Tag Archives: angel casey

In Memoriam: Genevieve “Gene” Bowen

by Legendary Lew

I’m saddened to learn of the passing of important Chicago artist Genevieve “Gene” Bowen. The folks at The Underground Multiplex first met her while working on The Resurrection of Tristan Meinecke.

I found Gene to be a wonderful presence with great stories of working with Tristan Meinecke and her own stories of her artwork.

At the time of our meeting, she (at age 91), had already been a creative force in several media. Everything from paper to canvas to pottery to, most notably, large hunks of metal welded into different shapes and molds.

She also proved to be a great model for motorcycles, as proven by the promo photo above. Yes, she did ride fast cycles when she was younger.

Meinecke Art Space has a great page devoted to here located here.

I had the great pleasure of interviewing her about her life and work. In tribute to her life, work and graciousness, I’m re-posting my interview with Gene held in Noble Square on March 17, 2014.

Thank you, Gene! Chicago is greater because of you!

 

 

Help The Underground Multiplex Create New Programming!

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This is the current production equipment for The Underground Multiplex

by Legendary Lew

The Underground Multiplex is currently running a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for future programming.

We have a major need for a new laptop/PC; a 4T external hard drive (for achiving our videos and podcasts); and professional grade headphones for “Mediatrocities” podcasts.

All totaled, we came up with the modest sum of $820.00, an amount we hope to be able to receive by December 1st. The sooner we reach the goal, the sooner we can buy the equipment needed to continue our programming smoothly.

The picture you see above is my production equipment for The Underground Multiplex. No joke. I’ve been using a tablet with a broken interface for over a year now.

Any posts, podcasts, memes, etc. from The Underground Multiplex have come from this. In case you’re wondering, yes, I do use a magnifying glass to read my writing.

Over the last 6 years, we’ve been able to accomplish a great deal and to get some much needed attention for vital independent artists and venues. Here’s just a short list:

Plus, we’ve recorded numerous episodes of “Mediatrocities,” our own podcast covering directors and other prominent figures in the independent movie scene.

We’ve had award-winning short films and features, such as Scumbabies and Sci Fi Sol shown in multiple cities and festivals such as CIMMFest.

We believe we have great ideas for indie programming in the future, plus I have every intention of continuing “Mediatrocities,” as I am committed to having indie film artists share their works and get a voice heard. In the ocean of the Hollywood’s publicity efforts, our indie voices are vitally important.

AS A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THOSE WHO DONATE, TUGM WILL PRODUCE A SPECIAL EDITION OF “VITAL MEDIA” AFTER THE CAMPAIGN, AVAILABLE IN PASSWORD-PROTECTED FORM . ONLY THOSE CONTRIBUTING TO THE CAMPAIGN WILL BE ABLE TO VIEW THIS SPECIAL THANK YOU EPISODE.

Thank you for your support! And keep tuning in!
GoFundMe link: click here.

 

 

Remembering the Unknown TV Pioneer, Angel Casey

angelcaseyby Legendary Lew

Mitchell Hadley’s blog, “It’s About TV,” currently features a guest entry by Crystal Eidson, one of the people instrumental in getting Tristan Meinecke’s art work rediscovered in Chicago and the world.

Meinecke’s wife, Angel Casey, is even less known than her husband. However, she had an influence in television that still reverberates to this day. Anyone who’s interested in this trailblazer would do well to learn all about her in Eidson’s piece.

After reading it, check out angelcasey.com and tmeinecke.com. The Underground Multiplex also has loads of stuff on The Meinecke Project located here.

lew-win_20160713_205425Legendary Lew is the co-founder of The Underground Multiplex and former personal video consultant of almost 20 years. He’s a writer, producer and host of the podcast “Mediatrocities” and the upcoming “Vital Media” series.

 

We’re Crazy to Have Waited So Long to See This Go

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by Legendary Lew

This past Friday night marked a milestone in Chicago cultural history. It was the final night some very lucky art lovers were able to attend a gallery showing of master works in the artist’s original setting.  For the last two weeks, Brad and Scott Meinecke along with their crew of assistants entertained art buyers, visitors, gallery owners and others with the stories behind many of their dad’s art pieces.

