Category Archives: Chicago

Ensemble Dal Niente brings a contemporary tone to the 8th Latino Music Festival

Chicago–Sitting on a dimly lit stage and facing a crowded auditorium, members from the Ensemble Dal Niente forcefully pluck away the strings, gently hit the keys, valiantly blow the woodwinds, and gently vocalize stories situated somewhere between the baritone and alto range as they embark on a journey through time and space.

This presentation marks the ensemble’s debut at The Latino Music Festival in a setting that had its fair share of emotional as well as eccentric moments through an act that journeyed through the classic as well as the contemporary in an attempt to spread awareness of the diverse background of Latino music.

Dal Niente’s performance at The Harold Washington Library’s Cindy Pritzker Auditorium on November 14th was both traditional and innovative in its delivery.

Along with some classical Spanish pieces such as the baroque “Con que la lavare”, the ensemble also performed more contemporary pieces such as  “Apartamento Polsen Apartamento” Peterson by Mauricio Pauly, which  had never been played in the United States before, and “Who Cares if She Cries I” by Jocy de Oliveira.

Austin Wulliman, Dal Niente violinist and program director said “ the programming (of the performance) is meant to represent a wide array of musical styles and diverse voices.”

“We hope the audience comes away with an appreciation for the wide array of musical styles and poignant voices of the composers highlighted for this festival,” Wulliman said.

Both of the modern pieces were chosen because of the composers’ Latino background and their significance in the contemporary art world.

“Apartamento Polsen Apartamento,” written by Mauricio Pauly (b. 1974), a Costa Rican composer based in the UK who is co-director and founder of the Distractfold Ensemble and the Altavoz Composers, is an avant-garde piece that features saxophone, cello, and piano.

The production, which runs approximately nine minutes, is spatially performed as the instruments are sporadically played, thus reflecting a wide spectrum of themes including passion, violence, and peace through bursts of distorted notes. The most interesting feature of  “Apartamento Polsen Apartamento” is the constant and at times menacing presence of silence, as if it was being played just like any other ordinary instrument would.

It was originally debuted at the Premiered at the Centro Gallego de Arte Contemporáneo (Galician Centre for Contemporary Art) in Santiago de Compostela, Spain on November 2011 and was revised by Pauly himself for the Ensemble DalNiente performance at the Latino Music Festival.

“Who Cares if She Cries I,” written by Brazilian composer Jocy de Oliveira (b. 1936), whose work has been featured in prestigious musical festival such as the Berliner Festspiele in Germany and the International festival of Campos de Jordao in Brazil, is a simple yet haunting piece that features the cello and a soprano vocal performance.

This contemporary orchestra piece, which debuted in 2000 and was revised for smaller ensembles such as Dal Niente in 2003, plays out like an emotional rollercoaster by featuring haunting multi-scale string performance ranging from an ever present hum to an exalted jump in notes as the piece progresses.

The other half of the song comes in the shape of an unusual and daring vocal performance, which invocates the wide array of human emotions through spoken word, chirping, and aphonic chants. In this case the magnificent vocal performance was delivered by 2010 Mcknight Artist Fellow and baroque soprano Carry Henneman Shaw.

According to Wulliman, Henneman Shaw as chosen for this piece because “ she is a truly magical and versatile musician, with an incredibly flexible voice.”

“Her musical talents show in full with music ranging from early Spanish music (Carrie is a well-respected early music expert) to the newest of the new (music written for Dal Niente this year),” Wulliman said.

For the Ensemble Dal Niente the show has a special significance as it marks their first collaboration with The Chicago Latino Music Festival.

Founded in 2004 at Northwestern University by composer Kristen Broberg, the ensemble consists of young artists and international virtuosos. The ensemble is well known for “presenting the best of music being written today by established, emerging, and as-yet-undiscovered composers.”

Now an established institution, Ensemble Dal Niente will often hold residencies at different schools and universities.

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The ensemble also includes in its ranks “faculty from DePaul University, conducting staff and members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, former participants in the Lucerne Festival and International Ensemble Modern Academies, and past fellows of the Aspen Music Festival’s Contemporary Ensemble.”

Dal Niente’s program for the show was chosen in conjunction with the festival organizers in an attempt to promote awareness of music from Latin America, Spain and Portugal, ranging from the baroque period to the modern composers in the 21st century.

The performance is meant to reach audience members like Carelia Drake, 62, who may come from more traditional music backgrounds but are looking to expand their musical horizons.

