by Carrie McGath
I had walked right by (Con)temporary Art Space a couple of times before almost running into the clever acronym logo painted onto a sandwich board outside this impromptu gallery space. Its former life as a Ritz Camera shop is now clearly a gallery as well as a place for discussion and research as their blog attests. The space is a part of the Pop-Up Art Loop initiative that actively artifies empty stores and storefronts with mobile galleries in prime spots around The Loop.
The opening on February 18, 2010 showed the work of many artists despite its small space including Douglas Burns, Tom Burtonwood, Emily Clayton, Theodore Darst, Jim Duignan, Josh Finck, Marian Frost, Elizabeth Furani, Laurra Hieber, Serena Himmelfarb, Holly Holmes, Henry James Glover, Nate Lee, Sarah Loude, Ed Marszewski, Rachael Marszewski, Tim Mellon, Andrew Rigsby, Chris Roberson, Kevin Stanton, & Kenneth Zawacki. The work was varied in style, media, and tone having an intriguing but sometimes awkward engagement with its bright space.
The 4-part grid of photographs by Sarah Loude was a definite highlight of the show with the photographs’ ethereal play with quiet color moodiness and narrative as contemporary versions of still life studies. The photographic studies captured by Loude engage in a narrative that is not quite discernible but is still intensely intriguing. The first photo in the grid is of a girl whose pose on a bed with an eaten apple shows the subject to be not only real and spontaneous, but also a subject rife with strength, independence, and deep contemplation. A narrative that cannot be discerned occurs as well, evoking a seductive contemplation within the viewer. The accompanying photographs show contained images of inanimate objects: a interior view out of a window looking out onto a snowy street, a pink stroller that has the feeling of disrepair and neglect, and an abstract look at wires that made me instantly think of time. These photographs are four moments in time, still life studies that are both lavish and understated.
The sculptural piece by Serena Himmelfarb is strong and disturbing, possessing a unique and awkward beauty. The dolls of Surrealist Hans Bellmer immediately came to my mind in my engagement with the piece. There is a violence here while there is a determined spirit and an intense, unconventional beauty. The bowed “head” with what appeared to be tiny limbs of plants cascading where an eye should be, contemplates its torso, as well as the empty and dirtied bottled sitting on the shelf of its stomach area. This piece represents so many emotions, and that became its true and ultimate beauty and power for me.
The painting by Douglas Burns was another highlight of the show. Its colors and light motion drew me in slowly, and then stayed with me throughout my thinking about the show as a whole entity. Its placement nearing the middle of the gallery made sense to me. It is a very realized and mature piece that acted as the meditative center of the show. In the painting there is a lone man who is meditative while moving forward and away from the viewer, and this really hinged the emotion in these three strong pieces. It seemed everything that was being grappled with in the show was being dealt with truthfully and genuinely in this piece by Burns.
These three works urged the show to be a cohesive one, but they felt troubled in the space, like misfits surrounded by work that strove more for cleverness over power and beauty. At the end of the day it was hard to swallow the work in this space, a space that was too bright and lucid for such quiet handiworks by our contemporaries. Many of the other works fit well into the space, the brightness cheering them on to the viewers. An Evening with Your (Con)temporaries is a unique show in a unique circumstance and deserves a look, but I felt as a whole the show felt as if it was battling itself.