But this evening was special, it was a farewell of sorts as some of the works of art had found new homes (over 50 pieces sold during the two weeks). Some friends of The Underground Multiplex stopped by as did some Meinecke family friends and associates.

Among those visiting was Gene, one of Tristan Meinecke’s proteges and his favorite one. She, in fact, helped Tristan create the found art piece commonly known as “The Image” out of a discarded tractor cover. Her recollections of Tristan and Angel Casey made for wonderful listening and put the evening into quite the perspective for me.

"The Face"

“The Image”

“Tristan was not crazy,” the spry 91-year old artist insisted, pointing a finger in a manner indicating she’s heard that accusation too many times before. “He had a mental illness.”

And indeed, Tristan Meinecke was not crazy. He was an irrepressible force of Meineckeclose2nature with a ferocious energy. You could see it in his work, displayed all at once in  his West Rogers Park cottage studio that will now be the stuff of art history.

The madness, the outrage, the playfulness–it was all there for the world to see for two short weeks.  Works hidden–in some cases over a half-century–from a previously uncaring and inattentive public.

We were the crazy ones.

The Meinecke/Casey saga continues. Head on over to the brothers’ home sites for Tristan Meinecke and Angel Casey:
www.tmeinecke.com
www.angelcasey.com

Be on the lookout for The Underground Multiplex TV show coming to CAN-TV! We’ll announce the show’s debut here on TUGM, so join us and check back often!

Underground Gallery Sells 30K in Excavated Art in One Night

In the late summer of 2013, year of the XTRACT, the sons of Tristan Meinecke partnered with The Underground Multiplex (TUGM) to resurrect the story of their iconic rebel parents.  TUGM is one of the Shy City’s most ardent supporters of local underground art, and the art of patriarch Tristan Meinecke was as underground as it gets- literally!

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Tristan Meinecke in his home studio, late 50s. Location of pictured art pieces still unknown.

The career of Chicago’s forgotten lunatic genius spanned over five decades and included successful forays into nearly every art medium available.  His mastery was well-known by those that knew of him, but mental illness and his commitment to his family led him to eschew the art world entirely.  He never stopped working, and after 88 years of pushing every boundary he ever encountered, Tristan passed in 2004.  Everything he ever made that wasn’t sold (about 1/3 of his total canon) was found in the basement of the building inherited by his sons, Brad and Scott.

VIDEO – First inspection of the Meinecke basement by TUGM co-founder Joseph R. Lewis

Their mother, Lorraine ‘Angel’ Casey was a television pioneer.  She was amongst the first wave of producers and performers to migrate to the nascent medium from radio.  At the height of Chicago radio’s popularity in the the forties, she was the Queen- literally!   Queen of Chicago Radio 1946!  She performed in over a thousand live tapings that year!

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Controversial bi-racial promo pic for Angel Casey’s “The Play House”

She produced and performed in the very successful “Play House” kids show in the mid-fifties and received death threats for demanding that bi-racial promotional material be developed to include the African-American audience in her viewership.   Just as Tristan withdrew from the art scene, Angel eventually withdrew from showbiz to focus on family.  They were married for more than fifty years.   Memorabilia and artifacts from Angel Casey’s reign as a Chicago media pioneer were discovered alongside the art of her husband…down in the basement.

The task of excavating the basement was immense.  Hundreds of pieces of art and records outlining the full careers of two iconoclastic Chicago rebels were packed into every crevice of this dark, dirty cave in West Rogers Park.   Together TUGM and the Meinecke sons designed a plan to unearth everything and coordinate the excavation with a focused transmedia promotional campaign leading up to an unprecedented DIY gallery opening in the very same basement and adjoining building where the discovery was made.  The Meinecke’s would build and manage the gallery, and TUGM would build and manage the media.

