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Magic Realism at Schneider Gallery

by Claire Lynch

Seeing “Magic Realism” on opening night left me thinking of collective memory. Two or more people can absorb the same reactionary emotion, providing they experienced something together. Or something similar. I know a set of sisters that frequently discover they’ve had the same dream. The exact same dream. Perhaps the two artists featured in Schneider Gallery’s new show, Jamie Baldridge and Sergio Fasola, are long lost brothers. Two visionaries playing with pieces of the same puzzle.

Schneider features a show of mesmerizing computerized photographic prints. Truly, these images reel you in and keep you hanging in wonder. A woman cradles a hawk or nonchalantly pets a tattooed pig, another sulks in front of a piece of birthday cake, a man stares, zombie-like, with a magnet strapped to his head. The mood is set by both Fasola and Baldridge, and while the works are unique to the artists, the idea of magic realism is achieved because of their dynamic duo.

Diana by Sergio Fasola is particularly startling. An ominous, divine theme is apparent with a female subject wearing an antiquated, royal dress against a divinely orange sky. She holds the contender of all symbolically god-like animals, the hawk, in her arms. Her control of the creature is second, however, to her bizarre, umpire-like mask and sinister expression.

Sergio Fasola "Diana"

Sergio Fasola "Diana"

Fasola rides again with Porcellinos, depicting a conventionally beautiful woman smiling and mysteriously stroking a pig covered in tattoos. This artist’s narratives are not quite that, but suggestions of unknown myths or altered, if not perverted, versions of fables and fairy tales. Fasola achieves the viewer’s awe through his stormy images.

Sergio Fasola "Porcellinos"

Sergio Fasola "Porcellinos"

However, the simultaneous showing of Jamie Baldridge’s work elevates the exhibition. Baldridge presents explicitly different themes, his characters more reminiscent of ghost-like relatives, his scenes staked in childhood. Of course, the feeling Baldridge gives you is only slightly different that that of Fasola’s scenes. The artists have an undeniable connection.

Jamie Baldridge "A Difference Engine Contemplates an Ontological Certainty"

Jamie Baldridge "A Difference Engine Contemplates an Ontological Certainty"

A Difference Engine Contemplates an Ontological Certainty by Baldridge is a strong example of this. Again, a kind of god is shown in this work. The female figure seems to mourn a failed celebration or sigh at its capricious nature. The upper part of her skull has turned into a cone-shaped metal machine, and no one is certain if she is aware of this or not. She acts overlooked but is covered by the heavy, smoky light of her nearby window, suggesting something sacred, something beyond even her eyes.

Another c-print by Baldridge depicts a woman much more aware. Her oddly masculine uniform and unrelated headdress, combined with her surroundings suggests she lives in someone’s dream rather than any definable reality. She holds delicate, old-fashioned bird cages in each hand and more closely watches the cage on her left. One holds a leafless branch, the other a small, dense cloud. The work is titled A Confluence of Arbitrary Ideas.

Jamie Baldridge "A Confluence of Arbitrary Ideas"

Jamie Baldridge "A Confluence of Arbitrary Ideas"

Fasola and Baldridge each created exceptional works. To see one without the other would remain a stimulating experience, leaving the viewer curious, taking them to a far off and often dark place. However, the magic of Magic Realism at the Schneider gallery is the dual experience- two artists operating thousands of miles apart are suddenly exhibited, back to back (or face to face), illuminating the power of fantasy. Each piece is like a piece of a dream sequence. The best part is that Fasola and Baldridge, at one point or another, must have been having the same dream.

“Magic Realism” can be viewed at the Schneider Gallery in River North from November 6th – January 2nd.