Katerina Seda’s show at the Renaissance Society is the product of an extended conversation with her grandmother, Jana. Hundreds of black-marker drawings by Jana cover the walls of the gallery from top to bottom. Each of the sketches lists an item from the inventory of her hardware store in the former Czechoslovakia. Following Jana’s husband’s death, Katerina devised the exercise of visually cataloging the store in order to ward off her grandmother’s depression. The rough drawings of scythes, hairbrushes and tractors usually contain a title, a diagram and a price. The exhibition also contains a video of Katerina talking to Jana drawing and a handwritten ledger. The ledger changes the drawings from naive curiosities into pictures of actual commodities and the video makes Jana’s existence poignantly real. Somewhat of a eulogy to her grandmother, Ms. Seda’s show chronicles a life where the most meaningful activity that remains before death is to recite the things you used to sell. Jana’s enthusiastic participation reveals just how comforting the memory of those objects was to her. It is a clear picture of a cloudy world where consumerism and commerce can’t be easily separated from our inner gritty emotional life. (Dan Gunn)
Through February 10 at Renaissance Society, 5811 South Ellis, on the campus of the University of Chicago, (773)702-8670.