Collapse, failure, bailout, economic crisis and greed. It seems like the last year has been a downward vortex of no return. The trials and tribulations of day-to-day life are sometimes too much to handle. It is as if we will only survive by the skin of our teeth. These ruminations of the human condition are evident in new work by Chicago artist Jen Rosenthal. Aptly titled "Control", the new series is on view at the Chicago Art Department until April 24th. The show is a splattering of fears, observations and insight expressed through thread and ink. Located at 1837 South Halsted, the Chicago Art Department (CAD) provides an open forum for Rosenthal's dialogue about her exploration into "the inky middle ground between control and entropy".
"I know I can do this...I'm just scared."
He asked what did I have to lose?
I said, "control."
He said, "What control? You allow everything and everyone to dictate your life."
He was right. I would only react when provoked. I allowed my life to flow by the decisions made
around me. I waited until change came to me.
This would be the first time I took control.
The above conversation is an excerpt from the artist's blog describing her thoughts about "Control". Rosenthal touches on many themes that plague society today. The stream of consciousness installation at the front the gallery loft is literally the writing on the wall (seen above). Like a rock through a window, this paragraph hits you upon arrival. Rosenthal has resigned herself to the fact that not everything in life is controllable. The artist translates the chaos of her mind into meticulous concepts of stitching and line. When speaking about "Control" Rosenthal explains that the series was developed out of necessity, "For me, my art is all about the process. It's like my meditation; my Zen. I turned to this body of work to relieve my anxieties and to help me get my head straight, not unlike therapy. I just started "doing" and the theme emerged unexpectedly". These issues of control manifest in the exhibition. Her mixed media works feature a nucleus of undulating lines interspersed with delicate cut-outs, and pristinely sewn thread. The imagery is organic, reminiscent of a network of veins or sprouting weeds through crags of cement. Each work is a spiraling gyre into the abyss of the artist's struggle. The palette of black and white with shots of red reiterates that the artist is bursting at the seams. Although these works exude a visceral concept, they also act as a metaphor to represent the calm after, not before the storm. Rosenthal has learned to harness the crisis and it is clear that she has not yet lost control.
Control #15, 2009, ink/thread on vellum, 5' x 7', Image couretsy of the artist.
Detail of Control #35, ink on vellum, 10 x 13 1/2. Image courtesy of the artist.
It is apparent that this series is quite personal for the artist. The venue has a personal connection as well. Jen Rosenthal is one of eight resident artists and the Director of Development at CAD. The artists operate the space in addition to lending their skills and talents to the community. The organization is dedicated to the cultivation of the arts, specifically with new and emerging artists by way of education, artistic development, exhibition and outreach to the community. In addition to opening its doors on the second Friday of every month, CAD presents programming for all media, you can even get hands-on experience of learning how to DJ. Some of the galleries exhibitions are open calls, another step to give the public a chance to get involved with the arts. In face of tough times this creative space seems to flourish, having just launched a new website and in talks of expanding to a larger gallery.
--Robyn Farrell Roulo