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On Friday, February 8th, 2014, year of the ELEVATION, the gallery opened.  It will stay open for a couple more weeks.  You should check it out.  XOX

READ MORE About the Gallery Opening in THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Watch the TUGM Excavation Videos
Read the full TUGM transmedia story
Learn more about the history of Tristan Meinecke’s art
See pictures from the career of Angel Casey

GALLERY OPENING PICTURES BELOW

Happily Ever After for Chicago’s Original Hipster Couple

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Brad Meinecke, Pepsi Stage at Summerfest, 1978. Notice his father’s painting behind him.

Brad Meinecke descended from Chicago Royalty.  His father, Tristan, was a successful musician, artist, architect, and family man.  Brad’s mother, Lorraine “Angel” Casey, was one of the earliest media celebrities the Windy City ever produced and an exemplary mother and wife.   Together, Tristan and Angel were THE original Chicago hipster bohemian couple.

The Excavated Studio of Tristan Meinecke opens Friday, February 7th for a limited time only.

Brad Meinecke will appear on Live from the Heartland on Saturday, February 1st at 9AM to discuss the Resurrection of Tristan Meinecke and the enduring Chicago legacy of his royal parentage.

Listen live online at http://wluw.org/
or via radio waves at 88.7FM in Chicagoland

TESTIMONIAL BY BRAD MEINECKE~

This story, and this exhibition, are fundamentally about life, and about two people who really did live happily ever after. Tristan Meinecke and Angel Casey had great success at many noble things. They balanced careers with raising a family. They remained loyal to one another through thick and thin.

ac_tm_piano_cleveland_800Together, they did battle against the insularity of the art scene and the prejudices of society while continuing to have good friends and good times. Tristan struggled with bipolar depression – a condition very little understood in those days – and strove to manage its symptoms so that it did not hold him back from being a husband and father. And through it all, both in spite of life’s struggles and because of them, he was a prolific creator.

tris_angel_60s_pool_sized_300Thus what we are celebrating is not Tristan’s death but the fact that he really knew how to live. He was a modern renaissance man, a two-fisted da Vinci scowling through the back alleys of Lincoln Park, well before it was today’s posh enclave. His legacy of art and architecture was part of the movement which transformed a slum into one of Chicago’s iconic neighborhoods. We study great people from the past, in part, because we want to become like them in the future. Every creative person involved in this ‘resurrection’ project has had the same thought: “Someday I want to create something this worthy to be remembered.”

If you want to experience a deeper connection with our departed neighbor, we enthusiastically recommend the following methods:

1. Appreciate the art he created! One of the wonderful things about art is that it allows people to share a bit of their inner lives, the experiences of the mind and spirit, through a shared knowledge of the work.

2. Spend quality time with his family! It’s a physical fact that a part of you lives on in your children, in the DNA that shapes their bodies. But the words and deeds of people reveal their character. You can hear real stories, ask your own questions, see family photos, all while standing in the space where Tristan stood while creating many of these compositions.

3. Get inspired! One of the wonderful things about good art is that it leads to more art. For example,  Glenn Schreiner, an artist to whom the Meinecke Project owes a great debt, has enriched his style of painting through his intimate interaction with the art of Tristan Meinecke. Studying and learning to describe the art, architecture and history here has taken Crystal Eidson’s poetry and prose to places it’s never been before.

Who knows what avenues of creative discovery will open up once you start exploring?

There is only one way to find out!

We’ll see you soon.

Eddie Balchowsky and Tristan Meinecke

by Joseph R. Lewis & Brad Meinecke


Eddie Balchowsky, the Fascist Hunter, was a Spanish Civil War veteran.  Pre-War he was a skilled concert pianist and artist.  Battle robbed him of his right hand and he returned to his native Chicago a  pain-killer junkie.  Over the course of many decades he became a local legend, playing deserted pianos all across the Northside with one hand and a stump.   He was the janitor at the historic Quiet Knight music club.  Jimmy Buffett wasn’t the only person to write a song about him.

One of the most exhilarating aspects of working on The Resurrection of Tristan Meinecke is that Brad will introduce me to Chicago stories such as Eddie’s.  Doubly exhilarating is the fact that Tristan’s life was so connected to the rugged ecstatic history of Chicago that his name comes up in connection with so many local legends.  The deeper I get into this resurrection, the more clearly I see the Meinecke family emerging as kind of cultural nucleus inspiring the city around them with they’re fiercely determined rebel autonomy…or as Eddie Balchowsky calls them in the colorful story below – “Chicago Royalty”.   XOX

Tristan and Angel at their Cleveland Street home.