“I listen to all kinds of music because music is language,” Drake said. “I am here because I want to be versatile and learn, whether it’s Latino, Chinese , old, new,etc.”

Dal Niente violinist Austin Wulliman said that their participation in the festival is exciting because the festival,   “is a very respected and (an) established part of the musical landscape in Chicago.”

Thanks to events like The Latino Music festival and their organizing institutions, Chicago has seen an increase in awareness of the influence of Latino music culminating in more pro-active performances including a recent performance by Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado, 35, with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

This year’s acts mark the 8th edition of The Latino Music Festival.

The festival was created by Latino musicians and composers Elbio Rodriguez Barilari and Gustavo Leone in an attempt to bring Latino music to broader audiences in the city and beyond.

“The purpose of the festival is to create awareness,” Leone said. “We want to create awareness of different music that comes from a Hispanic heritage.”

Presented by the International Latino Cultural Center, the festival includes an impressive roster of internationally acclaimed artists while emphasizing local talent.

The festival is possible by generous grants and donations from the Joyce Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust, along with 18 different supporting institutions.

The festival runs from September 20th until December 15th, and includes 23 shows by 22 different artists, at 10 different venues all across the city including The Harold Washington Library and The University of Chicago and one theatre in Peoria.

Infographic by Juan Latapi,2013.
Infographic by Juan Latapi,2013.

Q&A: Len Dominguez on “Carlos and Dominguez Art Gallery”

Ever since opening 18 years ago, “Carlos & Dominguez  Fine Art Gallery”  has served as an open space for a diverse artistic community where they can express their emotions through different mediums.

Carlos Dominguez and one of his favorite pieces from “Puntadas del Alma / Stitches of the Soul “  (photo by Juan Latapi,2013)
Carlos Dominguez and one of his favorite pieces from “Puntadas del Alma / Stitches of the Soul “ (photo by Juan Latapi,2013)

Sitting in the middle of the gallery located at the intersection of Cullerton and Ashland in Pilsen, Len Dominguez, art collector, former art magazine editor, retired board of education member, and owner of the gallery, proudly discusses his gallery’s involvement in the community while showcasing his latest exhibit “Puntadas del Alma / Stitches of the Soul “ which was created for the Pilsen’s Open Studios event earlier in October this year.



Q: How does your gallery fit in the Pilsen/Chicago art scene?

Well, we’re a pretty well known community-art gallery. We often try to have a good mix of lot of veteran artists, and young upcoming artists.  We do a lot of first time exhibitions for photography, sculpture and of course regular plastic arts. It’s not about money, but helping and supporting arts and artists will know that and appreciate it.  The community of artists knows we’re here, everybody supports each other, and it’s a pretty tight community. We will occasionally do art auctions to help artists that are ill or that are recently defunct to help with the families with the different costs. This exhibit in particular was for the Open Studios event that just passed and it is possible thanks to women that work in the back rooms of The National Mexican museum of Art and it involves them telling their stories through quilts. When we proposed to them the idea of doing an exhibit, they were immediately excited to do it and it has a received a good response form the community so far.

Q: You mentioned Open Studios, do you think that these kind of events help to support the artistic community?

Yes, it’s been going on for ten years now and it’s something that most everyone participates… it increases the sense of community and forces artists to go out and see different art while creating a support network.

Q: Since we’re talking bout Pilsen being a tight community, what role do you think it plays in the art world as a whole?

Pilsen artists are well known around the world.  Thanks to modern technology, once something is posted online, we’ll have people from places like Germany contacting us when visiting to make sure they come see the pieces. A lot of the pieces have been exhibited in places like Berlin and Paris. I think it’s only going to grow because of multimedia elements like twitter and blogs, I just started myself and I’m enjoying it because I can get more information from different sources about art.

Q:  Do you think besides technology and media, are there other factors that are changing the way artists express themselves now at days?

Ever since I started in the 1970s, I always knew that artists are very sensitive to stuff going on around them. They’re sensitive to politics to culture, they are open and they way they absorb information and translate into art mediums. They illustrate the essence of their stories; I call them the soul and conscience of society. They often think about where is society going. That will affect their delivery and message. Unfortunately you see more violent images, because society and the world is a mess and that affects everyone especially artists and you cant put your finger on it but they are able to react to everything going on out there in their neighborhood, city, etc. more effectively. I think that’s always been the case and now they can get information more quickly now through technology. The standards of how much we can push issues like sexuality and violence are rising as well and that changes a lot of the imagery.

