Art Seen: Chicago


by Stephanie Cristello

While walking through the current exhibition, The Terrestrial, The Celestial, and the Imagined In Between, organized by HATCH curator-in-residence MK Meador at Chicago Artists Coalition, one can’t help but look out the window and wonder what materials close by – leaves, plants, and other commonplace natural ephemera – might have stood in for the source of much of the work. Like a page out of Emily Dickinson’s inspections on the mundane occurrences that took place outside her window, this same gesture, of gazing out the window and interpreting that outward look into an interior space, is the very same that the work strives to achieve. Featuring the work of Noelle AllenBrent Fogt, and Nicholas Sagan, Meador sets up a binary between two very simple polarities of a landscape: land and sky, and delivers instead the content in between these two ideas – highly focused on material, perception, and forms remade to imitate nature.

Work by Nicholas Sagan. Installation view, 2013. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Detail, Noelle Allen. Photo courtesy of the artist.

This same form of resistance prevalent in Allen’s installation, which occupies much of the north wall: three spherical floor installations, entitled Iridophor, matched with a composite wall installation, similarly crafted by casting components of the artist’s garden in brightly colored wax and resin. In a gesture not unlike land artists from the 1960s, or more contemporary comparisons like Heidi Norton, Allen casts, sculpts, and rearranges plant forms as it relates not only to nature – but domestic, tamed nature; the disciplined product of an otherwise unruly context. The result is as unappealing as it is handsome; a temporary monument to an equally ephemeral landscape (the ubiquitous summer garden, impersonal and objective) that still resembles its own transience. Far from permanent, the delicacy of the structures looks as though they could falter at any moment, like wax sculptures that have almost reached their melting point. Directly across from Allen’s piece is a diptych and a floor installation by Fogt, each referencing one another. The two paintings have a similar collage aesthetic to Sagan’s piece, though the imagery is more woven and abstracted – hues of emerald green that overlap to make darker tones as they approach the center of the piece, as if the surfaces of the paintings themselves were crocheted. Below, a platform of leaves scattered on various sheets of paper lay stagnant, as if they were dyed with jewel tones and left to dry. Situated near the window, Fogt creates a play between similarity and difference – fall leaves equally as abundant on the streets just outside the space.

Work by Brent Fogt. Photo courtesy of the artist

The reverence for craft in the exhibition sets an overall tone of domesticity – though never eliciting nostalgia, tradition, or historical modes of craft representation. Instead, each piece stages a counterintuitive read. Sagan, Allen, and Fogt separately deliver a sense of site that betrays its representation – maintaining the semblance of distance and admiration for a far away place, while creating a new site that the material of the work itself produces.

Installation view, 2013. Photo courtesy of MK Meador and CAC.

Stephanie Cristello is the Editor in Chief for THE SEEN, and is also a Staff Writer at ArtSlant and the Chicago Contributor for New American Paintings.

The Terrestrial, The Celestial, and the Imagined In Between runs through October 24.

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