Impressive Impressions

Art Add comments

There’s been snow, freezing rain, strong winds, hail, slush, and grey skies in the first fourteen days of April in Chicago…what’s next a plague of locusts?  This schizo weather non-pattern has been cramping my culture vulture style, bigtime.  Fortunately, it was relatively warm-er two Fridays ago so BFF Camela and I were able to sashay through the Fulton Market art gallery openings.  I’m almost convinced that many of the city’s art galleries are keeping their brightest and best artists under deep cover, to gloriously unveil them during Art Chicago and Next Art Fair, upcoming in early May, since we saw a lot of head-scratching quasi-artistic efforts during the two Fridays we traipsed through the West Loop.  However, we also enjoyed two marvelous, absolutely jaw-dropping exhibitions during the Fulton Market walkabout, and both were from young artists, which was so encouraging.

The first one was Chicago-born, currently Atlanta-based artist Brian Dettmer’s show, entitled “Adaptations”, at the Packer Schopf Gallery (942 W. Lake St., on view till May 9).  My college bud in the Philippines, artsy Ike, tipped me off on Dettmer’s show through Facebook, which I was pretty grateful for, since with the amount of artistic activity in this city, it’s almost as hard to track what’s going on as it is to figure out who is time-travelling where on Lost.  Dettmer’s sculptural works were painstakingly carved out of old hardbound books, most of them in pretty impressive wave patterns, with collages embedded in them.  I was blown away by the creativity, the detail-orientation, the transformative mindset that Dettmer demonstrated.  The books weren’t just altered, or juxtaposed with other things (as in found art, for example), but they’ve taken on different, morphed personas that didn’t really have anything to do with their original purpose.   It’s a brilliant show.  Although, “World Books”, “Standard Circle”, and “New Books of Knowledge”, created from entire encyclopedia sets, were the obvious centerpieces given their size and detail, I thought the smaller pieces, such as “The Theater”, made from a book about the history of theater and containing black and white collages of all things theatrical,  and “World Science” which mixed up collages of 18th century scientists and text pages from the science book it was created from, were the most memorable pieces – intricate and meticulous, they also demonstrated the artist’s familiarity with the subject matter of the books.  Realizing this, it led to a tinge of ambivalence with the work, on my part.  Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always thought that books were meant to be read, and if not read, should be on a bookshelf somewhere, preserved, available for others to avail of.  It’s a respect thing.  Seeing those books mutated into pieces other than what they were supposed to be, regardless of the brilliance of the artistic vision, gave me little pangs of regret and wistfulness.

I’ve always considered Linda Warren Gallery (1052 W. Fulton Market), one of the truly top-tier contemporary art galleries in Chicago, so it’s always a must-stop on any gallery walk.  In 2006, the gallery exhibited one of the most-acclaimed artworks of that year, Conrad Freiburg’s awe-inspiring, gargantuan roller-coaster-like device that paid homage to the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. Linda Warren never shies away from massive, ambitious, damn-it-I’m-here type of artistic visions, so it’s stunning, mind-bending exhibit of young Chicago artist Nicole Gordon’s 21st century re-conceptualization of the seven deadly sins (on view till May 3), is the type of art that I’ve come to expect from this cutting-edge space.  Entitled “Saliglia”, a 14th century mnemonic device that formed a word from the first letters of the Latin words for the seven deadly sins, the works were complex, metaphorical representations of  the meanings and implications of a particular “deadly sin” using modern-day situations.  The piece “Even Now Vegas Yearns” represented ENVY by depicting laborers in an East African diamond mine with some form of a cracked giant egg spewing jewels, a powerful commentary on the irony that resource-rich underdeveloped countries provided the “raw materials”, so to speak, that fueled materialism and conspicuous consumption in the richer countries.  My other favorite piece was “South LA’s Overpass to Hell” which communicated SLOTH with a mind-boggling mix of images:  traffic gridlock, industrial fumes, and a giant man getting pumped (literally) in the ass.  I loved Gordon’s brashness and vigor in the depiction of her themes, in the terrific use of monochromatic shades, and in the selection and juxtaposition of imagery, but I also respected her immensely for her activist, raging passion against  how our indulgent, irresponsible, self-absorbed times were negative impacting the world we lived in, which might not continue in the shape we wanted it to be because of our actions.  Her pieces in this, her first solo exhibition, were highly impressive – I can’t wait to see more from her in the future.

CORRECTION:  Nicole Gardner’s “Saliglia” is not her first solo exhibition; it is her first show at the Linda Warren Gallery.  One of her latest works will be on view at the Gallery’s booth in the upcoming Art Chicago (more on that soon!) beginning May 1.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

WP Theme & Icons by N.Design Studio
Entries RSS Comments RSS Log in