Exhibition Reception Friday, March 24th, 6-9pm 2017
“Home” becomes a real 4-letter word in the span of a presidential campaign. Community ceases to represent fellowship with others, so much as the alienation of others. An extraordinary burden is foisted upon the familiar places around us to offer a sheltering calm in the face of calamity. The artists of Uncommonplace speak to this private unsteadiness, this public unknowing, through images intended to force a rethinking of the very notion of place.
Alyssa Dennis’ geopolitical artwork collapses the continuum between a rangy field populated with wild goats, turned Midwest automobile factory, turned upscale condominium development, returned, ultimately, back to nature. In her precisely rendered architecture, the current notion of a place coexists with its ghostly past. Her carefully drawn graphite structures are haunted by watercolor images of faded wallpaper patterns, rooms without furniture, without appliances, with no useful designations. Discarded Goodyear tires, separated from a car now made in a foreign place, like a family de-nationalized, no longer allow this place to be called “church” or “school” or “home.” The intermittent presence of zebras in unexpected places reminds us that wildlife isn't a vase of cut flowers, and that the distance from the development to the destruction of Detroit can be achieved in a single lifetime.
Then there is Peter Harris, the Canadian painter with an international following, who looks to the American artist Edward Hopper to inform his precisionist urbanscapes. Harris urges us into his bulb-lighted buildings, past unseated chairs and unwalked corridors. His oil paintings are neighbors to Hopper’s Nighthawks, as Canada and Mexico are to the US. Yet, where is the friendly association within and among these tidy places? There is a vague notion of a considered past, evidenced by art upon the walls, artistically placed, perhaps by an artful person. It is our clue to the vitality once resident within these rooms. Someone once understood the value of a well-built place, well tended, and properly appointed for the purpose of conducting a life and creating a community. Harris presents this to us in a palette as quiet as the night, hoping the hour is not too late for us to appreciate this common cityscape for what it is: a backdrop, awaiting the stories of the world’s population, commingled, messy, tolerant, just, and thriving.
Juan Fernandez aims his photography like an accusation toward the guilty. Like Harris, he presents us with common structures, seen, but ignored, every day. We don't consider their existence, nor do we fear their strength. But in Fernandez’s straightforward presentation, these places are no longer available to you. Your privilege will allow you access through neither window nor door. Your right to entry has been rescinded. The utility of these structures, made grand and monumental through Fernandez’s use of perspective, will no longer serve you. Your neglect of their materiality, and of those who built them, and of their story, is repaid in kind. Through Fernandez’s lens, this vernacular architecture, customized to suit the place where it lives, redefines its own usefulness as a thing of beauty, a work of art.
“Uncommonplace” opens Friday, March 24th, 6-9 pm. An artists’ talk will take place as part of the opening reception. Exhibition runs March 24th through May 27th, 2017. Gallery19 is located at 4839 N. Damen Ave. 773-420-8071.