Chicago Gallery Review: October 08′

October 29, 2008 · Print This Article

Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche; Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren; Amy Mayfield @ threewalls

Artwork copyright the original artists; text and documentation copyright Paul Germanos.

Friday, October 17, 2008, Chicago:

Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche

“ognuno vede” — Niccolo Machiavelli:

As I ride east, the sky fades to red behind me.
And according to no particular rhythm, drops of rain infrequently appear on the visor of my helmet.
Bike parked, block walked, I cross the threshold of Monique Meloche Gallery and find the photography of Carrie Schneider.

Schneider’s prints are large — an easy meter on any given side — and in full color.
The subjects are human figures, and products of human artifice, as found in landscapes of great natural beauty.
OK.

Meloche’s exhibition program has seemed at once gutsy and cerebral, demonstrating a sustained interest not only in the sensual human experience of the world, but also favoring a cool, museum-like intellectual framing of contemporary issues.
And so I suppose there’s something here in addition to pretty scenery and clever portraits.
Clue: the consistently idiosyncratic aspect of Schneider’s photography is the focus upon some type of covering.

Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche

The human figure in the piece entitled We, and the canoe in Dazzle Camouflage, are draped with a Riley-like, black-and-white canvas.
But “dazzle” is a reference not to Op Art, rather a battlefield technique that disrupts an opponent’s perception through the use of striking, high-contrast patterns wholly unrelated to the object so treated.[1]

Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche

Certain of that, conscious of the fact that Carrie Schneider’s work has, for several years, evidenced an artistic strategy concerned with ambiguity,[2]
it seems likely that her first solo show is in large part an exploration of the tactics of camouflage.

Continuing to view the work, continuing to think about camouflage, the self-portrait beneath a mask of juniper boughs in Queen of This Island seems not unlike a ghillie suit:
that covering of organic materials drawn from the environment into which one desires to blend,
most familiar in the form of a rude crown of grass and twigs ringing the helmet of military snipers.[3]

Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche

The application of such substances to the human figure is a familiar process in Chicago:
A photograph of one of Nick Cave’s “suits” hung on the same gallery wall a few short months ago;
and while not “wearable,” and more distant (ten to twenty years prior) historically, there is also the example of Tom Czarnopys’ cast figures encased in bark.

Maybe most notable in their exploitation of camouflage have been local artists Tom Burtonwood & Holly Holmes.
In their piece Price War!, as see at the Consuming War exhibition, B & H applied a non-threatening commercial pattern to threatening, military shapes.
Later reversing that figure/ground relationship at artXposium 2.0, B & H applied a threatening military pattern to a non-threatening commercial shape in their piece Urban Camo Santa.

That Burtonwood and Holmes examine the relationship between commerce and war is writ large for all to read.[4]

Coyly, Schneider looks out from her work: young, beautiful and self-satisfied.
She’s not really hiding.
What is Schneider’s interest in camouflage?
In both her projected and also in her printed films, the message, the revelation, is delivered by means of the obscurement.
What is she attempting to communicate?

Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren

Communication:

There are times when the clarity and simplicity of an artist’s message, amplified by the means of delivery,
overwhelm and even stupify the viewer.

In the past, Barbara Kruger’s bold font has seemed to shout at me;
Jenny Holzer’s animation and projections have quite literally circled menacingly, and towered ominously above me.[5]
I’ve been told that this confrontational mode of delivery was carefully chosen for the purpose of forcing certain issues into the public consciousness.

But, fighting — and the work of Kruger and Holzer alluded to above is combative — with the weapons and armor
of the enemy, they, at times, appear to belong to his camp…to be propagandists.

Exposed to loud noise, I cover my ears; in the presence of a bright light, I shield my eyes.
But when someone whispers, I draw near and listen.
And seeing something delicate and small, I’m inclined to study it with care.

Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren

And so it is at 1052 W. Fulton Market: I find myself drawn into Lora Fosberg‘s text-ladden pieces at Linda Warren Gallery.
And I attribute my reaction to her subtle treatment of the material.
Admittedly, I’ve tended to recoil when confronted by large amounts of text in what is nominally visual art.
But Fosberg’s words and phrases are well-integrated with the purely aesthetic elements of her design.

Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren

Fosberg shows a deft hand when practicing the craft of draftsmanship.
Clean, sure strokes of brush and pen define figures with what appears to be little effort.
I’m caught unaware by the content, having been more-or-less lulled into a receptive state by the combined effect of the subtle tones of her palette, the easy grace of her execution, and the modest scale of the pieces on display.
Fosberg’s made visible dialogues, dialogues that, in her own words,
“suggest the familiar while maintaining ambiguity.”

Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren

As in Schneider’s show, here there are figures active in a landscape.
But Fosberg’s models aren’t literal representations of herself;
and they aren’t looking out of the frame at me — seeking my attention and approval.
No, the subjects of Fosberg’s ink and gouache caricatures are busily about their given work.

Amy Mayfield @ threewalls

Internal dialogue:

Amy Mayfield @ threewalls

Up the stairs, down the hall, to threewalls I go.
It’s the crazy aunt’s attic in which I’ve found voodoo dolls, horror films, and even whole trees.
Tonight a heavily embroidered curtain hangs between the body of Amy Mayfield‘s installation and the external world of the gallery’s front room.
Passing through that membrane I entered a hot vermillion space.

Amy Mayfield @ threewalls

fornus, fornax, fornix

Mayfield has wholly invested herself in the process of transforming the back room of the gallery:
choosing to place some found objects, fabricate other pieces, and treat the environment as well.
The surfaces — from the tiles beneath my feet to the walls on which framed items are hung —
are well-painted, sometimes thickly, sometimes possessing a glossy sheen.

Amy Mayfield @ threewalls

Rising up from the floor are foam concretions that resemble stalagmites,
the floor having been re-tiled with brightly colored geometric units of her own creation.
It’s the contrast between the line quality of those two things that really strikes me.
There’s a wild, almost schizophrenic, swing from style-to-style, piece-to-piece;
the unifying compositional element being the vivid color that she favors.

Mayfield, like Schneider and Fosberg, I think, is involved in a process that is somewhat autobiographical.
Schneider, as a model, quite literally appears in her own work.
Fosberg presents artifacts of thought processes.
Mayfield manifests externally some internal space, viscerally fusing the physical and psychological.

+ + +

It says something good about the scene in Chicago that it’s now possible
to experience, back-to-back, strong shows by three women at different
points in their lives and careers. Go and compare:

Amy Mayfield @ threewalls through Nov 15, 2008

Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren through Nov 29, 2008

Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche through Dec 6, 2008


[1] See: The “dazzle” cars of Patricia van Lubeck, circa the early 90’s.

[2] See: Comments on Schneider’s Derelict Self series, 2006-2007, made by
Aura Seikkula, curator of the Finnish Museum of Photography.

[3] See: False Colors: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage by
Roy R. Behrens,
Professor, Art and Design, University of Northern Iowa (noting especially the text’s cover art) for more on the relationship between art and camouflage.

[4] See: Camouflage at London Imperial War Museum, 2007;
“The first major exhibition to explore the impact of camouflage on modern warfare and its adoption into popular culture.”

[5] See: Jenny Holzer: Protect Protect @ MCA through February 1, 2009.

Written by Paul Germanos

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