Chicago Artist Writers: “All Well and Good” at Circle Contemporary
By Cody Tumblin
Circle Contemporary’s latest exhibition, All Well and Good, features nine artists who, often with unconventional approaches to their craft, share a contemporary vision of color and light. The gallery is an extension of Arts of Life, a Chicago nonprofit space that hosts over sixty resident artists with varying levels of developmental and intellectual disabilities, four of which are in the exhibition. Although Circle Contemporary is a relatively small space filled with fourteen works, its bustling installation delivers the electric commotion of a packed dance floor. The curator of the exhibition, Eric Ruschman, has created complex relationships between the artists by installing the works within close proximity of one another. Some works hang directly on top of one another, and some, as in the case of Robert Chase Heishman’s site-specific installation, AWARE, swallow the gallery entirely (walls, floors, ceiling, thermostats covered with fragments of cut vinyl) in a dazzling confetti effect.
When entering the space, the viewer is greeted by an unwieldy sculpture of predominately green detritus piled haphazardly around and on top of a camera tripod. Hubert Posey’s Untitled 1-3 is a lively collision of fabric, foam, yarn, glitter, and wood wrapped into a chaos of stapling with long tendrils of hot glue. Arguably the most figurative abstraction in the show with a head, a foot/ shin shaped form at one leg of the tripod, and the largest bulk of debris resting on a naked painting stretcher at the other leg, one can feel Posey’s work watches the viewer from all sides of its eyeless form.
Anna Kunz’s commanding abstract painting, Helios, at nearly five by five feet is hung on the left side of the entrance. Shifting bodies of blue, red, and pink all gather around two vibrant yellow square forms nested in the bottom right corner. The vibration of these two specific yellows, a canary yellow stacked on top of only a slightly more fluorescent hue, emits unstable energy that radiates throughout the painting. One can imagine the sun on a cloudless day cutting through the chatty noise of our thoughts.
Behind Posey’s sculpture and perpendicular to Kunz, paintings by Andrew Masullo and Dave Krueger sit side by side on the rear wall. Masullo’s work, 5146, is a small, eight by ten-inch painting; it’s primarily a flat and even yellow, with squarish forms of red, pink, black, green, and gray radiating in an even sequence from the bottom right corner of the canvas. Krueger’s work, Charlie and His Chocolate Factory, is a mesmerizing spectrum of paint, with many colors and patterned forms performing more like an impossible architectural schematic. Krueger masterfully condenses what appears to be a complex composition of facades and interior spaces into a chattering of lines, dots, and checkers that collide in bewildering nervous energies.
In the adjacent room, Lindsey Whittle’s sculpture, #connect, sprawls across the empty floor, slightly larger than a human body. In a pile of fluorescent felt forms that look like an armchair and sofa cushions that are removed and reshaped into limbs and heads, misshapen cuts of velcro sewn to its surface, the work is humorous and alien in identity. Some of the forms have smaller appendages sprouting out that feel like cartoonish noses or drooping, nubby animal tails or genitals. On the closest form to the viewer, a daisy chain of zip ties and velcro rings spill out of an unknown crevice.
#connect’s busy surface of collaged velcro shapes mirrors Robert Chase Heishman’s installation AWARE, with its jagged and irregular fragments of vinyl, each varying only 6 to 10 inches in length that cover the walls and ceiling above. Each piece of Heishman’s work is a cropped snippet of a larger photograph revealing parts of a dislocated interior space: wood flooring, walls, ducts, studio detritus, fingers, and some undefinable images of flat color such as fuchsia, teal, and pink. These strange images fill the space entirely and evenly across all surfaces in the same disorienting way that a disco ball’s dancing light causes the whole room to spin. AWARE’s fragmented projection suggests a constellation of suspended memory, ultimately disrupting the gallery’s own physical structure.
Flanking Lindsey Whittle’s sculpture are three landscape drawings by Maria Vanik and a large purple mural of a dog’s head by Ad Minoliti. Vanik’s drawings are evenly sequenced horizons, dense, diligent bands of deep purple and orange felt tip marker fill the paper. Each drawing is saturated in color with heavy horizontal marks broken apart by forks of crayon or colored pencil that stand upright on the bottom of each image. Black Rain stands out and has a brooding yet soothing appearance that absorbs you in its deep umber pigment with glints of scarlet peeking through.
Nearby, Minolti’s Puppy is a rounded rectangular mural of a dog’s face similar in shape to an iMessage bubble and is painted directly on the wall in purple acrylic only slightly lighter in value to Vanik’s drawings. Its geometric features are delineated by only two black semi-circles for cheeks, a gray muzzle, and black circle nose, with two framed Susan Pasowicz drawings for eyes. These two artist’s work cohabitates extraordinary well, Minolti containing Pasowicz in a theatrical guise that animates the drawings.
Pasowicz has an uncanny ability to pile thousands of thin, hair-like colored pencil marks in rapid succession and undulating color that delivers a complex depiction of light similar to Monet’s famous haystack paintings. The images themselves vibrate brightly, aptly titled Maybe Bring Some Happiness Into the Future and Something Super. Another Pasowicz drawing is hung across the room on the opposite wall titled The Magic Mirror. This drawing depicts a black framed mirror sitting on a flat, grasshopper green band of grass. The sky is a luminous pink with a yellow sun in the upper right-hand corner, a cheery smile on its face.
All Well and Good demonstrates the power of a keenly curated group show, with distinctly individual artists playing off one another’s electricity. Eric Ruschman, not only the curator but a successful painter who deals in playful abstraction, perceptively navigates the subtleties of each artist’s work in ways that reveal their unknown humor and complications. Through the dazzling energy of a packed gallery, All Well and Good delivers complex narratives of color that radiate equal parts warmth and light. It would be hard to walk out of a room such as this without a smile on your face.