Chicago Art Review


Summer Show @ Antena by Steve Ruiz
July 7, 2009, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Openings, Reviews

There are three artists showing this summer at  Antenna, a gallery ran by Miguel Cortez of Polvo fame. The first and most immediatey recognizable in the space is Saul Aguirre, whose immaculately framed drawings occupy two large walls in grids; the second is Yarima Ariza, who has come out of the Floridian woodwork with new fiber works; and the last is the nearly invisible, did-realize-she-was-even-in-the-show-until-I-went-online, Adriana Baltazar, whose work I’m pretty sure I saw but I can’t be sure what I think I saw was actually hers or not so I’m sorry, Adriana, I fucked up.

Saul Aguirre’s work was extraordinarily contradictory and left me wondering if there was some point of access that I was missing out on due to a gap in culture, language, or personal familiarity. His works in this show were rather simple drawings of United States currency that had, through replacement of words and images and the occassional inclusion of pot leaf motifs, been converted into something more south of the border, political, and painful – dólares have become dolores, the tender is Illegal, and the dead presidents have been replaced with foreign portraits.

Saul Aguirre

Saul Aguirre

While I try not to give work the benefit of the doubt, I’m going to have to in the case of Saul Aguirre’s content. I can only assume that, had I been born in Mexico, had a better political understanding of Mexico, or if Saul’s website was working, these pieces might provide more specific messages. If the extent was to show that American dollars translated into Mexican pain (politically or otherwise), I can handle that. I’m always down for a little cross border economic indictment.

Saul Aguirre

Saul Aguirre

However, the confusing and grossly distracting element of Aguirre’s work, and what I spent most of my time trying to figure out, were the frames. These pieces have very beautiful, very professional, and very very expensive frames. I don’t doubt the glass was UV protective. The paper was rich. The artist clearly went to great lengths to present this work in a way that either referenced money, or demanded commodity. While sort of complementary, this choice of presentation nearly ruined the pieces for me: either he was making a slightly tangential riff that ended up eclipsing the drawings themselves, or he was ignoring his own content and presenting highly commodified political art work. In the end I realized it didn’t matter, because to me the work looked like it was using content relation as an excuse for extreme and distracting commodity.

Yarima Ariza

Yarima Ariza

On the next wall, quietly blowing in the breeze of an air conditioner, hung Yarima Ariza’s fiber pieces. They gently swayed and were awesome.

What you’re seeing in the image above are pins, hundrds of them, piercing the fabric side by side in a perfect line. As the current from the wall-mounted AC unit blew across them from the side the fabric would wave and move and the pins would catch light and sparkle hypnotically. There were three of these pin pieces, two with lateral lines (one of which presented the pins reversed from what you see again, adding a subtle and beautiful element of transparency) and one vertical, and a fourth which used surgical string instead. Again, the work was very modest, both in materials and concept and presence, but it was all executed so gracefully that I could commend that modesty.

While the works in their evidence of creation brought up the duty, care, and manual dilligence involved in mending, I was most strongly impressed with the minimal use of materials and especially the site specific movement. Whether a happy accident or not, the air conditioner next to the pieces added much and more to the work, setting the fabric moving in a perfect ripple. Best use of an air condition this year.

Despite how much I enjoyed Ariza’s piece, Antena’s Summer Show pretty much lived up to its pretty plain name. It was refreshing to see a gallery crowded with people from the local neighborhood, but the show itself didn’t really impress. There just wasn’t much going on in the work.

Then again, I will admit to feeling like I am still missing something in Aguirre’s work and, as mentioned in the intro, I must have missed Adriana Baltazar‘s piece altogether. I possibly set my beer on it.

I give it a:

6.2

Summer Show runs June 26th to July 25th, 2009 at Antena, 1765 S. Laflin St.

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