MFA Candidates Josh Reames and Amber Thomas started Manifest Exhibitions in November of last year, and have since been showing work that extends beyond the familiar network of grad students and faculty. Recently, the group has been curating exhibitions in the basement of their Logan Square apartment with the help of Randy Powell, fueling a much-needed dialogue between Chicago artists and those beyond the Midwest. Their most recent exhibition is an unexpected pairing of painters; New York based Tisch Abelow and Chicago’s own Orion Martin, whose self-titled show comes together in an amusing and provocative collection of surprisingly site-specific paintings.
Although vastly different in subject matter, both artists are mutually geocentric — the curvilinear structures of Abelow’s paintings compliment Martin’s canvases through a shared interest in formally combating the surfaces of their paintings.
Applying the paint so that each swatch of color just kisses the edge of the next, Abelow creates a contained tension within the picture plane that evokes an exercise in self-control. Each color sits on the surface of the canvas, imperfectly separated by the visibility of her hand in the mark making. Raising a paradox between separation and togetherness, the smoothness of Abelow’s gesture contrasts an imposing angular line or shape, a method of cutting through the pictorial structure Martin also employs.
Through layers of transparent pattern, Martin situates a latent cubist grid through the replicated graphics of pared down, sexualized geometric forms. On one canvas, the surface is covered by illusionistic holes, which on closer look reveal their synthetic make up by the visibility of half-tone dots, bringing attention to the form’s processed edge. The seemingly flat, impenetrable surface visually oscillates between foreground and background, allowing Martin to cleverly comment on the figure-ground relationship in a subtle pun that alludes to a painterly trope — the “in and out” of the picture plane.
Martin’s second painting is more vigorous and energetically handled, a vibrant red matrix of floating limbs, which have more pointed associations to the anatomy. Reading as the aftermath of a one-night stand, hazy and incomplete, the holes in the pictorial structure are also present in this image, but in a more integrated sense. Martin’s motivations for the holes in both paintings are left unclear. Perhaps they reference the feminine forms constructed on the canvas hanging opposite of it, or possibly as a tool used to depict the narrative gaps in both paintings. This questioning leads to a sort of teasing tension between Abelow and Martin’s pieces that is left untied, or maybe a better term is “exposed”.
Manifest Exhibitions is located at 2950 N. Allen Ave.
Tisch Abelow and Orion Martin on view through Nov. 6 2011.
Gallery is open on Sundays 11am-2pm or by appointment, contact Josh Reames – (972) 965 4747