“Everywhere my parent’s went they drew a crowd.”  – Brad Meinecke

EDDIE & DAD

Eddie and Dad were extremely tight.  Dad hated junkies.  Eddie was a classic heroin user.  If not for that he would’ve been over all the time.  As it was he was often at our house playing the piano.  Dad loved his one handed playing.

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Eddie Balchowsky

He was homeless but had umpteen homes.   He had one hand but played the piano . . . well.

He was junkie but to my knowledge never stole from friends.  Dad let him sleep in his office on numerous occasions,  never worried about theft.   He owned nothing but could eat free at some high end places, and everyone on the late night scene on Clark knew him.   He was known as the mayor of Clark street in the 70’s.

Once I was involved in an argument in a late night smorgasbord on Clark Street around 3am.   Bunch of folks yelling at me and I’m yelling back.   Suddenly this wizened little guy who looks like he hasn’t had a bath in a year sticks his head out of the crowd shouting-

Eddie grave“Everybody hold on for a second!  Son,  you’re about to get a royal ass kicking. You should leave now while you can.”

I said, “I don’t see anyone here who can kick my ass and y’all can serve me my dinner or grow some balls and try and kick my ass.   Your call.”

He cocks his head at me and asks my name.   I say,  “Brad Meinecke.”  He starts cracking up. Practically rolling on the floor.  Everyone is watching him like he’d gone mad.

“I knew you had to be a Meinecke!  I felt like I was talking to your Dad  a moment ago.  Your Dad is a great man with a huge heart.    I’m Eddie Balchowsky,  unofficial Mayor of Clark St.   You can eat here anytime.  I’m proud to eat with any Meinecke.  Clear a table, boys,  the son of Chicago royalty has come to visit…and if he’s anything like his Dad we’d better just leave him alone!”    That was the last time I saw him.   Eddie,  like my Dad, was larger than life.   A true Chicago original.

-BLM

2B Continued…

THE RESURRECTION OF TRISTAN MEINECKE
Visit the excavated studio of lunatic genius Tristan Meinecke in it’s final days of existence…
Exclusive Gallery Hours coming  this February in Chicago, Illinois.

Stay tuned to follow the adventure at The Underground Multiplex and the official Tristan Meinecke portal.

The Gallery of Chicago’s Hysterical Lunatic Genius Opens February 7th

BurningAwareness

Burning with Awareness (1958-1963)

by Legendary Lew

I was trying to expand the medium of painting. Above all I wanted to do away with “good composition”. I aimed at breaking down form. I changed the shape of the work and quit relying on frames. I aspired to total hysteria.
— Tristan Meinecke

Suppose you were contacted one day by the family of a man they said was very close to international fame in the art world. Once you check out the years of art work in the small building currently housing them, you discover that the hundreds of pieces of art have a resonance, vibrancy and vitality unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. You realize you’re standing in the presence of an artist deserving a stature as great as– or even greater than–many of his contemporaries already deemed masters: Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko or Phillip Guston.

This experience happened to me and now, through the help of The Underground Multiplex and the Meinecke family, you have a chance of viewing a master’s works up close and personal in his studio building beginning Friday, February 7th.

The Meinecke Family (sons Brad and Scott) are opening up the Meinecke building to the public and press for a once-in-a-lifetime viewing of the astonishing work of their dad, Tristan Meinecke, an incredibly restless force of nature producing not only hundreds of art pieces during his lifetime, but also performing self-taught jazz and co-founding an architectural firm with Robert Bruce Tague that transformed Lincoln Park.

Among some of the notable traits of Tristan Meinecke’s work was the split-level paintings and shadow boxes displaying a 3D effect that were sometimes only discernible from a distance…

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Dangerous Curves (late 1950s)

…and also the use of discards. Tents, stray wood pieces and even asphalt freshly poured onto the street in front of his house would be included in some of his masterworks.

