Residency: Tomas Rivas

Author: Dept. Staff

Tomas Rivas ended his stay with Notre Dame last semester with a residency at threewalls in Chicago.

The residency lasted from December 10 through January 6, with a closing reception and installation in the resident project room on January 11.




With construction materials, embroidery thread, and an exacto knife Tomás Rivas has sewn, drawn, stacked, cut, and carved an installation inspired by the Robert Taylor Homes, the high rise, low cost, high density, massively unsuccessful housing project that transformed the life and landscape of 1960s South Chicago. Like the Columbian Exposition of 1893, which ultimately created the classical urban framework into which the 1960s project was inserted, the Robert Taylor Homes were intended as a statement of architectural and social principle and as a vision for the future. Their value now as a powerful symbol lies in the utter destruction of countless lives and in the visual metaphor of their only remaining physical artifact, a narrow fifteen-block-long gash in the city, an eerily empty corridor still edged in places by the old low-rise south slums they sought to replace, in others, ironically, by new low-rise versions of the old housing landscape.

The results of the Robert Taylor Homes project were unforeseen and disastrous, the absolute opposite of poverty mitigation and living enhancement. The defining characteristic of life in the Projects was completely unintentional: an even narrower strip—the unexamined consequence of two continuous parallel lines of high rise apartments—resulted in a children’s playground removed from parental oversight by intervening floors and stairways, and in a lawless pedestrian alleyway isolated from the surrounding avenues and watchful eye of the Chicago police. The buildings were intentional, but the nature of the central space they inadvertently created was perhaps their most profound consequence. It is this space and the void left by the Taylor project today that Tomas Rivas addresses most directly in this installation.  (Text by Robin Rhodes)


threewalls was founded in 2003 to provide greater support and visibility for the visual arts community in Chicago. The founders wanted to encourage a greater awareness of Chicago’s art scene by inviting emerging professional artists to Chicago to share in the city’s rich histories, resources and creative communities. In an effort to provide meaningful support to emerging artists, curators and writers, threewalls has worked to form a sustainable organization that provides exhibition space, residency opportunities and artist fees to both visiting artists through the residency fellowship and to regional artists through the SOLO program.


Today, threewalls operates a year-round self-directed research residency; commissions a major project by a visiting artist working in, collaborating and otherwise interacting with the region; supports four SOLO exhibitions of work by local and regional artists; programs a SALON series  and symposium program to generate open dialogue, presentation of new ideas and the publication of new writing; as well as partnering with other organizations on publication and education, in an effort to broaden and contribute to the contemporary visual arts.