Sometimes, it's hard to make it to openings. I live in Chicago, where openings are so intensely crowded, I can't muster enough social fortitude to leave my house and see art. It seems even more unlikely to travel all the way to Hammond, Indiana on those socially lazy -- or just plain lazy -- occasions.
That said, I am so glad I got out to see Fred Sichhart's show at the Paul Henry Gallery. Dave and Rita Mueller, the owners of Paul Heny's, have put forth a truly original and strange show. Around 75 paintings by Mr. Sichhart cover the walls, hung salon-style from old racks, laid out on tables and perched in corners. The colors and surfaces of each painting are intense, almost too intense, and it took a while for them to grow on me. Strange serpentine paint gobs dangle off each canvas in a way, as a painter, is hard for me to justify, but after noticing an actual dead mouse nailed to a diamond shaped frame, who the hell cares? Just a side note: The mouse is a prop for the poem attached to the painting, so in a VERY strange way, it's justified for the sake of the narrative. And by 'strange' I mean 'awesome'.
The subject matter ranges from hallucinatory architecture, re-imagined wars, disembodied heads (read, portraits) and my personal favorite: strange poems of square cats and Picasso farting.
On top of (or more accurately, surrounding) the sensory overload of Sichhart's work, the gallery is a sight to see unto itself. The building's rich history is laid bare: its architecture wears the battle scars of remodeling and adjustments up and through WWII; the old wood of the building is handsome; the floors are speckled with a multitude of paint drips back when the gallery was a shop for painting cars. Some of the walls are exposed brick while others are covered in beautiful pressed tin dating back to a time before it was a car shop.
I would couple a visit out to Paul Henry's Gallery with Uncle Freddy's that is also in Hammond. Get out of the city and have a blast! It's an evening's destination worth the trip.