The Face 5 Canvass

The Face

As Joe Lewis had written previously, Meinecke and his wife, influential Chicago radio performer and TV host Angel Casey, were a power couple of arts and culture who together were renaissance figures interwoven into the fabric of Chicago.  Learn about both of them at the Meinecke Gallery showing on the following dates:

Opening Night Reception:
Friday, February 7
6pm – 10pm
The Underground Multiplex in attendance

Gallery Shows:
Saturday, Feb. 8 at 12Noon – 3pm
Sunday, Feb. 9 at 12Noon – 3pm
Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 5pm – 8pm
Thursday, Feb. 13 at 5pm – 8pm
Friday, Feb. 14 at 5pm – 8pm
Saturday, Feb. 15 at 12Noon – 3pm
Sunday, Feb. 16 at 12Noon – 3pm
Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 5pm – 8pm
Thursday, Feb. 20 at 5pm – 8pm

Closing Night Reception:
Friday, Feb. 21
6pm – 10pm
The Underground Multiplex in attendance

Check with The Underground Multiplex for further developments and also check out the following sites:
www.tmeinecke.com
www.angelcasey.com
The Art of Tristan Meinecke on Facebook
Meinecke Project on Twitter

The Jazz Castle of Tristan Meinecke

by Joseph R. Lewis

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“Meinecke remains one of the monumental artistic secrets of Chicago, a man whose contribution remains to be adequately understood and evaluated.”
John Corbett,  Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

“If they played jazz in Chicago, they came to my parents’ pool parties.” – Brad Meinecke, son of Tristan

When Tristan Meinecke arrived in Chicago back in the forties he fell in swiftly with the jazz swingers.  Tristan had already taught himself clarinet and alto sax and he worked the jazz dive circuit successfully here in this Windy City for many years.  He played in the first integrated jazz trio to hit the Northside clubs.  He hailed King Oliver and the entire royal court of jazz pioneers that forever changed the sound of music back in the 1920s from their impoverished neighborhoods on the Southside.

In an age of segregation and McCarthyism,  Tristan was an aggressive anti-racist. He threw more than a few literal fists into the figurative face of prejudice.

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In the fifties Tristan rose to great prominence as one of the cities most exciting and progressive visual artists.  He clashed ideologically and physically with the art world as only a true rebel artist would.  His low tolerance for BS was compounded by his disdain for self-inflation and this, as you can imagine, put him at odds with many of his contemporaries and curators.  Eventually he eschewed the whole dang scene and established a home for he and his family free from the confines and servitude of any traditional genre or lifestyle.

He built his castle on Cleveland Street.

tris_angel_60s_pool_sized_300His wife, Angel, a famous Chicago starlet from the earliest days of television, counted amongst her good friends the likes of Lil Hardin, wife to Louis Armstrong and a legendary piano player in her own right.

Lil played with King Oliver, too.  She, along with others from that famous musical round table could often be seen lounging at Tristan and Angel’s 10-year pool party, which they hosted from ’61 to ’70 at their double-lot dual-building property at 2022 N Cleveland.

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From that address, this Chicago hipster power couple entertained a celebrity guest roster rivaling that of the Playboy Mansion.  He taught art classes and sold his own work directly from his own home, bypassing museums and galleries completely.

baby_dodds_sized_315Instruments abound, Tristan designed the acoustics of the property himself, to optimize the allure of the music from street, drawing the neighborhood ever-towards him.

Here’s a Meinecke unfired bust of Baby Dodds, jazz drummin’ pioneer.  Tris and Baby were good friends.  Baby sat for the bust->

2B Continued…

THE RESURRECTION OF TRISTAN MEINECKE
Visit the excavated studio of lunatic genius Tristan Meinecke in it’s final days of existence…
Exclusive Gallery Hours coming  this February in Chicago, Illinois.

Stay tuned to follow the adventure at The Underground Multiplex and the official Tristan Meinecke portal.

His Wife is Famous and He’s Crazy

by Joseph R. Lewis

“Vignette” by Tristan Meinecke was exhibited at the Art Institute in 1963

“My father’s last words were, ‘Tell your mom I never cheated on her!’  But before that he looked right at me and said, ‘Take care of my paintings.’”

