Holly Murkerson's "Landlocked Blue" imagines the mid-stroke practice of authorship as a landscape of possibilities, or as an ocean of thought, and describes these expansive ideas through a surprising spatial depth. Julius Caesar's gallery space is well-known for its exhibitions of emerging artists, many of whom occupy studio spaces in the same building, as well as for its relative distance off of the beaten tracks in East Garfield Park. While following the traditions of a white-cube gallery, it is a notably small space--barely the size of a project space by Chicago standards--and the resulting forced proximity to the work and walls has left me many times wishing for a few extra square feet of breathing room.
Murkerson took smart steps to push out the walls by bringing into this small space a stack of ideas demanding isolation and distance. The most powerful and startling gesture, subtle enough to make me miss its effect at first and wonder if the gallery had actually been expanded, was the artist's introduction of a horizon line, achieved by painting the walls above the gallery's regulation 58" eye line with a nearly-white blue on two walls, and a pale yellow on the third and fourth. With a horizon at its appropriate spot, I experienced strobes of physical relation to the space around me, at one moment feeling the same edge-of-claustrophobia spatial awareness as I always feel in Julius Caesar, and then a flash of isolation, as if upon an infinite tundra, and then back again.
Installation view of Holly Murkerson's "Landlocked Blue" at Julius Caesar. 2011. Image courtesy of the gallery.
Three more traditional works in the exhibition also encouraged this strange illusion. The two photographs, presented so that their horizons lined up with the eye-level faux horizons painted on the walls, repeated an image of a macro-zoom landscape of floor dust and micro-debris. The image shrinks the viewer to its own level; though that level varied between them, as each image was cropped differently and printed at two sizes. The third work was a writing desk, dramatically human-sized that grounded the gallery in our own world. On its top, a stack of gridded glass presented a last illusion of indefinite space, with the grid visible as a three-dimensional gradient when looked into from above.
Murkerson's thesis should be familiar to anyone who writes on the regular, and for whom engaging with unrestricted creative thought is part of the gig. Flipping words can be a daunting task, but "Landlocked Blue" is content mid-flip, with the crucible of ideas still bubbling, the last sentence unwritten, and the possibilities stretching out in every incomplete direction.
-Steve Ruiz, ArtSlant Staff Writer