Presented in conjunction with Hyde Park Kunstverein, Ex-Static: George Kagan’s Radios features a striking body of over 50 hand-built radios and drawings produced over the past 14 years by self-taught Chicago artist George Kagan. Included are sets that range from small battery-powered units to towering jukebox inspired pieces. Throughout his decade and a half building radios, Kagan has also produced an archive of drawings, which act as concept sketches, schematics, and documentation.
As art objects, Kagan’s pieces occupy a hybrid space, with inexpensive car radio faces embedded into highly crafted wooden exteriors, and outfitted with tweeters, subwoofers, and amplifiers, offering up deliciously resonant sound. Kagan’s works jog in time, oscillating between technological obsolescence and nostalgia, mass manufacturing and skilled carpentry. Ex-Static offers a body of work that weds pop with symphony, all while conjuring up the distant pre-TV days when families gathered around the radio like an information shrine, as well as the more recent times when we carried stacks of cassette tapes in our cars. Kagan seems to be advocating for a radical form of capitalism, one that pushes back against our reality of planned obsolescence and constant technological updates leading to a cycle of throw-always. Kagan’s work recalls the beginnings of Radio Shack: one store in Boston run by Theodore and Milton Deutschmann, who were dedicated to providing intrepid customers with parts to build their own ham radios, but also its current incarnation as a multinational sprawl of franchises where the car radios are now purchased.
George Kagan lives in Chicago and worked as a dentist for the Chicago Board of Health. In 1997, he saw an advertisement from Grundig Radios announcing the reintroduction of a wooden radio it manufactured in the 50′s. His kitchen floor quickly became a makeshift woodworking studio where he taught himself how to build pieces that exhibit aesthetic, acoustic and electronic precision, at times dipping into forms and concepts of Modernism and the International Style, and exploring how the Golden Ratio impacts sound.