REVIEW | SOFA no. 5: Paper, Photography, Painting & Sculpture

SOFA no. 5: Paper, Photography, Painting & Sculpture

Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design

November 5 – 8, 2015 | Chicago, IL

My final review of the fair includes works in/on paper, painting, photography, and sculpture (that defies any categorization by media). There is a commonality among these works that are dominated by unconventional materials and radical if not decisive conceptual ideas, most bring me down to a fundamental level – an edge where the best in flawless technical execution and complete understanding of the tenets and principles of art and design collide with challenging either/or dichotomies. This vibrating tenacity for perfection combined with a commanding, albeit deceptive, singular focus on simplicity results in works that are viscerally alluring, at times almost primal, and anything but elementary. These works shrewdly prove that indeed, less is more.

Katherine Glover’s medium of choice is paper, but she is working so far beyond the two-dimensional. I am captivated by the robust and bold cobalt blue in her work The Wave is Continuous; however, it is her large-scale metallic works, such as Mirroring the Moon, that truly capture and reflect her strengths (all presented by Duane Reed Gallery). Strips of opaque black tom khadi paper are torn and meticulously placed to create a dense field of lines and waves that crest and fall and circle back upon themselves, creating a cyclical pattern of action and reaction. Then, painstakingly, just the edges of each band are sumptuously tipped with silver metal leaf and the result is nothing short of intoxicating. Reflective of the natural world, Glover documents the constant state of transformation, of tides and seasons, that surrounds us; however, the sheer volume of black strips also quietly suggests the repetitive impact of the world we make for ourselves as it breaks upon us day after day after day. It is the eternal internal dialogue of whether I reflect the joy and the light that resides on the surface, or if I absorb the negative and sink within the deep crags of cavernous black. Glover offers both without judgment: an entrance and exit for whichever path I choose, to match my ever-changing and chaotic pursuits.

Lynn Batchelder’s drawing, Waver III (presented by Charon Kransen Arts) reveals her deep roots in the drawing process that she so effortlessly translates into her contemporary jewelry (also on view though not reviewed). Delicate lines are laid seamlessly across the page, softly bending at gentle angles to create a peaceful flow that escalates across the surface in simultaneous directions away from the center. A pool of dense charcoal gray escapes from the bottom, fading into an implied white abyss that exists far outside the reaches of the page. It is an ethereal drawing that beautifully captures a glimpse of some cataclysmic event, and the selective omission of the entire scape masterfully leaves me wanting more.

Eric Becklin: first human to see the center of our galaxy by Jason Lazarus (presented as part of the special exhibit Community Supported Art Chicago by Threewalls) is a stark portrait of the renowned American astrophysicist, best known for his pioneering study of infra-red sources at the center of our galaxy. Lazarus, known for pushing the boundaries how we collectively understand and utilize photography, shoves me to the brink of what can be considered a portrait. Centered on a flat field of white, Becklin’s soft, cascading hair disappears into the background and his crisp white button-down provides a barely-there outline of his body, a whisper of a reminder that he is seated and present. He is reduced to a pale face, emphasized by moments of pink flesh around his eyes, nose, lips, and neck with skin that is wrinkled, hanging, and aged – where he begins and ends is a forgiving blur. This seems fitting for a man (both the scientist as well as the artist) who is constantly seeking deeper, more philosophical insights of the universe in order to bear witness to its immense secrets.

Elisabett Gudmann (presented by ten472 contemporary art) creates minimalist, abstract, layered works that combine a clean architectural context with sensual sophistication. Artic Series: Meditations 1 & 2, combinations of acid-etched metal and charred wood, transcend any reference to the recognizable. Through a delicate balance of form and content, each metal panel is laboriously etched to created detailed surface textures and imagery in relief; then juxtaposed with stacks upon stacks of charred wood (created in the the ancient Japanese technique of Shou Sugi Ban, the charring of wood to preserve it against the elements). The gorgeous, deep rich black color of the burnt wood, contrasted against the refined, smooth surfaces of the silvery white metal create complex formal panels that infer notions of masculine strength and feminine sensibility; but also of the past and of the future. The harsh separation of the two fields is the inherently conceptual great divide, a line in the sand of which I must cross if I am to cherish one over the other. Fortunately, Gudmann offers each in ample amounts with all of their flaws: broken and aged surfaces, rough and exaggerated textures – fully embracing the power and necessity of both.

