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Friday, July 10, 2009

Culture Your Damn Self at the Chicago Culteral Center

I headed over to the Cultural Center yesterday, to hopefully get a sneak peek at what is opening on Friday. When I arrived, I was greeted by two roped-off Michigan galleries and a dire need for some artwork set in. I reached the southernmost gallery and began to hear people in the space saying, “This is pretty,” and “So colorful.” Now, one doesn’t expect to see ground breaking, or even very challenging work in a room where these words are uttered so readily. The whole time I was in the Gallery, people walking through shined with half smiles and smirks, raised their eyebrows, and even joked with each other about the subject matter within the work. They were engaged; completely. They were in the presence of Tom Torluemke’s new show, curated by Gregory Knight, After-Glow.

After-Glow is everything I look for in a good art show, it has variety, color, whimsy and imagination; and it even allows those inclined to use the word "visceral". However, that is not where After-Glow stops. Sex, abuse, politics, and the list of subject matter goes on and on- All wrapped up in colorful, well crafted and composed artworks that are hard to ignore.

I, and most people walking through, spent a good deal of their time looking at Leafless, a series of construction paper collages of faces and genitalia beautifully constructed. Abstract or not, these pieces are obvious, they are not trying to hide their subject matter, which is partly why they work so well. It is unheard of the way the pieces are made in a plain, mater-of-fact way and then just stuck on the wall. No tricks, no disguises; a row of genitalia just staring back at you, plain as day. That, my friend, is art.

Tom's work is totally constructed, but nothing more so than the three paper sculptures that will leave most people not knowing what to think. I know I didn't. I enjoyed this show whole heartedly. Being in the presence of work that is challenging and yet everyone around you is smiling- well, that is rare to say the least.

After Glow will burn your retina like a light bulb. It stays with you; bits of images follow you through your day. Whether you want to or not, you will think about this show long and hard (That’s what she said).

Also opening on Friday July 10th is Twisted Ambience: An Installation by Nnenna Okore, a Nigerian artist. According to the announcement, Okore uses common urban objects such as newspapers, rope and twigs which remind her of the struggles of poor Africans who recycle everything out of sheer necessity.

Lastly, I am super excited to see Stateless: New work by Nicole Gordon. I’ve had the chance to visit this phenomenal painter’s studio, and although I didn't get to look at the new show, mark my words, it will be breathtaking. Nicole's landscapes are much more than landscapes and when an artist elects to use words like “wacky” to describe their work, you should sit up and take notice.

Good luck to all, and I look forward to see you at the opening.

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