Several new gallery spaces have materialized in Ukrainian Village and surrounding west side micro-hoods in the last year–good news for those of us that live nearby.Peanut Gallerymoved to the corner of Augusta Boulevard and California Avenue recently, giving their witty, slightly twisted program room to breathe under a pretty pressed tin ceiling.DEFIBRILLATOR, one of the few spaces in the city reserved for performance and other ephemeral art, is celebrating its first anniversary nearby stalwart alternative space Lloyd Dobler, just off the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and Division. On the corner of Chicago Avenue and Damen (in Rotofugi’s old space) Hinge Galleryopened in July 2011, and is currently exhibiting an untitled group show curated by Director Holly Sabin.
Just inside the doors it feels California cool. An empty cube by Brent Houston dangles in the main space, painted yellow, white and black, with smaller versions hung above the reception desk like a formalist mobile. Corydon Cowansage’s oil paintings of tropical houseplants give the cube the sense of an environment because of their large size, while paying homage both to Alex Katz’s flatness and snapshot-cropped composition and to David Hockney’s strangeness and SoCal palette. The foliage and empty white calla lily cause tension with the artificial elements of domestic space, represented by the heavy black horizontal bands that make up the edges of plastic miniblinds. Two graphite, acrylic, and tape abstractions by MaryKate Maher are quiet in comparison. Delicate pencil marks and a restrained use of flesh-toned paint reveal vague landscapes and architecture.
Maher’s resin, dirt and ash sculpture in the next room, Ember, looks like the charred aftermath of its title, and the piece correlates, maybe too directly, with the medium of Charles Mahaffee’s untitled charcoal works on paper. The repetition of his motifs—one abstract and the other spelling out “have done nothing/have nothing done”—and the wall-scale, 9 feet by 8.5 feet, create a wallpaper effect. Irregularities and imperfections such as fingerprints and uneven lines that give the text a dizzying effect that reminds of the tedious, maniacal action of lining up the letters and reading an inescapably circular phrase. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
The most incongruent, unexpected work in the exhibit are two allegorical paintings by Aaron Delehanty. In Crowdsource, blue-faced baboons hang from the sky on ropes, snarling at birds in the glow of an imagined fiery hell, or worse, the future of the urban environment. Well-painted and well-played, I’m still left with mixed feelings about the painting, and how it alters the tone of the exhibit. The group show ends with only visual cues, as the space shifts to show resident and regular artists and including a room with low priced prints for sale.
As the variety in the group show demonstrates, Hinge aims to be a lot of things in one space. Accordingly, the welcomed new addition to the west side is realistic about the need to present and sell diverse work, much of it from emerging artists with bright futures, to its surrounding community.
-Mia DiMeo, ArtSlant Staff Writer
(top image: Charles Mahaffee, Untitled, 2011, Charcoal on paper, 9 x 12 feet © Charles Mahaffee.)