The two artists featured in Green Lantern gallery’s soon-to-close exhibition have a similar, illustrative style that makes for a well-made visual marriage. Due to the divergent content of the work on display however, Greg Cook and Kari Percival’s series of works are a discordant juxtaposition. Green Lantern gallery’s attempt to evoke both a history and a natural history museum within the walls of their gallery is daring. Despite the tension of the works on display, the show is not without sweet and simple moments of release as well.
The “despicable wonders” of the exhibition title definitely belong to the well-represented array of two- and three-dimensional pieces by artist Greg Cook. Accompanying the colored flags hanging overhead and the large, corner sculpture, are two series of work hanging like towels on a laundry line. Strung across the North and East walls of the gallery, one series of illustrations, done in black pen on paper, depicts row after row of figural line drawings of early American settlers in conflict with each other, via the infamous witch trials of New England, and in conflict with the Native American population. The other series, done in black ink on paper, features solid black silhouette illustrations of prisoners and interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, with text taken from actual FBI records released in 2003. Similarly brutal, the humiliation suffered by the prisoners and the topical, as opposed to historical, nature of the scenes resonate with more force. In both series, Cook’s neatly rendered, hyper-serifed typography perfectly accompanies the imagery of his illustrations.
Greg Cook. Installation view of "The Hall of Natural & Despicable Wonders" at Green Lantern. Image courtesy of the artist.
The “natural wonders” are represented in smaller number by artist Kari Percival. Born in Maine and having received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Percival’s contributions consist of well-printed, multi-colored woodcuts depicting woodland animals. Viewers are given an x-ray view into the internal workings of these creatures, which often reveal organs and offspring in roomy locales. Also installed at the base of her wall of prints is a homespun model of some sort of imagined universe, complete with stitched together circular scraps of watery blue fabric covered in stones and other flotsam, often inscribed with text. Above them hangs several slowly spinning spherical planets attached to a rounded, woven wood ring. Percival’s genuine interest in, and affection for, the animals and their natural habitats are ripe for inclusion as illustrations in contemporary child’s literature.
Green Lantern itself is perhaps better known for its small press publications of beautifully crafted slow-media gems, namely Paper & Carriage, a quarterly of both short fiction and non-fiction pieces and images, as well as the indispensable Phonebook, a compendium of “alternative” art spaces across the US. Both are produced in conjunction with their frequent collaborator, ThreeWalls gallery.
It’s hard to comprehend how the activities of the press and gallery balance themselves out within the schedule of its seemingly indefatigable director Caroline Picard, herself an MFA candidate in writing at SAIC. The apartment space they occupy on the fast and furious strip of Milwaukee, just South of the four corners in Wicker Park, is, refreshingly, not forcing itself into the white-cube cookie cutter, but instead bravely navigates the boundaries between art exhibition space and living space, with the kitchen sink in full view at all times. Just like the artists in their current exhibition, sometimes opposites successfully attract.
--Thea Liberty Nichols