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Renee Prisble Una
mini dutch
3111 W. Diversey , Chicago, IL 60647
September 13, 2008 - October 12, 2008

Splendid Surplus
by Thea Liberty Nichols

The simple, empathy-inspiring premise of artist Renee Prisble Una’s soon-to-close exhibition is this: purge all the unused materials, the stuff that takes up space and collects dust, from the artist’s studio. These items run the gamut from lengths of latex sheets and tubing, to cardstock labels, sheet music, maps, mirrors and acupuncture needles. The creation of this new body of work has proved a welcome challenge for Una, to craft objects outside the realm of her usual practice, recently focused on self-portraiture and the body. Although assemblages constructed from the fake eyelashes and latex sheets, with it’s skin-like quality, very viscerally evoke the body, the majority of the pieces in the exhibition exude a humorous, and unnerving, Surrealist de-familiarization of the familiar. The immediacy of these pieces creation bespeaks the experimentation and wonderment of the creative process itself.

The labels in the exhibition are equally as engaging. They provide the typical list of media used in the piece, but go on to detail what use these items were originally intended for, so we can understand why one would have all that latex on hand— since it was intended for a former exhibition at the Museum of Surgical Science.

Renee Prisble Una. Installation view of "Leftovers" at Mini-Dutch. Image courtesy of the artist.

The spirit of the exhibition is a perfect marriage with Mini-Dutch since the gallery is focused on displaying works-in-progress and site-specific installation. Self-characterized as “another apartment gallery”, it functions more as a project space then a “quasi-white box” gallery. Lucia Fabio isn’t bashful about identifying as its director either, but with exactly a year under its belt, and a growing amount of recognition and praise, her risky enterprise has proved a success.

The name of the gallery sprung, literally, from her frequent muse— rabbits. While sitting on the floor in her apartment brainstorming names for the space, one of her near and dear pet rabbits hopped into view, a special breed called Dutch dwarf, or, for short, Mini-Dutch. The emblem of the parsley-leaf on their promotional materials and website is a small nod to its cotton-tailed namesake.

Rabbits also pop up frequently in Fabio’s studio practice, in mural form as evidenced by the massive piece on the mainpage of her website, to her most recent project, Mattress Bunny, a collaborative work made with artist Robert Andrew Mueller and featured in the recently lapsed Artxsposium 2008. For more on her art administration activities, including full-disclosure on how Mini-Dutch got off the ground, check out the excellent interview recently conducted with Fabio for the Chicago Artist Resource.

Although contrary to Mini-Dutch’s standard practice, all works in this show are for sale, but all are modestly priced between five and fifty dollars. Of course the exception was made to prevent them from finding their way back into piles and stacks in Una’s studio! And thanks to the artist’s generosity, there are mounds of honey, amber and umber colored latex rings, titled mandalas, being given away free to visitors to the gallery.

Also in the spirit of the Una’s exhibition, a Materials Exchange has been organized for Sunday October 12 from 11-3. If you have items from your studio you’d like to purge, post them to the forum and show up for a swap-meet styled trade. Already advertised are handy, and pricey, items, such as oil paints, prisma color markers, and rabbit skin glue, all of which may be gently used. Other studio flotsam, like the not so unexpected latex tubing, will be on hand—golden fodder for “leftover” creations of ones own.

--Thea Liberty Nichols

Posted by Thea Liberty Nichols on 9/29/08

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