Summer Art Gallery Reviews - Part 1

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Once again the Friday Night Army ventured fourth into the fray. This week our reports from the field will be posted in three parts. Part one features:

Jeriah Hildwine on Salad-Church-Exercise at Co-Prosperity Sphere

Corinna Kirsch on Size Matters at Packer Schopf Gallery

Lee Ann Norman on Onsmith Dog Stew & Monkey Nudd Wine at Spudnik Press
Salad-Church-Exercise at Co-Prosperity Sphere
By Jeriah Hildwine

Salad-Church-Exercize is billed as "a show about self-improvement through self-denial."  Stabler gathered together excellent work by emerging Chicago artists working with themes of exercise or religion...or, in some cases, not.

Jamie Lynn Henderson's drawings bring humor to Biblical subject matter. In The Last Supper, Barbie-like babes brandish pistols at their fellow diners, while Golgotha includes frolicking mermaids beckoning to a plank-walking Christ.  Her Lazarus is a Sleepy Beauty necrophiliac romance.  Executed like vintage illustration, the result has the feel of a blown-up home economics textbook or religious tract.

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Oli Rodriguez's video, The Baseball Project, is a playful take on the serious subject of gender identity.  Oli successfully infiltrated a Little League baseball camp, posing as a prepubescent boy, and videotaped the experience, then re-enacted it with the roles of the children played by gender-ambiguous people.  Like Henderson, Rodriguez brings humor and playfulness to what is usually stuffy and serious subject matter.
 

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Rachel Pollak's collaboration with Dave Murray, The Proof Is In The Fire, is a linoleum dance floor.  Its rich colors and intricate pattern evoke traditional quilt-making patterns or Native American designs.  The motif is repeated in a pair of small goache-on-paper paintings, Untitled (Delectable Mountains), which provide the perfect counterpoint to the dance floor, which was host to exuberant participation by visitors, artists, and even the curator.

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Dayton Castleman's Chicken is an intricate cardboard goose hung on the ceiling on a collision course with a half-scale F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet.  I saw in Castelman's work the daydreams of every little boy, made real.  The Falcon headed for the goose in a game of chicken is a humorous three-bird pun, and Castelman told me that the piece was inspired by the 2009 birdstrike-induced ditching of U.S. Airways Flight 1549.  The decision to use a military F-16, rather than the airliner involved in the ditching, avoided an overly direct reference to the incident.

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Chicken is the least related to the Salad-Church-Exercise theme, but none are really about "self-improvement through self-denial." While Henderson addresses Biblical narratives, her work eschews religious repression in favor of storybook fantasy.  Rodriguez's Baseball Project may utilize sports, but it's more about gender, adolescence, identity, masculinity, and humor.  Pollak's work encourages physical activity on the part of the viewer, but isn't really about exercise.  What these pieces really have in common is fun.

Also in the exhibition were Michael Bancroft, Noah Berlatsky, CThrough Outfit, Chelsea Culp, Derek Erdman, Gina Grafos, Jacob C. Hammes, Hideous Beast, Thaddeus Kellstadt, Paul Mack, Christopher Santiago, Dewayne Slightweight, Edtra Soto, Matthew Steinke, Susannah Kite Strang, and a work by the curator himself, Bert Stabler. 

Co-Prosperity Sphere is located at 3219 S. Morgan St.

Size Matters at Packer Schopf Gallery
By
Corinna Kirsch

Summertime is synonymous with backyard barbeques, awkwardly placed sunburns, and, for many art galleries, a time for group shows with every artist represented by the gallery thrown in--kind of like a stew made from ingredients found in the refrigerator, pantry, garden, and fruit basket. Leaving aside the exhibition title's overused joke and flippant use of exclamation points, Packer Schopf's summer show brought together works by artists in its stable garnered by a humorous play with proportion. However, the works beg the question, if size matters, then why--so what?
 

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Every work in the show is big, but big is always relative to the scale of the materials used to compose the work and the person viewing it. Victoria Fuller's Safety Star, a star-shaped sculpture made of orange traffic cones, humorously motioned me to yield, with its pointy protrusions forbidding me to step too close. In reference to the scale of my body, the sculpture may be wider, taller, and heavier than two or three of me combined, but its size is only as big as its smallest unit--traffic cones--determines it to be.

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Other instances of size are more ambiguous. In Renee McGinnis' Park 60654, frighteningly large cherubs float in front of a Baroque-inspired portrayal of the Merchandise Mart ensconced within a labyrinthine garden. When spied across the room, Mark Crisanti's Fall appears to be composed of U-shaped masses of lead, but upon approaching the work, bird-headed figures emerge from the details, continuing Crisanti's series of works devoted to these surreal and otherworldly creatures.
 

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Other times, the meaning of size has been stretched to include works like Jenn Wilson's After the Stag Hunt of Elector Frederick the Wise a highly detailed painting, but one that lacks an abnormally sized canvas. The same could be said of Laurel Roth and Andy Diaz Hope's Allegory of the Moncerus, a tapestry that it is no larger than many other wall-hangings. The stories contained in these works, however, are vaster than what can be represented within frames and fabric, alluding to past moments in time and a history of materials. Perhaps this thing that escapes us--a sense of wonder when we confront a work--is what makes a work seem big.

Packer Schopf Gallery is located at 942 W. Lake St. 

Onsmith Dog Stew & Monkey Nudd Wine at Spudnik Press
By Lee Ann Norman

The press release said, "Ice cream, buzzing flies, cow udders, double-tongues, fishing tackle, jarred brains, twisted limbs and floating heads. These are all things Onsmith & Nudd." I was intrigued, but a little worried too.
 

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Was it a case of opposites attract? 
Perhaps. Paul Nudd and Jeremi Onsmith met at a comics convention at the MCA a few years back.  They liked each other's work and kicked around the idea of collaborating at some point in the future.  Paul says that Jeremi has a much broader drawing vocabulary than he does: foreshadowing, figures, and all things purposeful, deliberate.  Jeremi says that since Paul doesn't pencil draw his screens (he just dives right in and inks images), it's easier to fix mistakes by simply changing them into giant turds, for example.

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It was definitely love at first sight.
Paul approached Jeremi and suggested they collaborate for a residency at the new community print shop.  Jeremi thought this would be a great way to actualize his plan of world domination (and also get Paul to make a comic with him without actually making a comic).  Through their "exquisite corpse" like creative process for pieces made during the residency, Paul and Jeremi found a way for their very different drawing styles to complement each other.  Paul's organically flowing shapes freed up Jeremi's precise renderings, while Jeremi's precision encouraged Paul to make more defined shapes, creating images elegantly grotesque, ridiculously divine, and humorous to boot.

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And on to PBR, monkey wine, pretzels and dog stew...
Their three month residency resulting in 3 series of prints and more ended in June, but Onsmith and Nudd have been hanging out and hanging around at Spudnik ever since.  Stop by; you might see them and hear all about the zine they plan to print, and the "Head Heaps" they will continue to create.

Spudnik Press is located at 1821 W. Hubbard St.

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