Art & Artists by John Coyle Steinbrunner

July 29th, 2010

Great Expectorations

Doug Fogelson plays it cool. I mean, yes, he’s a cool dude and all, but in conversation he is preternaturally calm, collected, well-spoken and polite. Some of his recent works suggest otherwise: salt, dirt, spray paint and spit aren’t just the subjects of his work, they make it too.

Photo courtesy of Cathy Sunu

Doug hosted a Salon Series in June and featured a retrospective of recent work, including a wall of photograms (photographs made by laying objects directly on photo paper and exposing them to light). For a long time Doug’s work has explored the time aspect of photography: how does the passage of time affect how we understand, mark and memorialize our experiences? With the photograms, the subjects make the image directly. In the new Spit series, Fogelson assaults the paper with mouthfuls of, say, Scotch, and a colored light to create images that slide between ethereal image to material, chemical reality. They are prisms into a fading process most of us only know glancingly with our camera phones. If I could call something aggressively haunting, this would be that.

Photos courtesy of Doug Fogelson

Doug’s cool, but these photos hint at something hotter beneath the surface. He described them at Salon as coming out of a punk rock-inspired “fuck you” gesture – late nights with booze, flash lights and other liquids of varying viscosity above a floor covered in photo emulsion paper. There’s a visceral, disgusting aspect to them. Then they grow. They become nebulae and interstellar pits. They become ectoplasm and cold fire. They advance and recede. They are coy and bold, present, but maddeningly aloof. In a word, they are beautiful in the way beauty is: forever fleeting, even as you stand before it.

Photos courtesy of Doug Fogelson

And you can stand (or sit) before them at The Bluebird (1749 N. Damen Ave.) through August. If you can’t make it to the ‘Bird, you may be out of luck: the only other showing of the Spit series is hanging in Seoul. According to Doug, “Spitting is frowned upon in Korean culture, so presenting it abstractly and in a different way is kind of wild.” Wild, yes, and most definitely cool.

Doug’s next show, “Field Work,” opens Friday, August 13 at the Chicago Urban Art Society.

-John Coyle Steinbrunner

J.C. is a painter in Chicago. He also founded and hosts The Salon Series to bring audiences and creatives together over dinner for an evening of discussion. He prefers Mexican lagers, Gibson guitars and the window seat. More about his art and work can be found at

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