Outside the Walls: Balas & Wax present Settlement

Outside the Walls: Balas & Wax present Settlement

09/15/2018 - 11/11/2018

This exhibition is over.

Opening Reception:

Inaugurating Threewalls’ Outside the Walls initiative, the Chicago contemporary art and community organization presents Settlement, the artist collaborative Balas & Wax’s roving, multifaceted project based in the artists’ northside neighborhood of Edgewater. Settlement launches September 15, 2018, with a sculptural installation in Lincoln Park. The installation—a series of ghostly architectural sculptures raised high above the park—evokes the city’s history of human and material displacement.

In a meditation on migration and the complications of urban development, Settlement uncovers the material and human connections between Chicago’s North and West side communities and the histories that bind them. Tracing that history back to the construction of the Eisenhower Expressway and the northern tip of Lake Shore Drive, the project integrates the voices of residents, past and present, to create works that resist dominant civic and media narratives.

During the mid-20th century, Chicago was split east to west by a quarter-mile-wide trench along Congress Street to make way for the Eisenhower Expressway. Homes, businesses, and places of worship were seized by eminent domain and razed. Rubble from these buildings, as well as the soil beneath them, was used as landfill for the final extension of Lake Shore Drive and its adjacent parks and beaches. In Settlement, this material migration serves as a metaphor for the human migrations that have continually shaped the dynamics of the city’s North and West side neighborhoods.

Between September 15 and November 11, Settlement’s sculptural installation will be displayed in storefront windows on the Sheridan Road façade of the landmark Edgewater Beach Apartments building.

The project will be presented in Lincoln Park locations on September 15, September 29, and October 13.

On October 5, Balas & Wax and Axis Lab will present a walking tour of Argyle Street and its history as a landing point for Vietnamese immigrants.

The installation is accompanied by a takeaway artist book, available at all events. A monograph on Settlement is forthcoming from Threewalls, with contributions from National Book Award-winning poet and translator Daniel Borzutzky;writer, editor and translator Gabriela Jauregi, part of the Bogotá39 list of the 39 best Latin American writers under 40; artist, educator, and scholar Patricia Nguyen, whose research and performance work is deeply shaped by critical refugee studies; historian David A. Spatz, Executive Director of the American Society for Environmental History; and artist and writer Buzz Spector, whose work is concerned with relationships between public history, individual memory, and perception.

Program Details:

Settlement Opening
Saturday, September 15, 2018
3:00-6:00 p.m.
Lincoln Park at Bryn Mawr Ave.
east of Lake Shore Drive

Join Balas & Wax and Threewalls for the launch of Settlement. Visitors will be invited into conversation and offered the opportunity to contribute their stories to a crowdsourced history of the city’s migrations.

Open House

Saturday, September 29, 2018
1:00-5:00 p.m.
Lincoln Park at Bryn Mawr Ave.
east of Lake Shore Drive

Join Balas & Wax and Threewalls under Settlement’s sculptural installation. Visitors will be invited into conversation and offered the opportunity to contribute their stories to a crowdsourced history of the city’s migrations.

Argyle Street Walking Tour with Axis Lab

Friday, October 5, 2018

6:00-7:00 p.m.

Chinese Mutual Aid Association, 1016 W. Argyle St.

Tour departs promptly at 6:00 p.m.

Argyle Street is known historically as a port of entry for immigrants and refugees in Chicago. Currently, a vibrant Southeast Asian business district with the only “shared street” in the state of Illinois, this community member-led tour, will address the area’s history, politics of development, and an emerging arts initiative through local murals, architecture, and stories. Curated menus will be available from a variety of neighborhood restaurants for those choosing to dine locally after the tour.

Axis Lab is a community-centered platform that centers art, food, and design to advocate for equitable and inclusive development. Tour guides include: Patricia Nguyen, the executive director of Axis Lab, her father, Tam Van Nguyen, a community leader in the area for over 35 years (also known as the “Mayor of Argyle”), and Steve Moon, Director of Organizing at Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

Open House

Saturday, October 13, 2018
1:00-5:00 p.m.
Just East of the Edgewater Beach Apartments

5555 Sheridan Rd. at Bryn Mawr Ave.
Join Balas & Wax and Threewalls on Open House Chicago weekend as Settlement migrates to the park east of the iconic Edgewater Beach Apartments. Visitors will be invited to view the sculptural installation in relation to the city’s original waterfront seawall, which now sits nearly half a mile inland.



Balas & Wax is the ongoing collaborative art practice of Susy Bielak and Fred Schmalz, whose work focuses on the gravity and strangeness of contemporary cities. Their research draws from ethnography, journalism, and academic research, mining text and visual references, and looking for unexpected—even absurd—connections among government records, news stories, ephemera, and archival photographs.

Their work incorporates a broad range of influences to examine the visible and invisible workings of daily life and the dynamics of history. Susy’s upbringing in a diasporic Spanish-speaking immigrant community in Pittsburgh at a time of its de-industrialization and Fred’s familial connections to St. Louis and Chicago’s histories of urban transformation spurred their ongoing interests in the interplay of people and place.

Their work has been exhibited at EXPO Chicago, Experimental Sound Studio, The Franklin, Adds Donna, and other venues. They have recently received project funding from Threewalls and the Chicago Artists Coalition. They will be in residence at Hyde Park Art Center in October and November 2018, in advance of their participation in Health Club, a group exhibition opening in December 2018.


Susy Bielak

Susy Bielak is an artist, writer, curator, programmer and educator whose projects have ranged from a happening staged on a seismic shake table, to prints pulled from engraved Formica kitchen tabletops. Collaborators have included rodeo cowboys, bus drivers, a veteran barbershop quartet, choreographers and engineers. Bielak’s work has been exhibited and collected nationally and internationally, including by the International Print Center, San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, and Walker Art Center. Her artwork and writing have been published in Art Papers, New American Paintings, and Poetry Magazine, among others. Bielak received her MFA from the University of California San Diego.


Fred Schmalz

Fred Schmalz an artist, poet, and editor whose current writing focuses on textual response to encounters with dance, music, architecture, and visual art. His debut poetry collection, Action in the Orchards, will be published by Nightboat Books in 2019. He edits and publishes the micropress Swerve Press.


*This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and the Alphawood Foundation.

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