barbara&barbara is a gallery that doesn’t accept commissions from the artists, supports itself by giving legit lesbian haircuts, and is having a BBQ for the closing of the show Pardon Me, I’m Just Not Feeling Like Myself Today at the end of the month.
The space is a store front and has a few couches in the center. When I arrived, music was blasting, and one of “the barbaras”, Kara Wabbel, greeted me in blue latex gloves. Not knowing about the salon operation in the back, I assumed she was preforming some sort of back porch surgery. I am not sure why my mind jumped to this conclusion.
The first work I encountered was Tony Francesconi’s Snare (2009), forcing a fist (presumably his own) into his mouth. He is gazing off into the distance, and the figures teeth are violently pushing the flesh on the fist into wrinkles. The print is larger than life size and glossy, and feels very aggressive, like a bear gnawing it’s paw off. I just grossed myself out.
Brian Speckmann’s Farmer’s Tan Experience (2009) consists of documentation of an experiment of acquiring a farmer’s tan. The male subject poses for a full body portrait of before, during, and after the experience. There are also photos of the subject in a tanning bed wearing a v-neck shirt, shorts, and socks. I have yet to see the fetishization of this type of body in contemporary photography, the quest for markings of someone who does manual labor. Coming from half of a lifetime spent on a farm in New Jersey (yes there are farms there), it seems like a fairly pathetic and urban gesture, along the lines of co-opting the mohawk or white dredlocks. Consulting the text for the show and the context of the work, however, I would read this piece more as attaining a camouflage of sorts.
Tony Francesconi’s portrait, Dripping (2009) was by far my favorite piece of the show, apologies for the funky angle of the image. It is a close up photographic portrait of a subject presumably crying in grief. At least that is how I read it. Being an “ugly crier” myself, I immediately understood the gesture. From a distance, the grimace looks like a cartoonish smile, and I like how this is pushed up against (what I felt was) an agonizing moment.
Tim Pigott had a few hand drawn portraits in the show, similar to his work I had seen at BelieveInn, and Brian Yates had some sculptural and photo work.
The show overall felt like a mixed bag to me. I was seriously drawn to a few of the works, and others I was pretty ambivalent about. I was really curious about a show exploring the fringes of human nature, but I was expecting something a little more raw and dirty than what I saw. But perhaps that is just my own human nature. I’m really into the gallery as an idea; supporting artists and supporting itself while still being accessible and sustainable. I look forward to seeing more shows in this space.
barbara&barbara is located at 1021 N Western Ave in Chicago, IL. The closing for Pardon Me, I’m Just Not Feeling Like Myself Today will be on September 22nd from 6-10pm.