And finally, it is most fitting that the final works of this elaborate series of reviews were considered the most provocative, in-your-face pieces of the fair – as well as some of my very favorites for the exact same reasons. A formidable and notorious hair stylist and designer born in Bordeaux and working in London, Charlie Le Mindu crafts outrageous and bizarre wearable works full of innuendo, personality, and surprise. From his Haute Coiffure collection: Untitled, Berlin Syndrome Collection, Autumn / Winter, Le Mindu (presented by projects+gallery) was an outright sensation. Avant-garde, and unlike all of the other work at the fair, this vintage gas mask with bulging oversized discs for eyes and filter nearly halfway overgrown from deterioration creeping up from the mouth, chokes on a thick mane of lush blond hair. Though political and social overtones are intimated, if not obvious, his choice of human hair as the means of potential suffocation makes it far more personal. Le Mindu presents an intriguing and defiant choice that I must decide: will I be overcome by one of the attributes that determines my beauty, my appeal, my unabashed femininity; or instead, will I use it as a source of strength, spewed out in bold defiance? Whether heads will turn or heads will roll, Le Mindu offers a beautiful and heady experience, and oddly nostalgic, regardless of my choice.

The only work that could possibly outdo the audacious Le Mindu was the bold and unconventional creations of Fantich & Young (also presented by projects+gallery). Darwinian Voodoo, the pedigree lifestyle brand created by artists Mariana Fantich and Dominic Young, debuted works from its alpha collection: Apex Predator, which features male and female ceremonial attire customized with human hair, bones and eyes. My favorite works were paired together: Mary Jane, a pair of black patent-leather, infant girls’ shoes laden with soles of acrylic teeth; and Baseball, a ball completely swathed in rows and rows acrylic teeth and hand-stitched red thread. The juxtaposition of iconic ready-made items from the modern world with materials from the biological addresses the unique parallels between social and natural evolution – subverting Darwin's theory of evolution and natural selection with the belief system of supernatural ceremonial ritual. It is a bold jab at the discerning client with a taste for power and exclusivity, what the duo terms “harder, stronger, richer: teeth-laden fashion for the 1%;” exposing the animalistic predation of our success and wealth driven societies, operating without abandon, care, or fear. Sadly, it isn’t so farfetched to consider a time when the ones who “evolve” will wear the remains of those they crush and leave behind – Fantich & Young are fearlessly escalating the conversation, screaming that this pretentious and insatiable lust in fact already exists, simply without the trophies draped across my neck, the soles of my feet, or the games in my hand. I suppose, I should be comforted that my teeth are still in tact; but the final words of warning I take away are: for now.

For more information about these artists and galleries, visit: And be sure to make plans to attend next year’s fair: November 3 – 6, 2016.

Images (from top to bottom): Fantich & Young, Apex Predator / Darwinian Voodoo: Mary Jane (Red), 2014, Junior girls’ shoes, dentures, (H) 18cm x (W) 23cm x (L) 22cm, presented by projects+gallery; Katherine Glover, Mirroring the Moon, 2011, tom khadi paper strips, black with silver metal leaf on birch panel, 36 x 36 x 3.5 inches, presented by Duane Reed Gallery; Lynn Batchelder, Waver III, brush and ink on paper, presented by Charon Kransen Arts; Jason Lazarus, Eric Becklin: first human to see the center of our galaxy, 2010, archival inkjet print, 8 x 10 inches, presented by Threewalls; Elisabett Gudmann, Artic Series: Meditations 1, acid etched metal, chemical patinas, charred wood, custom aluminum frame, 68 x 32 x 3 inches; and Artic Series: Meditations 2, acid etched metal, chemical patinas, charred wood, custom aluminum frame, 68 x 32 x 3 inches, presented by ten472 contemporary art; Charlie Le Mindu, Untitled, Berlin Syndrome Collection, Autumn / Winter, 2011, presented by projects+gallery; Fantich & Young, Apex Predator / Darwinian Voodoo: Mary Jane, 2015, black girls’ shoes UK infant size 0 and acrylic teeth; and Apex Predator / Darwinian Voodoo: Baseball, 2015, baseball and acrylic teeth, presented by projects+gallery

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