Chicago Art Review


Australia @ Concertina Gallery by Steve Ruiz
October 26, 2009, 5:48 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Openings, Reviews

Since Logan Square’s Concertina Gallery is pretty fresh and steaming, I’ll introduce their newest show  by introducing the space itself: as I understand it, Concertina Gallery is the apartment gallery lovechild of directors and SAIC graduate students Katherine Pill and Francesca Wilmott, who, along with co-founder and former resident Corina Kirsch and design help from current resident Caitlin Bauler, are sharpening their curatorial teeth with a series of professional shows within their living space as well as their street-level storefront windows. Having heard that their first show was a success, I dropped by for the opening of their second, a two person exhibition featuring a film installation by Anthea Behm and photography from Aron Gent, titled Australia.

Aron Gent

Aron Gent, Australia and Mountainside

Strangely enough, the Concertina directors were able to run into two artists who were using the film Australia, an endearingly surreal but ultimately mediocre 2008 Kidman / Jackman joint from director Baz Luhrmann, who you might remember from his other endearingly surreal but ultimately mediocre films, Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet. While both artists are working with and from the same, very specific source material, the artists worked separately, without knowledge of or intent for a double exhibition. However, the rarity and possible pointlessness of a film like Australia as a source of overlap makes it a pretty good curatorial hinge for both artists work to swing from. Neither artist is dealing directly with the content or themes of the film, only using it as an available corpus to serve their processes.

Aron Gent, California Landscape

Aron Gent, California Landscape

For Gent, the film provided a sex scene for his Jennifer project, a serial narrative dealing with pregnancy and abandonment within a west coast landscape. The image Australia captures the entire film’s sex scene through a long-exposure photograph, and is paired by a photograph of a mountainside, where rocky forms suggest concave breasts; and a large wall mounted photograph of a California landscape, with rolling mountains fading to mist. Though the work can’t expected to convey the same content as the entire Jennifer series, the essentials did come through. Themes of sex and time and place, each presented in a drawn out and extended form, effected in me that same feeling of quiet drift as produced by a Less Than Zero, a mid-career Ed Ruscha, or of a strong drink at a high altitude.

Anthea Behm

Anthea Behm

Behm’s work used Australia to examine the act of observing. In one darkened room, a small monitor rests on the floor with the film playing. A projection in another room shows a video of an unknown woman watching the same film and describing what she is seeing. That these two elements of the piece are in separate rooms makes observing both at once impossible, but in a suitably quiet setting a viewer could watch the film and hear the second viewer’s description of the film at the same time. Experienced in this way, Behm’s second viewer functioned like a disruptive feedback device, an imperfect and voiced mirror to my own internal, unvoiced observations. However as the gallery became louder, and as the reverse-moth social effect brought more people to crowd into the darkened room, the monitor became less important. Instead, the projected film became its own piece, presenting the inadequacy and pointlessness of a human being as vehicle for automatic representation, highlighting the difference between the thing itself and its description.

The irony of me describing this piece is not lost on me.

Australia

While both artists’ present different content in their work by very different means, I never felt like they constituted two separate shows. There were three questions at work here, two presented by the artists and a third, presented by the curators, on the measure and nature of overlap necessary to unite artists into a unified group show. We’ve seen plenty of group exhibitions justified by media (works on paper, collages, paintings) or geography (Chicago artists, Baltimore artists), but not so many brought together by source material alone.

I give it a:

7.8

Anthea Behm and Aron Gent‘s Australia opened October 23, 2009 and runs through November 15th, 2009 @ Concertina Gallery.

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