For her second solo show at Western Exhibitions, DEB SOKOLOW will exhibit a 28-footlong drawing as well as a selection of separate but tangentially-related items inspired by a recent two-month stay at the mountaintop artist residency, Nordisk Kunstnarsenter Dalsåsen, in Norway. The show opens on Friday, March 15 with a free public reception from 5 to 8pm and runs through April 20, 2103.
In Gallery 1, unframed collage drawings, artists books and a three-dimensional floor piece will focus on a variety of seemingly disparate topics: the inner workings of an international art theft organization known as “The Association”, a walk through nature which becomes less pleasant when rock formations begin to resemble the faces of former bosses, unexplained shrouded lumps on the floor, and the secret history of unconventional ingredients, such as troll meat, appearing in Philly cheesesteak sandwiches.
In Gallery 2, disparate elements from Gallery 1 will be given context within a much larger story. “All Your Vulnerabilities Will Be Assessed” is a long, panoramic narrative on multiple papers consisting of handwritten texts, erasure marks, blocked out information, photocopies, diagrams and architectural floor plans with flap-like walls protruding from the papers’ surfaces. The story is narrated with the voice of Sokolow’s ubiquitous protagonist, also known as “you,” a somewhat unreliable individual, who, in this particular story, exists as an artist and disgruntled security guard on staff at the Art Institute in Chicago.
This narrator, along with other artists from various countries, have been invited to spend two months at a retreat on a mountaintop in rural Norway with the premise that a quiet, secluded environment will be provided for making art. Unbeknownst to those invited, the retreat is actually a recruitment center for an international art theft organization called “The Association” and the selection process is neither based on artistic merit nor exhibition credentials but on the sole qualification that each artist selected must also be an unhappy security guard working at an art museum with a weak security system and vulnerable masterpieces.
During the two months at the retreat, the artists are slowly brainwashed into believing that The Association has the connections and power to make each of them famous in exchange for staging art thefts inside the museums they work at. Along the way, each artist is put through a series of mental and physical tests as part of the art thief recruiting process. The story also touches on chilling plans to harvest Norwegian trolls for meat to be used in Philly cheesesteaks, a poisoning and other murderous schemes.
Part truth, part fiction, and part comedy, Sokolow’s complex visual tales are based on well-researched facts expanded by the fantastical mind of the narrator, who the artist identifies as “you,” making the reader/viewer an active participant in the almost-convincing events... Collaged and drawn images including portraits, photographs, diagrams, and maps accompany the awkward, handwritten text. The size of the text matters: the largest text, or “primary” narrative voice, tells the main story; the smaller “secondary” text conveys what you (as the paranoid or unreliable narrator) are thinking; and an even smaller “tertiary” text reveals what you are really thinking but would never dare verbalize. The artist’s hand is intentionally imperfect, with the graphite smudged, covered with Wite-Out™, and even masked by black bars, mimicking declassified government documents.
-- Patricia Hickson, Emily Hall Tremaine Curator of Contemporary Art, excerpt from the 2013 essay for Sokolow’s MATRIX exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
Simultaneous to this show at Western Exhibitions, Deb Sokolow will have a solo show at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT and exhibit work in a group show at Invisible-Exports in New York City. Upcoming projects include The Drawing Center in New York City at the end of this year and inclusion in the forthcoming international survey on contemporary drawing, Vitamin D2, published by Phaidon with an essay written on Sokolow’s work by Drawing Center curator, Claire Gilman. Past solo shows include the Abrons Art Center in New York City, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Moore College of Art in Philadelphia, and in Chicago at the Spertus Museum, Western Exhibitions and a 12x12 at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Group shows include the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Smart Museum in Chicago, and Voorkamer in Belgium. Her work has been written about in a number of publications including Artforum.com, Art in America (online), Artnet, Art Papers, Art on Paper, Artslant, Beautiful Decay, Dagens Nyheter, The Kansas City Star, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Chicago Tribune. Sokolow has been a contributor to Creative Time’s project, Comics, to Swedish art magazine, Paletten and has been a recent artist-in-residence both at Nordisk Kunstnarsenter Dalsåsen in Norway, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture, and at Art Omi International Artists Residency. Sokolow is a 2012 recipient of the Artadia Award: The Fund for Art and Dialogue (Chicago cycle). She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2004 and lives and works in Chicago.