Amy Jean Porter - West Town Gallery Network - Matthew Northridge

LeisureArts hit the West Town Gallery Network this weekend. The network is comprised of most of our favorite spaces in Chicago. Some quick notes:

Lisa Boyle Gallery:
Amy Jean Porter's Tiny Horses Say What is a continuation of what is described as a "new style in animal taxonomy." The work depicts various horse breeds in a variety of whimsical colors and settings. Porter has done similar work juxtaposing North American bird species with hip-hop quotes, and North African birds speaking French and English. It's clever and funny with just enough substance and sustained attention to keep it from being frivolous. Odd note: The work depicting horses in urban settings had particular resonance for us. Perhaps others who have taken the brown line past the Noble Horse Theater near the Sedgwick stop and have seen the horses milling about nearby will understand why.

Gallery 40000:
Unfortunately, David Coyle's Blood On Your Saddle which featured paintings oscillating between figuration and abstraction, fell short for us. Presumably their installation was supposed to engender some kind of dialogue among the work, but it read more like monologues placed side by side, rather than a conversation. Maybe if there had been more oscillation between modes of painting within each work rather than among it, something more compelling might have happened. The video piece, It's not you, it's me was more successful. The sound for the video had a creepy, droning, edge to it that was a nice counterpoint to the often ridiculous personas adopted by the "protagonist." Maybe we missed it, but just a hint of audio legibility could have worked more effectively to evoke the "art of ending relationships" as the gallery describes it.
Corbett vs. Dempsey:
Wonderland and Other Reveries comprises a selection of paintings from two bodies of work spanning 10 years by Margot Bergman. In Other Reveries Bergman alters thrift store paintings "just enough to draw out a portrait latent in the image" according to the gallery. We don't believe in the idea of latent images awaiting discovery in these paintings, but the work is engaging nonetheless. It's actually the consistent imposition of another visual logic rather than unveiling a hidden one that makes the work something to engage. The Wonderland paintings were mostly unremarkable, but did provide for a savvy move by the gallerists. A small painting (Twilight) hanging in the office area of the gallery was a kind of perspectival vanishing point of the two bodies of work. The Wonderland paintings and the Other Reveries paintings "converged" into this point in which the characters from Wonderland were applied to what appeared to be a thrift store painting, thus serving as a perfect, unassuming synthesis.

Booster and Seven:
Very strange show. J. Patrick Walsh III's Endo Gainer was a disparate series of gestures and ideas that were ambitious curatorially and artistically, but never really came together. It was, perhaps, intended given the explanation of the show's title as referencing "opposite physical contortions." The installation of the show was nice, but confounding. There was an arrangement of inkjet prints and drawings that made sense grouped together, but each item was for sale individually and they just didn't have the gravitas (yes, we just wrote gravitas) to stand on their own. Similarly, what appeared to be one floor piece, actually turned out to be two floor pieces butted up against each other. We loved the McGuire twins wall drawing which takes a pair of cultural icons now mostly obscure and worked to evoke a tweaking of the ubiquitous "Andre the Giant" stickers/projects. It was appropriate that they were rendered in a fragile, ephemeral manner that reinforced their relegation to pop culture history and stood in contrast to their enormous physical presence as bodies. All in all, the works in the show were enhanced by the curatorial arrangement, too enhanced. Most relied heavily on the false coherence created by grouping them.

Fraction Workspace:
Jungle Tender, the window exhibition of Lauren Frances Adams and Stacey L. Kirby, was overshadowed by the group show inside which exemplified everything we like about most of the galleries in the West Town network - loose, gritty, eclectic, and fun. Kirby did set up an interesting relationship between her installation and a postcard pinned to the wall inside the gallery. There was a pushpin marking the location where she had submerged saltlicks in an estuary in North Carolina. The postcard, which is normally used as a trace of one's travel, had a pushpin placed on the image depicted on it creating yet another articulation of location relative to the installation. All of this was made more complex by the fact that the artist will send postcards to viewers (who pay the asking price of $5) from the locale denoted by the postcard. Heady, and not the focus of the work, but she gets credit for instigating it nonetheless.

Western Exhibitions:
The strongest work of the gallery crawl was Matthew Northridge's Further Afield - six small, framed, collages of buildings floating in white voids. The work sets up a consideration of the building/landscape and mark/page relationship. By utilizing aerial views and mostly blank pages, we're presented with buildings that are legible not by marking the land, as is the usual visual reading, but are marked themselves by the negative space created by removing them from their context. The work suffered a bit from its installation. We would have liked to see those six pieces occupying the entire gallery, thus mimicking the visual strategy employed by Northridge - dwarfing the collages as the buildings are by the page. It would have been especially nice to see them this way so that we could be spared the overwrought, slapdash, "sk8ter boi" aesthetic of Pedro Velez's GODFUCK. We would've also been happy to not see Carroll & Gaydos' wannabe-edgy Plantfucker. GODFUCK? Plantfucker? YAWNfucked! (Bad at Sports has our back on this one. See episode34) Both of those were disappointing choices for Western Exhibitions which is our favorite exhibition space in the city.