Episode 74 / CORBETT VS. DEMPSEY | John Corbett, Chicago, US | Independent Special 2023
43 min., recorded February 21, 2023, Portrait photo by Joe Mazza

On the occasion of this years‘ Independent Art fair in New York I’m speaking to John Corbett co-founder – with Jim Dempsey – of the gallery Corbett vs. Dempsey in Chicago.

John discusses his deep and ongoing interest in experimental and improvised music, his getting in touch with art through teaching at the Art Institute and how meeting Jim, with his background in film, led to a natural collaborative spirit in founding the gallery (with it’s own record label) which carries through until today.

Corbett vs. Dempsey were coming up in Chicago, a city within which culture is often undertaken as a Community based practice and their working together reflect that respect for all people involved. John speaks about the importance that the history and cultural legacy of Chicago has in forming the galleries attitude and programm and the special working condition Chicago provides. He explains the unexpected ways in which the artists and musicians they work with inspire each other. The gallery is deeply interested in the historical, not only referring to histories of the past, but also paying attention to histories being written right now and being part of that new history being written. They highlight the role Archives play in writing and re-writing histories and making things visible. John and Jim only do and show what they love, their gallery runs on enthusiasm and the belief in what they’re doing.

This Episode is produced in cooperation with Independent Art Fair, New York City and will be part of the fairs OVR for it’s upcoming 2023 edition.

Corbett vs. Dempsey LLC was founded by Jim Dempsey and John Corbett in Chicago in September 2004. Since opening, Corbett vs. Dempsey has presented a range of international artists and artists connected with the historical and contemporary legacy of Chicago. Creative music has always been a feature of the gallery’s activities; in addition to having its own record label, CvsD is proud to represent Peter Brötzmann and the estate of Sun Ra. Corbett vs. Dempsey’s record label features a mixture of new recordings and CD reissues of out-of-print LPs, CvsD’s offerings focus on jazz, free jazz, and improvised music; occasional rock and rock-related noise; artist-related projects; sound art; and some experimentally minded dub. Many of the releases continue the archival work that John Corbett did with his Unheard Music Series, released under the Atavistic label starting in the late ’90s. Corbett has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) since 1988.

He was artistic director of Berlin JazzFest 2002, co-curated the Empty Bottle Jazz Series from 1996 to 2005, and was co-curator of Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn, and Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954-1968.

For over 20 years, Dempsey was the house manager and occasional programmer at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago. He is an alumnus of SAIC.
Together Corbett and Dempsey have been involved in many independent curatorial projects.