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Did You See Heaven? WYSIWYG @ Peregrine Program

Peregrine Program is poised at a unique threshold of the Chicago art scene. While it’s certainly not an apartment gallery, located inside of an East Garfield Park studio building, the space lacks the sterile snap of a commercial space. The walls are white, but the exhibition space is rather small, best lending itself to one person installations and the viewing of small works. Usually, the openings spill into the hallway where artists congregate, converse and bump into each other while trying to enter the show.

The current exhibition, Did You See Heaven: WYSIWYG, is the second of a series of thoughtful curatorial statements by Peregrine proprietor, Edmund Chia, made in response to artist Mary Heilmann’s titular question. The subtitle of the current iteration, WYSIWYG (or What you see is what you get), hinges on the possibility that there may be more to this abstract painting show than initially meets the eye. Now, I can hear you already: “not another 8.5 x 11 abstract painting show,” and usually I would be in agreement. Thankfully though, while there are some flat notes, WYSIWYG is of sonorous composition.

Ezara Spangl, oil on canvas. 13 x 11 3/8 in. 2012. (Image courtesy of Peregrine Program)

Juxtaposed against the chromatic gestures of the first exhibition, “SPECTRA,” WYSIWYG functions like an atonal composition by the likes of Arnold Schoenberg, exacting yet redemptive. Some of the paintings grab a hold of your brain and, if you’ve already seen the show, are probably still lingering there. Seemingly simple abstractions by Ezara Spangl and Susanne Doremus confound the eye with illusory techniques (à la Gerhard Richter) and the magnets affixed to McKeever Donovan’s works make plain the inscrutable nature of art itself.

Installed straightforwardly across all four walls in groups of three or four, the paintings are tied together like a string of notes. Layered abstractions by Sofia Leiby, Ron Ewert and Richard Galling have the most appeal; their multiple layers allowing the viewer to ruminate and linger over each of the paintings. Leiby’s aptly titled red and white work, Red Print, incorporates diverse textures on an apparently flat ground, leaving my eyes at a loss as they try to move deeper into the composition. Galling’s 12-015 attempts to contain the chaos of the oil painting with a dark border surrounding the vibrant and leaking middle. Ewert’s additions employ marks ranging from painterly to graphic, culminating in the impressive Everlasting Banquet, who’s white columns over untreated canvas and vertical lines spray paint make the painting sing. Other works, such as the near-monochromes by Oliver Henry, are like rests in a score. Henry’s Backdrop is both galactic landscape and shadowy visage emerging from shades of green and gray with creamy flecks dotting the canvas.

Chia’s masterful orchestration is definitely worth the trip to East Garfield.

Did You See Heaven? WYSIWYG
September 2nd – 30th
Peregrine Program
Sundays 1p to 4p or by appointment
3311 W. Carrol Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60624
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