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Gallery Spotlight: Harold Washington Community College President’s Gallery

Gallery Spotlights are posts about randomly selected* art venues in Chicago

Arboromania at the Harold Washington Community College President's Gallery

Take one visit to Harold Washington Community College on the bustling corner of Lake and Wabash in the loop and you’ll realize that it isn’t your typical site of post-secondary education. It’s well lit, bustling and furnished with tasteful décor. Bright color photographs of landmarks and every day streets across Chicagoland line the hallways, and the large conference room at the ground level is often reserved for student art exhibitions, lectures by local artists or the annual performance of the Vagina Monologues. In fact, if you’re lucky enough to stop by during pre-production season, you may even find yourself face to face in an elevator with a student clad in a mellifluous 6 foot fuzzy felt vagina costume, who will gladly provide you with a free condom, a flyer for the show and a big smile. This enthusiastic commitment to the arts is maintained year-round in the President’s Gallery on the eleventh floor.

Due to the school’s limited space—all classrooms, offices and student groups are housed in the eleven floor corner building—the gallery is essentially a aggrandized office space with ever-rotating wall décor. Technically, only one secretary’s desk occupies the space, but off of one corner is the reprographics room and human resources and off of the other corner are the offices of the deans, the president and other administrators. Still, it is a large room with as much wall space as a small gallery in the west loop, and it shows comparable work as well. While most shows in this space are limited to two-dimensional work—paintings, photographs, etc.—they greatly vary in tone and temperament. In the last few months, the gallery has hosted solo shows and group shows, shows organized thematically and shows organized by oeuvre. Each lends a new air to the space, making the administrative offices of this community college a dynamic rather than stagnant area of communication.

Arboromania at the Harold Washington Community College President's Gallery

Currently on display is Arboromania, an exhibition of local artist Larry Chait’s photography. The subject matter of all the photographs is nature, and more specifically, the figure of the tree. In three different series spread out over four walls, Chait looks to the form and structure of the tree as a complex organism with as great a variance as any other living being. The long wall displays fairly traditional black and white photographs, depicting threes or their branches from a distance, drawing attention to their overall shape and structure and reminiscent of some sort of Ansel Adams/Japanese print hybrid in their framing and stylization. There is a wall of four close studies of rotting leaves, each made imperfect and yet unique through the hollow holes carved at their centers. An examination of the process of decay, Chait has documented the seemingly contradictory vibrancy exuded every fall by the tree as it prepares for winter. A third and much more unrecognizable series stretches across the back corner of the gallery. Small pigment ink prints on cotton paper that resemble abstract canvases more than photographic nature studies, the series, one realizes upon closer examination, is an up close and personal portrait of tree bark. Each of these small prints is a unique work, displaying its own texture and palette. A few display awesome bright tones while others are more subtle variations on black and white. They illustrate the diversity and range of what one previously presumed to be a limited topography.

Arboromania is on display at the Harold Washington Community College President’s gallery through July 2nd. The gallery is located in room 1105 at 30 E. Lake Street and open Monday through Friday, 10am through 5pm, and by appointment. What’s up next is uncertain or at least unavailable to the public, but be sure to check back in a few weeks. All information can be found here.

*Gallery spotlights are chosen based on a lottery, which we document by videotape, in order to be transparent and truly random. 10 were chosen out of a pool of 350.