Art Seen: Chicago

THE HILLS // SOMETHING OTHER THAN

by Stephanie Cristello

A Delicate Interloper

CHICAGO, IL. This exhibition is experienced equally as well online as it is in person. The proliferation of digital imagery used throughout is not new, though California-based Greg Ito and Jonah Susskind do it freshly in this two-person show currently on view at The Hills Esthetic Center. This is a space where soft images hit hard. The overall pink pastel palette is evocative of a princess-themed bedroom met with sports symbols and heavy hardware. While the entire space is flattened by the prevalent whiteness of the walls and floor, a physical interaction that references a type of screen no doubt, the collection of individual and collaborative pieces installed subtly punctuate the gallery. On the far right wall, a piece best described as a Tinker Bell Air Jordan hangs high, assuming the exact pose of the logo, though embellished with gendered ornamentation; the added outline of a bouncy ponytail, the flirty silhouette of a flipped up skirt, and her hand holding a large heart instead of a basketball. Slam dunk. The material is reflective, but it is important to note that it is not chrome – it is a mirror, a material that would offer a perfect reflection of the viewer’s gaze, though the piece is purposefully placed beyond view. You can look at it, but you cannot see yourself. It is more charm-like this way, more of a tease. Indeed that is the archetype of the glossily packaged gender-fiction this exhibition delivers – not female, but the impossible girlish trickster, a marketed caricature of schoolgirl misbehavior.

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Installation view: Greg Ito and Jonah Susskind at The Hills Esthetic Center, Something Other Than, 2014.

References to the game abound in the exhibition – though none point toward fair play. A series of inset monochrome canvases covered by white perforated jersey material fade in a gradient succession – from peach to pink to violet – the graphic demarcations on the surface barely visible as you get close. These are pieces that benefit from distance, though the reward is no more significant from far away – only hints of small designs like those used for temporary tattoos reveal themselves from this greater proximity, a ring of thorns or perhaps a dragon, sparsely stamped across the surface. Throughout the gallery, soft nude-colored chains, ropes, and hardware are placed on other works and components of the existing architecture, meticulously molded by hand, though their weight is slightly affected, appearing lighter and malleable by the yielding quality of the sculpey. In the top left corner of the gallery, one set of chains is suspended by the prongs of pigeon spikes – one potential message is that the birds are not welcome, but the threat against peaceful things of flight extends to all equally innocent symbols in the space. In easy, breeze, beauty, a thin and transparent pale pink crushed velour curtain hangs in front of the gallery windows, hazily filtering the light. A seemingly simple piece at first glance, disruptions occupy the surface of the material, studded earrings and fishhooks are pierced through the fabric at even intervals, spanning across to adorn the entire curtain. There is something disturbing about the impulse to accessorize an inanimate domestic object, yet the piece does not come across as dark and foreboding in the dramatic sense. Beyond the edge of the curtain, two pristinely sculpted white feet peer out as if someone was hiding behind the veil, though visibly severed and discontinued at the ankles. Even this coy allusion to an intruder is sly and humorous, picturing not the menacing trespasser, but the sweet stalker – a delicate interloper. Ito and Susskind point out that not all mischief is done with malice.


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Greg Ito and Jonah Susskind, Something Other Than at The Hills Esthetic Center runs through May 2, 2014.

Stephanie Cristello is a Staff Writer for ArtSlant, and the Chicago Contributor for New American Paintings.

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