So I think it’s a hard look at what the art world is trying to prize or value as, like, this old school, very private thing. 

Jeremy Sublewski: Anything else?

J. Gibran Villalobos: I have a personal urgency to talk about leadership, and the dismantling or the decolonizing of these spaces that we’re thinking of. We are going to come up against a very grave problem with not having pipelines toward leadership for individuals of color or people from different classes and socio-economic backgrounds.  So if we are really thinking about diversity, diversity unfortunately in our current state is administered in a hierarchical way. Because you have CEO’s, you have directors, and they’re the ones that make decisions on this trickled-down version of how we move in the art world.

As I was coming up in my own education, I was very hungry to have someone mentor me, to have someone teach me the ropes. I was actually recently speaking to a realtor for a building on Michigan, and he said, 'So you’re in the arts, you an artist?' That already tells me that there is very little public understanding of what an arts administrator does, first. And second, and I have to clarify and say I actually don't know a lot of this has been self taught, or it’s because my education at SAIC, but I guess we’re still coming up against this problem of who is teaching the emergent generation about how art administration works in a contemporary manner?

If we look at education programs, arts administration hasn’t really come into play as a field that was recognized by an institution up until like late 80’s, early 90’s, where we have some of the first art administration programs. So the people that are currently in director positions or CEO’s, they came from a different class, they were not trained in this way. So we need to be connecting emerging leaders, emerging students and be putting them on a pathway where they can also visualize how they are going to take the tools that they’ve learned and actually put them into use in institutions. So that’s my red flag that I’ve been waving for a couple of years now, thinking, as I start aging, 'What does this field look like for the next generation?' 

photo: J. Gibran Villalobos