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Exhibition at U. of I. Chicago art gallery focuses on inmates' inventions

Melissa Mitchell, Arts Editor

Mary Antonakos, I space coordinator


desk and chair
Click photo to enlarge
Desk and chair

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — After an extensive tour throughout Europe and the United States, the exhibition “Prisoners’ Inventions” will return to Chicago for a homecoming show Dec. 9 through Jan. 28 at I space, the Chicago gallery of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

A collaboration between the Chicago-based group Temporary Services and Angelo, a prisoner incarcerated in California, the exhibition includes drawings, blueprints, a replica of Angelo’s cell and recreations of the prisoners’ inventions by Temporary Services members Brett Bloom, Salem Collo-Julin and Marc Fischer. The group previously co-edited a book of Angelo’s writings and drawings.

Featured inventions include a number of innovative products fashioned from materials at hand and created to make prison life more tolerable. Inventions range from cooking appliances and cigarette lighters to chess sets, condoms and a tattoo gun.

cell view from door
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View of cell from door.

The I space exhibition will be the most extensive showing of “Prisoner’s Inventions” to date and will include several new drawings that have never been exhibited or published. The show also will feature video demonstrations and a reading library.

An opening reception is scheduled to take place from 5-7 p.m. on Dec. 9 at the gallery, 230 W. Superior St., Chicago.

Several other events are planned in conjunction with the exhibition as well, including:

• Dec. 10, 1 p.m., gallery tour and invention-making workshop with Temporary Services.

• Dec. 15, 8 p.m., screening of “A Man Escaped,” a 1956 French film directed by Robert Bresson, about a French man who devises numerous inventions to cope with his incarceration by German soldiers during the occupation of France.

• Dec. 17, noon to 2 p.m., “Prison Design,” a public talk by Kevin Henry, an industrial designer and coordinator of Columbia College’s product design program, and Glen A. Hodgson, an architect who has helped with the planning and design of 33 adult and juvenile correctional facilities. The discussion will be moderated by Temporary Services and Jeffery Poss, a U. of I. professor of architecture.

• Jan. 5, 8 p.m., screening of “Carandiru,” a 2003 Brazilian film directed by Hector Babenco, based on the real-life experiences of Dr. Drauzio Varella, who worked at the Carandiru prison in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in the 1990s.

More information about Temporary Services and “Prisoners’ Inventions” is available online.

I space gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.