Brad Meinecke pauses briefly. For a loquacious Midwestern Mid-Lifin’ Lothario like Brad, even brief pauses seem long.  His father’s building will be gone soon.  He’s worried.  You can tell.  But he’s Chicago.  It ain’t over.

tm_cantankerous_fthrdTristan Meinecke, Brad’s father, passed away in 2004 at 88 gruff years of age widowing his wife of nearly six decades.  She had been the darling of Chicago radio and television back in the fifties, back when everything was produced local. Angel Casey was the star of early Chicago children’s show The Playhouse as well as the world’s first wave of soap operas, a marketing gimmick invented right here in the Windy City.  Brad once heard a Chicago policeman bark about his father- “That guy’s trouble!  His wife is famous and he’s crazy!”

live_radio_reading_cropped_sized_800Tristan Meinecke and Lorraine “Angel” Casey had raised their family in a building down on North Cleveland street in present-day posh Lincoln Park.  Back then, though, it was less posh and more piss and spit.  Oz Park was Little Vietnam and soon the Great Daley would raze the whole damn thing and be done with it.  I imagine Tristan didn’t like the idea of urban renewal much.  He seems the sort to see the gold in dirt.  He saw the thresh swinging, though, and faired quite well.

Interior of the Meinecke’s early Lincoln Park home

He wanted to build an X-shaped home for his family so he took a year and taught himself how to be an architect.  He partnered up with his friend Robert Bruce Tague and together they were instrumental in the design and construction of the new Lincoln Park.  Nobody ever let him build that X-shaped building, though.

City-building…Just the kind of project a manic creative mind would need to stay focused.  And this was the sixties, after all.  No SIMS yet.

The Meinecke’s left Lincoln Park.  They settled in West Rogers Park, in this building Brad inherited from his parents.  Tristan’s art studio dominated an adjoining ex-saloon space with accompanying creepy basement.

Tristan toiled and tinkered endlessly.  He would be up for weeks at a time before passing out for days of deep mental and emotional hibernation.  By the seventies he’d long abandoned active exhibition of his art. His career as a prominent visual artist in 1950s Chicago was defined by the surrounding community’s inability to keep up with him.

By the time the public came around to liking what he was doing, he was doing something else and staunchly refused to do commissioned work.  Galleries struggled to put together “coherently-themed” shows.   The Surrealists adopted him for a time, but no label stuck for long.  He was always changing.

It also didn’t help that curators were afraid of getting punched and thrown down a flight of stairs.  These were legitimate concerns.  He stopped showing, but he never stopped working.

Jazz players 2But his work sold well for a time.  His family estimates he created over 800 pieces in his life.  Around 500 sold…the rest are in the basement.

After Tristan passed away the family moved to the basement all the remnant relics of the patriarch’s massive collection.  It is the life’s work of an artist dedicated to the exploration of the deepest depths of this stream called time.   Fittingly, he loved to fish.  His rods are still in the basement, too.  But not for much longer.

Burning with Awareness by Tristan Meinecke. 72″x48″x8″

The rods, along with the 200-plus paintings, collages, sculptures, the large-scale split-level shadow boxes, the hand-written string quartet arrangement, the 300-page hand-typed autobiography, the tractor bag Tristan fashioned into a huge face, the hand-rendered architectural plans of Meinecke-Tague Architectural studios,  the sound recordings of he and his drummer brother Phil playing jazz dives back in the 40s, the pictures of Angel…all of it has to go somewhere else.  Brad doesn’t know where.  Neither does his brother Scott.  They sit together in their father’s old office.  They’re worried.  You can tell.  But this is Chicago.  It ain’t over.

The Current Excavation of Tristan Meinecke

THE RESURRECTION OF TRISTAN MEINECKE
Visit the excavated studio of lunatic genius Tristan Meinecke in it’s final days of existence…
Exclusive Gallery Hours coming  this February in Chicago, Illinois.

Stay tuned to follow the adventure at The Underground Multiplex and the official Tristan Meinecke portal.