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Making an Impression

This article was originally published on July 13, 2013 on ArtSlant by writer Stephanie Cristello. This article is part of a series of article exchange partnerships between Sixty Inches From Center and other online blogs and journals that have missions similar to ours–to document and support the visual arts happening in Chicago. The goal of these partnerships is to build bridges within our writing community, help promote one another to new audiences and give more exposure to the art that keeps our Chicago experience compelling

What does it mean to visibly leave an impression on someone else? 2 of a Kind, currently on view at LVL3 Gallery, begs the question with an exhibition that focuses on the collaborations of sixteen artists, each paired with another, to realize a piece. The concept of the show is not all that radical – loose, and arbitrary at best  – but despite itself, the eight pieces within the exhibition present certain relationships within the works that would otherwise go unnoticed in such a large group setting. One of the most interesting facets is the combination of artists who collaborate together in their own practices, such as Chicago’s Sarah Belknap and Joseph Belknap, and those who came together only specifically for this show. Fittingly, the Belknaps’ pieces entitled Moon Skins 3 and 4, are one of the first pieces you see. A twin pair of charcoal grey silicone reliefs that hang on the wall, the edges of the square “sample spaces” are tattered, as if they were prototypes – literal impressions of a simulated context.

Sarah Belknap and Joseph Belknap. Moon Skins 3, 2013. Silicone and simulated lunar regolith, 30″ x 30″. (Courtesy of the artists and LVL3)

Another collaborative duo, Brooklyn-based brothers Alan Fleming and Michael Fleming’s Rock Paper Scissors pictures a three-round game of the iconic hand gestures, suspended in the draw. Stripped of any signature “style,” the all-white piece makes for a deadpan pun of the benefits and pitfalls of collaborating – resembling a purposefully forced cold-conceptual aesthetic, the piece poignantly strikes on a larger dilemma of collaboration, where one artist always seems to have the upper hand. However, in many of the works, the collaborative aspects are distinct and detachable, even when they are part of the same piece. In their composition Her Peace Shell and Sea Collection, Michael Hunter’s usual linear geometric patterns are overlaid upon Rachel Niffenegger’s severe and elegant pastel-colored debris, like the silhouette of a hieroglyph cast on a shadow box in a teenage girl’s room. An additional piece of theirs hanging on the opposite wall by the windows, Necklace, registers as an oversized accessory – the bits of vibrantly modeled clay, metal, and leather not quite large enough to be unrealistic, but not small enough to be precious, either.

In conjunction with the exhibition, a permanent installation by Wyatt Grant and Mike Paro was specially commissioned to cover the exterior of the space. Comprised of pared down linear gestures on shaped supports, the graphic pieces appear casually tiled onto the brick wall – a cascading pattern of abstract forms that, like the chance placement of a broken mosaic, brings an unexpected lightness to the harsh façade. Like a mood or memory of an image, a singular picture is never constructed. Instead, we are left with a vague affect, waves of primary colors that float between the windows and disruptions on the wall like bright and weightless driftwood.

Alan Fleming and Michael Fleming. Rock Paper Scissors, 2011. Hydrocal casts. 3″ x 36″ x 20″. (Courtesy of the artists and LVL3)

On many levels, the mural functions as a symbol for the exhibition – though the spirit of “collaboration” is foregrounded, an emphasis on the collective group of artists that make up the show is never breached. Sanctioned instead between pairs of artists, the gallery is designed more as a showroom than a typical summer group exhibition. The faux-naïve “let’s call a spade a spade” attitude has its own allure – rather than an effort to homogenize the work under a curatorial theme, the parameter is open enough to allow an autonomous exchange between two artists at a time, and never more.

2 of a kind is on view at LVL3 Gallery, 1542 Milwaukee Ave. #3, Chicago, through July 21st. For more information visit LVL3’s website.

Header image: Wyatt Grant, Mike Paro. LVL3 Assemblage, 201., Latex paint, syntra, bolts, 30’ x 30’. (Courtesy of the artists and LVL3.)

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