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Carlos & Dominguez Art Gallery

1538 W. Cullerton St. Chicago, IL 60608



New Media exhibit “Shift” delights the senses

“Shift”, a new media exhibit delights the senses through the right combination of sound and vision.

The exhibit created by Chicago-based collaborative Luftwerk, whose previous projects include the colorful Luminous Field at Chicago’s Cloud City in 2012, aims to explore the basic relationship between color and light through a splendid display of sights and sounds. “Shift,” which is being exhibited at the Chicago Cultural Center until January 5, 2014, and is free of charge, is able to amplify a heightened experience of sight, color, and sound through the medium of projected light.

The exhibit is split into three very different stages set in different rooms; Spectrum, Synthesis, and Threshold. Each of these rooms aims to give the audience a very different experience from the one before.

Going from room to room, one can’t help to become part of the exhibit itself by colorfully blending into the sensory overloading panorama formed by an extreme spectrum of light and colors.

“Shift” is driven by Luftwerk’s interest in determining how the human eye perceives color through the shift between light and dark.  This exhibit manages to do that by pulling the viewer into a surreal experience, which often invocates different feelings and emotions ranging from awe to gloom as one transitions through narrow white hallways between rooms.

From the gleeful saturation of color and the peaceful serenity of light and shadow from the first two rooms, to the darkness created by the absence of such elements in the last one, “Shift” can give each viewer a different experience every time.

The new media exhibit is based on some very basic principles but the delivery method is far from it.

Carefully researched and crafted by the artist collaborative, the exhibit borrows inspiration from previous works created by renowned artists such as Josef Albers, Johannes Itten, and Wolfgang Von Goethe.

The simplicity of the exhibit successfully delivers a complex experience to the viewers by making them emerge into the abstract concept of sound and vision through the perfect combination of light and sound.

“Shift” delivers a delightful experience without all the bells and whistles, and that is ultimately what art is all about.

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Owners of newly restored Thalia Hall in Pilsen hope it will become one of Chicago’s hottest live venues

CHICAGO–The owners of the newly restored historic Thalia Hall in Pilsen hope that it will become one of Chicago’s hottest performance venues while putting the neighborhood on the live scene map.

Located on the intersection of 18th Street and Allport, the long abandoned performance space built in 1892 by Czech architect John Dusek is quickly being restored by the new owners (Craig Golden and Bruce Finkelman from The Empty Bottle) and it will “reopen in 2014 and again serve its community, hosting music, festivals, films and performance.”

Speaking to a small crowd inside the theatre during the Chicago Architectural Foundation’s Open House event, Will Duncan, one of the project organizers/ manager of the John Dusek tavern located right below the hall,and former Longman and Eagle commander said, “everyone is behind the project and we’re moving quickly to restore the venue to its original working state.”

The venue is part of the Thalia Hall complex, named for the Greek Muse of comedy, is part of a work/performing living space designed by John Dusek in 1892. The architecture of the building mimics some of the most famous buildings in the Czech Republic and the theatre itself is a smaller replica of the Plzen Theatre, from the city which the neighborhood was named after by Czech immigrants in the 19th century.

After several changes in ownership, the building fell into a state of disrepair in the 1960s, and was turned into residential units, leaving the theatre largely abandoned until 2013 when it was bought out by Golden and Finkelman.

The venue will provide a much-needed film and musical performance space in a community that until now has mostly consisted of Mexican bars and nightclubs.

Ramon Gutierrez, 34, a long time Pilsen resident and artist said that “(he’s) glad to see that the neighborhood is becoming more diverse,” Gutierrez said. “We have plenty of art galleries but a big performance space like this could be a game changer.”

One of the most recent events that was held at Talia Hall was the alternative film festival “Dinca Vision Quest” in August 2012.  Although  the event will take place in some another venue this year due to construction, the newly restored Thalia Hall should provide a new home for such events starting in 2014.

Back when the festival was presented last year, Andrew Rosinski the organizer of the event expressed “the excitement that a venue would give the opportunity to such an alternative art, something that most of Chicago is lacking.”

It is amazing what a new attitude and management can do. Back when Dinca Vision Quest was presented, the performance space was still in a great state of disrepair, with the paint from the walls rotting away and the neo-classic gold fixtures of the wall hanging by a thread.

Now, as Duncan speaks to the crowd, one can see a noticeable difference, especially with the new hardwood floors, the restored fixtures, and the cleaned up balcony section which almost brings the venue back to life.

