“of or relating to the sky or visible heavens,” Western Exhibitions, Jan. 9-Feb. 14 <3 <3 <3

Carrie Gundersdorf

Carrie Gundersdorf

West Loop openings in January are bound to be unpopular. Last night, the weather wasn’t too bad–it was just snowy and the streets were covered with wet slush. Western Exhibitions usually holds two distinct openings, one taking place in the larger room, filled with windows, while the second exhibition space is smaller, about the size of a large closet or a small bedroom. It’s about the size of my own “cozy” bedroom.

The theme of this show is to be taken literally from the exhibition title, that it is about the “sky” and the more poetic version of the same word, “visible heavens.” Unfortunately, those works that depict the blue heavens with just this same literalness were the most banal.  I appreciate a simplicity that resonates with both aesthetics and the everyday, but the metaphoric gestures that artists including Carrie Gundersdorf, Shane Huffman, and Michelle Grabner used make the exhibition’s theme of the sky both an art phenomenon and an everyday spectacle.

Carrie Gundersdorf’s muted neon watercolor and colored pencil designs of the sky in her trio of works including Trails and space – yellow and blue, break down a possible landscape into symbols. Think of Color Field painters like Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, or Helen Frankenthaler but with hard-edged, neon design.

Shane Huffman’s inkjet print Forevering, 2008, at first looks like an ethereal landscape taken by a NASA satellite. The materials used to construct the scene are anything but celestial, consisting of semen and menstrual blood.

Michelle Grabner’s corner work, Untitled Flock Drawing, 2009, hovers between drawing, painting, and sculpture. Made from rayon flock and spray adhesive, the fluffy white specks coating the corner of the gallery floated, creating a second, textural layer to the gallery walls. Although specks of the material were coming off the wall on the opening night, this work in process still suggested the process of its making (splattering, spraying) while mainting the quality of how it was made, splattered onto the wall.

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