The Dragon Is the Frame

Inspired by the life and work of Mark Aguhar


Whitney Moeller
Assistant Director
312 996 6114

Works made and inspired by Artist/Activist/Goddess Mark Aguhar

No Top Needed Resize
Image: Mark Aguhar, No Top Needed, 2010, gouache, pencil, watercolor, and ink on paper, 20 x 25 in.

June 22, 2012 – Chicago, IL — Inspired by the life and work of the indomitable Mark Aguhar (1987–2012), The Dragon Is the Frame features artwork by twenty-seven artists—Claire Arctander, Nina Barnett, Jeremy Bolen, Elijah Burgher, Edie Fake, Pamela Fraser, Tiffany Funk, R. E. H. Gordon, Steve Hnilicka, Kasia Houlihan, Mark Kent, Young Joon Kwak, Andrew Mausert-Mooney, Marianna Milhorat, Tim Nickodemus, Aay Preston-Myint, Juana Peralta, Macon Reed, Colin Self, Michael Sirianni, Nathan Thomas, Neal Vandenbergh, Xina Xurner and Isaac Fosl-van Wyke, Allison Yasukawa, Gwendolyn Zabicki, and Latham Zearfoss—presented alongside pieces by this fearless and beautiful artist, activist, and goddess. Uncompromising, incisive, and charismatic in her investigations of gender, queer advocacy, and the politics of marginalized identity, Mark deeply transformed the communities of which she was a part. The Dragon Is the Frame presents the challenging, compelling artwork she created in dialogue with pieces made by those she was closest to in Chicago. The exhibition format, which intersperses Mark’s works throughout the installation, is an attempt at capturing the way Mark’s communities functioned—individuals in constant communication, always sharing and influencing one another.

From this community, The Dragon Is the Frame presents artwork as dynamic and multifaceted as Aguhar’s practice, which included performance, clothing, writing, rope installation, and works on paper, in addition to an extensive online presence through YouTube and her blog, Calloutqueen. The twenty-seven artists’ collective response to Mark’s life and work is just as rich in its diversity. Pamela Fraser’s small painting continues on the exploration of color we expect from the artist. In a photographic series, Jeremy Bolen captures light falling on and through one of Mark’s laboriously created performance outfits, thus evoking both the absence of the performance and the persistence of Aguhar’s creations. Nina Barnett’s effervescent, airy drawings image an abandoned, underground pool discovered on the University of Illinois at Chicago’s campus. The light, almost invisible graphite marks connect to the “quietly powerful, protective side” of Mark to which Barnett connected. Working with the idea of a sigil, a magical emblem encoding specific wishes or desires, a drawing by artist and writer Elijah Burgher references gender transition, tumultuous moments, and unstable futures, using a personal language of magic and symbol shared between the artist and Aguhar. Occupying an entire room, Latham Zearfoss’s sound piece wraps the audience in darkness to elicit an imagined dance, referencing dance communities like Chances Dances. Similarly drawing the viewer in, Aay Preston-Myint’s projected work Peony Mirror pictures a non-reflecting mirror, which simultaneously asks the viewer to imagine a specific body (Aguhar’s) that is missing, as well as imagine the possibility of a utopian or transformed body.

In addition to physical work, The Dragon Is the Frame extends beyond the gallery walls through installation, writing, and performance. In conjunction with the exhibition, Gallery 400 will produce a zine titled Houndstooth that visitors will assemble themselves, with contributions from Claire Arctander, Elijah Burgher, Femmily, Tyler Gillespie, R. E. H. Gordon, Peter Hales, Kevin Killian, Kevin Kumashiro, Andrew Mausert-Mooney, Scott McFarland, Juana Peralta, Roy Pérez, and Nathan Thomas.

Related Programs:

Opening Reception
Friday, June 29, 5–8pm

The Dragon Is the Frame Performances
Thursday, July 26, 6pm
Featuring: R. E. H. Gordon, Steve Hnilicka, Colin Self, Xina Xurner and Isaac Fosl-van Wyke, and documentation videos of performances by Mark Aguhar
Gallery 400 Lecture Room, 400 South Peoria Street, 1st floor

One night only, an array of talented local and national performance artists present dynamic pieces created out of planned and realized collaborations with Mark Aguhar, as well as those inspired by her life and work. In collaboration with Isaac Fosl-van Wyke, Xina Xurner performs She Came Inside Me, which comprises drag, noise, music, and dance. Lyrics of the song are directly inspired by my sister Mark: "She came to me. My sister lover other. I am alive in her noise." Xina Xurner will make you sweat. Colin Self evokes in his performance Long Hair a mutual transformation with Aguhar, expanding the work into the audience, along what the artist calls a “trajectory of femininity.” Preceding and following these performances, and several documentation videos of Mark Aguhar’s performances, are the three sections of R. E. H. Gordon’s DIFFERENTIATION, which is presented in a darkened space punctured by roving spotlights. DIFFERENTIATION’s slow, projected, and declarative dialogue between two performers touches on themes of ritual, sacredness, virtual bodies, and interpersonal and spiritual love. Further dissolving the boundaries within the program, Steve Hnilicka will interact throughout the evening with the crowd as part of an original durational performance Femme Self Care, honoring Aguhar’s process and documentation of self-care.

Memorial in tribute to Mark Aguhar
Saturday, July 28, 5:30pm
Great Space, 412 South Peoria Street, 5th floor

Block Party with music by Chances Dances and Heavy Rotation
Saturday, July 28, 7pm
Location TBD


Gallery 400 offers guided tours for groups of all ages. Tours are free of charge but require reservation. Please complete our online form to schedule a tour of The Dragon Is the Frame. For more information, or to discuss the specific needs and interests of your group, please contact us at 312-996-6114 or


The Dragon Is the Frame is supported by the College of Architecture and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago, and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

Founded in 1983, Gallery 400 is one of the nation's most vibrant university galleries, showcasing work at the leading edge of contemporary art, architecture, and design. The Gallery's program of exhibitions, lectures, film and video screenings, and performances features interdisciplinary and experimental practices. Operating within the College of Architecture and the Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Gallery 400 endeavors to make the arts and its practitioners accessible to a broad spectrum of the public and to cultivate a variety of cultural and intellectual perspectives. Gallery 400 is recognized for its support of the creation of new work, the diversity of its programs and participants, and the development of experimental models for multi-disciplinary exhibition.