The restored venue will be able to hold up to 4,000 people and is expected to start holding events in the summer of 2014 in hopes that the venue will revive the live performance scene in Pilsen.

“There is still a lot to do,” Duncan pointed out while speaking in front of a video being projected onto the wall that showed some of the progress made so far, “but we are well on our way.”

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Captain Phillips

Rating: Screen shot 2013-10-17 at 12.17.19 PM out of 4

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be captured and terrorized by dangerous pirates, “Captain Phillips” can give you a pretty good idea without the danger of actually being there in person.

Through excellent filmmaking that includes shaky camera work and immaculate acting not only by Tom Hanks, but a very convincing supporting cast, Captain Phillips manages to capture the essence of what it’s like to be captured by modern day pirates.

Director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93) employs some of his same docudrama techniques ( nerve-wracking shaky camera work, grainy film, tense storyline) to tell the true story about a 2009 American cargo ship hijack by Somali pirates.

Within the first 20 minutes, “Captain Phillips” jumps into the action, and without looking back grabs the audience and holds on to them until the very emotionally draining climax.

The first half of the movie focuses on the actual highjacking, where the Somali pirates attempt to board the ship twice, finally succeeding despite Phillips’ attempts to repel them by using emergency maneuvers such as doubling the speed of the ship and using flares as projectiles.

After succeeding in hiding the crew from the pirates, the focus shifts on Captain Phillips himself, as he is put in a claustrophic covered lifeboat, with the pirates demanding a multi-million dollar ransom in exchange for his return and the U.S. navy employing different tactics to secure his rescue.

Although Hanks provides a steady anchor for audiences, the best work comes from the supporting cast, especially the pirates lead by the skinny, bug-eyed Muse (Barkhad Abdi) who seem to emulate a more realistic and literally barebones version of characters from an American gangster movie such as “Goodfellas” or “Casino.”

“Captain Phillips,” out now in theatres around the United states, entrances audiences by taking them on a psychologically charged whirlwind that often employs tight camera shots, in tight quarters, and in tight situations.

It was not uncommon to hear different out loud reactions from the audience as the movie moved from suspenseful frame to frame.


There’ so much that’s been said about that day, but for me it signaled the beginning of a new era.

The events that took place on that day changed not only the way that I looked at the world, but the way that I looked at myself.

On that day I had been living in the Chicago suburbs ( and in the US) for almost exactly six months.

For me, even though I was brand new to this country and opportunities seemed endless, I still yearned for everything I used to know in my home in Mexico City, and found it hard to adapt and accept it as my new home.

I remember sitting in the locker room at my high school changing from my gym clothes, the first class of the day, when our principal announced on the overhead speakers that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers in New York.

I still remember the echo of the laughter in the room when a couple of my classmates joked about of the possibility of an inebriated pilot crashing a small plane into the building by accident.

I decided to head to the library and check it out for myself, but there, no one was laughing.

As I entered the library, I saw some footage of a commercial airliner crashing into one of the towers.

Many of the students sitting down were holding the hand over their mouths, and shaking their heads in disbelief. I asked one of my classmates if they were still replaying the crash over and over. The time was 8:05, 9:05 New York time.

It took me a couple of minutes to realize that I was witnessing the events as they were unfolding, a second plane had just crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center.

As the bell rang, I went to my algebra class and assumed that the worst was over. I was wrong.

A couple of minutes before the class was over, our principal announced in a very solemn tone that both of the towers had collapsed.

At that point, everyone and everything stopped.

I remember looking at the somber expressions in everyone’s faces as I walked to my locker. To this day, I can still feel the stillness and limbo-like silence that roamed through the hallway like a cold gentle breeze.

As soon as I got home, I found my mother glued to the television and proceeded to join her for the next eight hours or so, until my eyes could take no more.

The scenes that were played over and over possessed my dreams that night, and the next day I could still not believe it.

“It’s all a bad dream,” I said to myself. “That cannot have happened in real life.”

And still, years later, many of us still have trouble figuring out what to make out of these senseless attacks of violence. Some people do it by concocting juicy conspiracy theories, others by trying to find a higher meaning to it.

For me, it signified the end of an era.

That is a day that not only changed the world, but also changed me in many ways that i would not comprehend until years later. Because for the very first time, I found something in common where I could consider myself part of America and the United States my new home.

As I look back in this solemn day, I find comfort in knowing that even though nothing good comes out of violence and nothing ever could, it brought me closer to the good people of the United States, and catalyzed the process in which I accepted this great country as my new home.

That’s the day in which Me and I, became Us.