78 E. Washington St., Chicago, IL 60602
For a global population recently re-introduced to several billion relatives we haven’t seen for tens of thousands of generations, the problems of structural divergence in communication, science, history, social, and economics appears to be a big deal or something. This is an entirely new problem, of course, but thankfully we’ve been here before.
Two exhibitions ran concurrently with Terrence Hannum’s “Amidst Our Throng” at the Chicago Cultural Center, all now closed. I’ll start with the two shows, then we’ll meet at the center - see if you can guess my impression before we get there.
To the south of Terrence Hannum’s “Amidst Our Throng” were walls covered by “Walls,” an exhibition of photographs by Dr. Art Fox, which document the artist’s search for accidental beauty in those forms that articulate structures which delineate public and private spaces. The exhibition appears to celebrate the fatalist eroticism of urban exploration, presenting a political aesthetic of disintegration which may be beautiful or tragic depending on one’s empathy for the human beings who may still hide their dreams behind the walls they built, and who may see the same decay very differently from the other side.
To the north of Terrence Hannum’s “Amidst Our Throng,” the exhibition subject hop-scotches from crumbling-walls-as-economic-parable (perhaps) to a hallucination of knowledge separated from structure. Antonia Contro’s “Ex Libris” departs the book’s form as dead knowledge and breathes into it a kind of life, private and incomprehensible but fun to do with friends, and pretty while not completely un-familiar either. Together, both Art Fox’s “Walls” and Contro’s “Ex Libris” present a beautiful disintegration of social structure into private tribalisms, a sort of forest knowledge movement that worked well in forests.
Installation view of Terence Hannum's "Amidst our Throng" at the Chicago Cultural Center. Image by author.
Reading the three exhibitions as a conceptual text, amidst this throng of familiar ideas with something entirely surprising, Hannum’s crowd-level snapshots of black metal concerts rendered in colored oil paint. Around a partition wall, a video is framed by a pentagon shape, presenting only a limited view of action, as are a series of photographs along the west wall. This choice of personal documentation relies on the assumption that the viewer sees enough of the action to know the narrative, but the paintings are presented with suspect tradition, light choices reflecting awkwardly and obscuring the already obscured images, silhouetting the viewer against the institution’s walls; and canvases crowded and unframed, the titles spurious, and text only potentially relevant. Viewing the work in this way, I felt part of something clearly staged, but which I could not understand from the perspective provided me by this artist alone. As for the unifying subject matter, I respectfully assume it has something to do with black metal.
–Steve Ruiz, ArtSlant Staff Writer