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Walkin’ in a winter gallery

By Uncategorized

Forecast Snow leaves viewer in the cold

The first things I saw at Yutaka Sone’s Forecast Snow, a show at the Renaissance Society on the University of Chicago campus, were trees: hundreds of real pine trees standing amidst snow cut from Sytrofoam. I smelled the sap and noticed that the room was a little chilly, forcing me to keep my scarf on. Then, I noticed fake snowflakes covering everything. Seeing real trees in fake snow felt strange, but I remembered all of the unnatural nature around us—potted plants, cement beaches, and campsites with indoor plumbing. I followed pathways between the trees that led me to paintings, drawings, and sculptures of snowflakes, homemade skis, snowballs, mountains, and snowmen. My favorite pathway led to a little nook surrounded by trees that reminded me of a fort that I wished I’d built as a kid.

I wanted so badly to remain lost in the snowglobe-like environment, but instead I spent much of my time at the gallery frustrated by the show’s lack of focus. Much of the exhibition felt like a rough draft. The installation included an unimpressive gallery maquette and several poorly-made plaster snowflakes that looked unintentionally cracked in several places. However, the worst was yet to come—Sone’s five paintings were made of nothing more than a single layer of paint straight from the tube smeared on store-bought canvases. If the artist was trying to play naïve, then he shouldn’t have shown any of the intricate, geometric snowflake drawings which reveal both commitment and talent, or the beautifully-made and cleanly-finished marble statues of ski resorts and more snowflakes. Either he didn’t have enough quality objects to fill the paths or he didn’t respect his viewers enough to leave out the junk.

In this case, less would have certainly been more. The trees, fake snow, marble sculptures, and drawings alone would make a fantastic show and create a transporting experience. Instead, Forecast Snow feels like a hodgepodge collection of studio experiments.

Even with so much stuff, some things are noticeably missing, such as sound. Seeing, feeling, and smelling so much made me acutely aware of the senses left out. I wanted to hear a kitschy winter wonderland tune or actual sounds from a winter landscape. Instead, I only heard the phone conversation of the gallery attendant. If Sone so openly embraces working in a variety of media, it is inexcusable that he ignores something so obvious. Throughout the show, he slowly lost me, one mistake after another. Considering how remarkable the space appeared when I first entered, it felt surprising to leave so frustrated.

Forecast Snow runs through April 9 at the University of Chicago’s Renaissance Society at 5811 South Ellis.

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