For the past 5 years, Preus’ work as an artist has been based on a collection of 6 semi-loads of damaged furniture he received from 50 Chicago public schools that were closed in 2013. Out of these salvaged materials, down to the sawdust, Preus has created functional sculptural works and 2-D wall sculptures. While some of the materials used may seem generic and unremarkable, others still bear accumulated markings left behind by hundreds of kids over the course of many years. It’s in these moments where Preus sees the work as having a kind of collective unconscious, and a way of preserving these artifacts of social history.
In his words, “This collection of material is like a skeleton in our collective closet, and the only way to chart a future worth pursuing is to incorporate the past, to wrap in the failures and shortcomings of our social policies. Maybe we could think of it as epigenetic materialism, this amplification of material history. Certain historical malignancies exist that demand collective psychoanalysis. I imagine these pieces as historical asterisks or footnotes, addendum's to the dominant narrative, placeholders for alternative histories. What interests me from the point of view of an artist is how the materials might have the capacity to deepen and complicate the dominant narrative, and to offer a broader space within which to have these conversations.”
Preus holds an MFA from the University of Chicago. His work has been exhibited at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; Heilbronn Kunstverein, Germany; Elmhurst Art Museum, Elmhurst, IL; Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL; Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, OR; Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, IL; Devos Museum of Art, Marquette, MI; among others. Preus was the 2013-14 Jackman-Goldwasser fellow at the Hyde Park Art Center, received the first place MAKER grant and the Efroymson Fellowship in 2014, and the Kaplan resident at Northwestern University in 2016. Since 2015 his work has been shown at Art | Basel | Miami Beach, The Armory Show, The ADAA, among others.