An exhibition called “Concerning Tomorrow” could well be a real downer, but in fact—while there are no feel-good pictures here and much that’s dark—the show exhilarates and makes you delighted to be in Chicago at this point in history. (That’s no mean feat, given this point in history.) Unlike Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”—which confirmed for bourgeois Parisians of the 1880s that they were living in the right time and place—these diverse pieces don’t romanticize our lifestyle, but rather critique it, with a seriousness and ingenuity that ironically make you feel optimistic about tomorrow.
Take Noelle Mason’s series “X-ray Vision vs. Invisibility.” The SAIC grad took U.S. government x-ray photos of immigrants being smuggled into the U.S., then commissioned a destitute Brazilian woman to knit the images—for $2,000, precisely what a smuggler charges. The ghostly images, in unsettlingly ornate frames that look like they came from Target, condemn our inhuman immigration laws far more forcefully than ten New York Times editorials.
Elspeth Vance, the youngest artist in the show, presents a hand-woven quilt that at first looks like something from Long Grove or a small-town craft fair, until you realize it’s a proliferation of pentagons set amid stars and stripes—a scary, cancerous jumble of pentagons that speaks more eloquently about, and to, the likes of General Petraeus than Pelosi-Reid ever could.
Not all the work is angry. Melina Ausikaitis’ “Pastoral Snooze,” an elaborate pencil drawing composed of small shapes repeated to build a farm landscape, is restful and amusing. “We didn’t want the show to be didactic,” Jason Lazarus, fine-art photographer and instructor who curated it, explains. “Much of the work has an ambiguous connection to the future, and there are both real and imagined futures.” The exhibit includes photography, sculpture, installations, paintings, drawings and textiles.
Harold Arts, which has run a residency for young artists and musicians in Appalachia for the past two summers and is seeking to expand its presence in the city with studio and gallery space for emerging artists, hosts the show. Most of the twenty-six people represented attended the residency. (Burt Michaels)
?”Concerning Tomorrow” shows at Harold Arts, 303 West Erie, through October 12.