West Loop

It was a sunny day and Mike Hall and I met up to check out some West Loop art action after some much needed hangover penance at The Grange Hall. Our spirits lifted somewhat, we began at Peter Miller, which had some well-rendered nude figuration in charcoal. The work seemed to concern groupings of robust originary human forms, in some way god-like but each time with the attendant awkwardness of their being turned-away from the viewer such that the posterior registered as a unifying feature among the individual works. I couldn’t quite get what was being communicated by the artist in these works, perhaps there was something other than decent rendering, proto-human forms, and a mythic, quasi-spiritual mood. Were these works in dialogue with Böcklin or some other allegorical heavy-hitter in some way?

The gallery itself was kind of a mess. The floors didn’t appear to have been swept and the walls were inordinately marked-up. There was a mood in the space of a distinct lack of caring. Strangely, there was a strong smell familiar from health-food stores; a kind of mixture of bulk grains and spices, vitamins, and produce. Is Peter Miller a hippy? What would a hippy-run white-cube space look like? What would it show? Big Jerry Garcia-looking nudes, maybe.

We knocked around a bit more, eventually staying a while at Rhona Hoffman where Karthik Pandian’s expansive treatment of the multiple spaces there includes an uncredited audio component by SAIC sound alum Robby McBain. The cool, intelligent look of Pandian’s work seems to at times provide an opening into an underlying ontology while carefully remaining obscure enough to bring the viewer from one tableau to the next.

The film upstairs, if less available to phenomenological encounter, does push the reading back into the dark space that nearly consumes it which has been addressed by McBain’s six-channel generative tone study. Such moments are rare in art, wherein something ocular is prohibitive in such a way as to propel the reading to a non-ocular encounter with space. In this case, I can’t say it was deliberate. There’s a clever story behind the film involving a performance for no one which was then re-performed from memory by the performers. But rather than staying true to it’s default reading as a window into something else, Pandian’s staid modernist kitch rejects the interest promptly and in the somewhat vast context of sonically active darkness which must itself be encountered.

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