Posts Tagged ‘Western Exhibitions’

Western Exhibitions, June 12-August 1: Dutes Miller, The Ecstasyist

June 14, 2009

Dutes Miller

Dutes Miller’s installation The Ecstasyist is filled with penises – and other images related to the male body and its accoutrements – but mostly just penises. Sculptures of condoms, hanging and drooping in an Eva Hesse-style, hover mid-air while messy collages and drawings, sometimes framed, sometimes not, fill the walls. Although not cluttered, the word “full” is probably the most apt way to describe the use of space where every corner of the gallery has been used to exhibit a different aspect of Miller’s working practice in a different exhibition style, from the presentation of his untitled series of amorphic bodies in a never-ending circle, to the rigorous seriality of his framed untitled collages of cut-up nude male models.

I am reminded of a quotation, one loosely rememberd, by the blogger/curator of I Heart Photograph, that there were times when she would post images to her website that she really liked, but once she saw them in person at an exhibition, her reaction completely changed – a problem of online curating once you reach out to the challenges of “real” life spaces.  Miller’s work seems more DIY in person than online, but the Ecstasyist, whomever he is, cannot make up his mind. His influences are numerous, from dabbling in Surrealist collage to Mapplethorpe’s renditions of the male body (however, Miller’s are rendered far less classic and glamorous than the late artist). The Ecstasyist is schizophrenic about the treatment of his images – should he let the original text of the his cut up magazines show through in his collages and let dried glue ripple the paper, should he frame his works?

This frenzy of sources and styles confused and dissatisfied my friend who attended the opening with me, however I don’t care whether or not an artist is original. The works in this exhibition that contained the most prescient understanding of the installation as a whole are those small, circular collages of bodies that, without eyes or faces, still contain the source of desire, the sexual organs and the soft skin that contains it, yet the shape of desire is difficult to define, existing in various intensities without a constant goal. Unfulfilled desire is what drives the Ecstasyist, but the source of Miller’s uneven treatment of desire, materials, and source, was not identified in the exhibition, left dubious and unfulfilled, like the exhibition’s imagined creator.

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

January 11, 2009
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.

Walking Books, Stan Shellabarger. On view at Western Exhibitions through October 15, 2008

September 7, 2008

The problem with repeating yourself is that you end up doing it more than once. Stan Shellabarger’s performance process is inescapably repetitive: he walks over and over a thing until he has left a mark on it, whether from charcoal, sandpaper, or another medium he has attached to his body. This emphasis on personal mark-making recalls 1960s phenomenological explorations from body to video art.

Shellabarger’s current exhibition heralds the relocation of Western Exhibitions in the 119 North Peoria Street building, just down the hall from Three Walls and Tony Wight. (A quick note on the new space: it’s just two rooms, and barely larger than my two-bedroom apartment, but it benefits from the quirky coziness that is the pastel pink information desk.)  The books and other papers document the artist’s obsessive shuffling over surfaces in order to create rubbings. The resulting materials are almost too beautiful, too austerely decorated.

Even though the artist’s process at one level appears to be a phenomenological exploration of how one relates to the outside world through an artistic medium, the result of his performance belies this literal explanation. What these works do is problematize  the reconciliation of the document as a product of Shellabarger’s specific experience with these materials because the document has no mark specific to his presence—the marks could have been made with a graphite pencil in hand, not graphite attached to his shoes.