For this exhibition, titled Rooms, Toebbe exhibits seven paintings composed of gouache and various mixed media materials (fabric, yarn and flocking, for example). As the title of the exhibition suggests, each painting is a fastidious depiction of an interior space, rendered in a pseudo-naive fashion. Each scene is drawn from Toebbe’s past and subtly psychologically charged: her mother’s childhood room, the living room of a vindictive neighbor, her parent’s living room during the Christmas holidays. Toebbe relies mostly on memory and old photographs to recreate each setting. “Spaces are my prominent memories. Rooms are things you can remember. There’s something cathartic about recreating those memories on paper.”
For Margie’s Room (2013), a scene of her mother’s childhood bedroom, Toebbe drew on family photos of her grandmother’s hand-sewn curtains, stapled wallboard and linoleum floors, which in her mother’s recollection was a quintessential adolescent girl’s room, replete with sewing machine, horse paintings, and vanity tables. In Jean’s Vision (2012), Toebbe recreated the living room of her mother’s friend, Jean, who claims to have seen The Virgin Mary and each Christmas decorates her entire living room blue. The seemingly mundane interiors of Toebbe’s idiosyncratic subjects are portholes into a stranger’s life that reveal only part of a story.
Toebbe’s paintings and mixed media collages transform those memories into formally executed homages about space, geometry, and color. The work foregrounds geometric patterns and materiality but also reveals moments of unexpected nuance: the landscape outside a window, the glare on a mirror, or the wood grain in a coffee table is subtly transformed into small abstract markings (a painting within a painting).
Rooms is a slice of Americana and a bit of nostalgia within a domestic frame. Are our lives really this structured? Who is doing the dusting? Do objects define us? Are the Christmas decorations an extension of our obsessive self? If I pay homage to The Virgin Mary will she visit my home?
Ann Toebbe received a MFA from Yale University, CT and a BFA from Cleveland Institute of Art, OH. She received a scholarship from DAAD, Universität der Kunst, Berlin, Germany in 2005, and was awarded a residency at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, ME in 2000. In 1995, Toebbe participated in the “NY Studio Program” at Parson’s School of Design, NY. Her work was recently exhibited in a group exhibition titled “Open House: Art About Home” at The Elmhurst Museum of Art, Chicago, IL and in solo exhibitions at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art (as part of the invitational “12 X 12” series); Ebersmoore Gallery, Chicago; and Steven Zevitas Gallery, Boston, MA. Toebbe’s work is included in an upcoming exhibition titled “Paper” at the Saatchi Gallery in London. This is her first solo exhibition at Monya Rowe Gallery. Toebbe lives and works in Chicago, IL.