Line in the Sand (2015), Alison Ruttan
The exhibit “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” is currently on display at the Chicago Cultural Center through May 10, 2015. The installation consists of four works; two sculptural, one photographic and one video by Alison Ruttan, an Illinois-based artist whose research-based approach has led her to depict the destructive, violent and savage aspects of a humanity operating within a war-torn world. In A Bad Idea Is Good Again (2010 -ongoing), Ruttan has constructed nearly twenty high-rise buildings, miniature in scale and size, in various states of ruin to demonstrate the process of decay that ensues when a city is caught in the crossfire of war. The collection of buildings sits like a ghost town, effectively producing feelings of uncanny to the onlooker aware of the fate of its missing inhabitants. Similarly, Ruttan’s Line in the Sand (2015) displays nearly five hundred abandoned and destroyed miniature cars in a procession line, the scene recalling the 1991 event in which the Iraqi military attempting to retreat from Kuwait were attacked by American and Canadian forces. Even in times of surrender, wartime strategies prove to be unrelenting in their sacrifice of human life. In The Four Year War at Gombe (2009-2011), human actors, wrought with blood and bruises, stage several murderous acts within the photos, further illustrating the capacity humans possess for inflicting violence during times of war. Ruttan presents a cohesive body of work, infusing fresh perspective onto a rather exhausted theme. Viewers are prompted to consider the damaging aftermath of war by considering the physical structures that remain wasting in its path.
Paul Makris, the culmination of Spencer Stucky’s 2015 BOLT Residency, occupies dual sites, the Chicago Artist’s Coalition and Front Room in Wicker Park.
The exhibition guide at the entrance of the gallery at CAC is the key necessary to fully enter the exhibition. Replacing wall text, Stucky provides an index of the objects on display, complete with titles, measurements, dates, and origins. None of the objects were manufactured by Stucky, save for a photograph of a photograph which intentionally reveals itself as a degraded copy. The guide also contains an integral essay by Karsten Lund, which is elucidating and at the same time mystifying, as he poetically provides insight into the significance of the objects on display and delineates the underlying theme of constructed narratives and their residual magnitude.
The aesthetic cohesiveness of the exhibition, intriguing in its range of objects (painted reproductions of photographs of sites of myths, neat stacks of recycled newspapers from the Chicago Tribune interrupted by alien-looking instruments used for squid fishing, porcelain interpretations of alligator backs, a 1982 Sanyo radio tuned to the same static station as the 2012 Panasonic in Front Room) is deepened once one familiarizes herself with the printed information. The multitude of connections between them are dense in the way a heavy fog is both tangible and not. Enchanting in its opacity, to avoid the conceptual rigor that Paul Makris demands is to deny oneself the potential for accessing the inaccessible, whether real or imagined.
Paul Makris is on view at the Chicago Artist’s Coalition from May 1 – May 21, 2015
(detail of “Location of Liu Ao’s Dream & Emperor Gaozu’s Conception” 2015 Oil Painting produced in Dafen Village, China 1st of 3rd sightings 36″ x 48″)