Chicago Art Review

Transparent Reflect @ The Co-Prosperity Sphere by Steve Ruiz
August 25, 2009, 3:11 am
Filed under: Chicago, Openings, Reviews

The very busy culture masters at the The Co-Prosperity Sphere put together a new show for us this weekend which features nine artists’ contemporary takes on the tradition of portraiture. Specifically, it was about the overlap between self portrait and portrait, that grey ground that exists in the relationship between artist and subject, the choice of setting and treatment as a reflection of the artist. In short, its that added context that makes portraiture the fun it is.

While not strictly a “Portraiture in 2009” show, a challenge to any show like this is that it inevitably operates like a body of evidence: here are thirty pieces of art picked from nine artists, all of whom are young and human and generally doing the same thing which has been done for a long time. But while the show includes some very strong works, detectives beware: if you’re heading in expecting to gain by commonalities some insight about how emerging artists are viewing themselves and their peers at the end of this decade, you might not find much of an answer.


Speaking of really strong work, the fact that the two prints from Swoon came from Ed (Edmar) Marszewski’s personal storage makes me wonder what else he’s got up there. Back from “before Swoon was Swoon,” these two pieces which apparently never made it to the wheat paste were instead well framed and hung wonderfully against the east wall like sentries for the black lit hollow of fellow street artist Goons‘ installation. While the latter presented fun and illustrative and modestly fucked up paste ups, Swoon’s pieces had the hammer elegance and expansive community narrative that one expects to find in a Courbet rather than in an alley way.


Then again, Goons is alive and well and in Chicago and had a display of random shit for free.

Nick Wylie, Men I Would Marry

Nick Wylie, Men I Would Marry

I probably got the full title wrong, but Nick Wylie’s Men I Would Marry (Drawn for as Long as They Lasted) is one of the most immediately visible and the more challenging works at the show. Sixteen crotches and cocks, hastily sketched in charcoal and gridded large on the wall present a visual document of friends or lovers or both and their stamina in one way or another. I liked the work’s dependence on experience to deliver its form and though its probably the most fitting example of the curator’s theme, I did have problems with the form itself.

While the work’s appearance and construction are intrinsic to the idea that generated them (provided the title can be believed), I found Wylie’s charcoal on rag paper distractingly plain despite, okay, its art school attachments to the nude and yeah, its utility as a fast medium. I’ve probably been spoiled by artists who can figure out how to fit strong and interesting craft into any concept that doesn’t specifically prohibit it.

Matt Austin

Matt Austin

To some degree, I felt the same about Matt Austin‘s photography and audio piece. This was probably the most conceptually gripping piece in the show, with a narrative that followed me out the door, into the car, and back home, but the presentation didn’t always strike well with the content. The work consisted of a tent, with an audio reading of an e-mail exchange surrounding his father’s eviction and a slideshow of photos detailing that eviction projected against one wall. I thought it all worked together well, establishing a sympathetic space for its narrative, but was a little put off by the delivery of the reading, which, while pretty hard to listen to after a few minutes, did render the eviction tale less dramatic, more common, and maybe scarier for all that.

Zach Aubucker, Breaking Cycles Like This is Really Difficult For Me (from Sleep)

Zach Abubeker, Breaking Cycles Like This is Really Difficult For Me (from Sleep)

While painting was surprisingly light (only one painter was included, Kristen Flemington, and her work was pretty straightforward portraiture and pattern), photography was well represented. Maureen Peabody‘s sparkling misty glamor portraits were easy on the eye and light on the head, and Anna Shteynshleyger‘s wigs were an interesting departure and, with their culture and fiber, a bit heavier on the head. Zach Abubeker‘s Sleep photos looked familiar, but still made for damn fine portraiture.

Adam Golfer, from *kin

Adam Golfer, from *kin

Adam Golfer‘s three photos from his German *kin travel series are the strongest of the bunch, especially the one featured above and titled in the show but nowhere else (someone find this out for me). The history and tradition of the traveling artist, while now mostly limited to photographers, still just might be the best overlap between self and sight and other. This picture isn’t really anything clever or tricky, only that somewhere in the excellent composition and movement and the mysterious model/travel-partner’s clenched fists the work excels.  Such easy snapping of an apparently unposed shot suggests an experienced eye, which an online tour of Golfer’s work definitely confirms.

While there were one or two artists who didn’t do much for the concept of the show, I’d say that Aron and Caitlin did a good job putting it all together. While the strength of the work included in Transparent Reflect (especially the two Swoon pieces) would make the show worth a visit on its own, there is plenty of conceptual meat on the bone too. I give it a:


Transparent Reflect runs August 21st through September 24th (?) at The Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219-21 South Morgan.

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