The final installment of our three-day epic. 19 openings in 3 days. Sheesh. Sunday we only hit two shows: Julius Caesar and ADDS DONNA.
Ornament and Crime (and Crime), curated by Brandon Alvendia at ADDS DONNA, featuring the work of Conrad Bakker, Pamela Fraser, Michelle Grabner, Joe Grimm, Jo Hormuth, Lucy Mackenzie, David Shrigley & Anonymous
S: Another first visit for me. ADDS DONNA is
a double room space next to the Green Line. I had a hard time
deciphering the front, lit room. The back, darkened room, however, made
much more sense. The light box covered in drug baggies was magnificent,
looking like some sparkling, tragic, contemporary stained glass. I
remembered the first time I started seeing baggies like that. It was in
Baltimore, and I couldn’t figure out why what I assumed were jewelry
bags were all over the street. In the opposite corner lay a pile of
broken auto glass, spotlit, and with the light box, the only light in
the space. The show also included an Escalade tour, a tour we didn’t end
up going on.
J: I’m bummed we missed the Escalade tour, that
sounded fun. Driving around a rough neighborhood in an Escalade while
listening to a sound art installation? Poverty tourism at its best! Or
something. The exibition also included an essay (by that prolific
writer “Anonymous”) on issues of crime in Chicago. That darkened room
though, yeah, was the highlight for me; it created a real sense of
atmosphere. It seems like most exhibitions dealing with crime, or
violence, or poverty, take place in safe, trendy neighborhoods, and deal
with these subjects as a kind of abstraction, while galleries in rough
neighborhoods tend to act more as agents of gentrification than anything
else. It’s interesting having a gallery located in a neighborhood like
this, with real issues of crime and poverty, working to address them.
Scrying, work by Molly Zuckerman-Hartung at Julius Caesar
S: Photo collages and abstract paintings in discarded lids-cum-pallets. Liked the lids.
J: So, Molly Zuckerman-Hartung also has work up at the Exhibition Agency, in the show Violence, which opened Saturday. She’s nothing if not prolific (her website
has a page for every letter of the alphabet…well, almost) and has
every indication of being one of the rock stars of Chicago’s art scene.
(I was going to call her up-and-coming, but I think that’s a label best
dropped once you’ve been reviewed in ArtForum.)
All of this may sound like I’m gearing up to call her overrated,
overplayed, or overexposed…but I’m not. She’s clearly hard working
and ambitious in her artmaking, and very active in other activities like
running Julius Caesar, participating in panel discussions, and maintaining a busy exhibition schedule. Whatever recognition she’s getting, she’s earned through hard work.
I liked her on the CAA panel, although looking back at my notes, I’m
finding them a little cryptic: “Is this outsider art, or are you being
ironic?” Did she say that, or did I make it up in response to
something? I think it was her line, but I can’t for the life of me
think of what she was talking about. “Both ambition and failure are
somehow embarrassing now.” I must have written this down because I
liked the line, but I can’t begin to remember the context.
If it sounds like I’m avoiding discussing the work itself, it’s because I
don’t really know what to say about it. I never do. Her paintings are
often more like mixed-media assemblages, like the piece from the ON PTG exhibition at Rowley Kennerk or the spray foam and paint pieces in Violence at the Exhibition Agency.
Looking back to my notes from the CAA panel On Painting, I’ll turn what
might have been Molly’s words around and view her work through them.
The work is clearly neither ironic nor outsider. There’s a formal
concern in them that hearkens back to the 20th Century heyday of
abstraction. And her body of work, in total, clearly cleaves towards
ambition. Her individual works tend to be modest in scale but she makes
up for this in sheer volume as well as variety.
So the works at Julius Caesar, photo collages and paint can lids, must
be viewed in this context. They’re experiments, part of an epic body of
similar, but widely different, experiments, exploring concepts as well
as formal properties. And for the most part I don’t understand them.
Or, I think I don’t. But one thing I’ve noticed is, I often think I
don’t understand something, and then it’s explained to me, and I realize
that I did understand it, and just thought I must be wrong. So, here
are my ill-informed speculations, based on looking at the work, and
taking cues from the title, “Scrying”:
The painted paint can lids are scrying pools, like the one Galadriel used
in The Fellowship of the Ring to show Frodo what was up, with the flat
painted surface standing in for the usual pool of water. Each lid is
therefore a form of prophecy, showing the viewer, “things that were, and
things that are, and things that yet may be.” I’m not sure how the photo collages relate to this but they seem to suggest something about the fragmentary nature of perception.
Tags: ADDS DONNA, Brandon Alvendia, CAA, College Art Association, Conrad Bakker, David Shrigley, Escalade, Exhibition Agency, Galadriel, Jo Hormuth, Joe Grimm, Julius Caesar, Lord of the Rings, Lucy Mackenzie, michelle grabner, Mirror of Galadriel, Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, On Painting, ON PTG, Pamela Fraser, Rowley Kennerk, Scrying