I just got home from a remarkable show, so remarkable in fact, it kept me from going to the Gapers Block meet up this evening. Tonight, at the Co-Prosperity Sphere, was the opening of Tales from the Bubble, new work by Berry Sanders.
Now, I know what your thinking: retired running back Barry Sanders is making art now -- how awesome is that? And, as much as I would like to tell you that was true, it is just too good to be so. Berry Sanders is a painter from Eindhoven, in the Netherlands. He is in Chicago participating in a residency program at the Co-Prosperity Sphere.
These works are all large, black and white, oil paintings on a prepared paper, you "prepare" paper because otherwise you would get unsightly stains from both the turpentine and the oil. With the smallest dimension of every piece being 55 inches, these do demand a bit of attention. The imagery is obviously narrative, and in the statement for the show they address that calling the pieces "stories". These stories do have a lot to tell, although it is ultimately left to the viewer to decide how much and what.
These twelve stories take the viewer on an odd trip, to say the least. First, one is enveloped by the size of the show; again, the smallest dimension of every piece is almost five feet. Then, you begin to take in these large landscapes where the stories take place: huge mountain ranges, inhabited wilderness and muddy flatlands. This is about the time that I noticed "Sputnik" a story about a monkey about to go into space. I don't know about you, but I can always get down with a monkey in a space suit.
I have to say, if these were any smaller they might be unimpressive, any bigger, and it might be hard to be engaged. Color would give the viewer too much information, and it is obvious that Berry didn't want to do that; these were almost perfect for me. The one thing I had trouble with was calling these paintings. I saw some great painterly areas where swaths of paint were laid down and layered beautifully, but I had a tendency to interact with these as drawings. Using paint as a drawing medium is nothing new, that's for sure, and for these, the imagery is much more important than the application of paint on the paper. At times these would remind me of political cartoons, and that opens up a whole new can of worms that I am not ready to get into.
If you got (or get) the chance to see this show let me know what you think.
Berry Sanders: Tales from the Bubble
Sept 25 - Oct 11
3219 S Morgan St
Chicago Il 60608
Tel : 773.837.0145