In a world where economics increasingly links vastly different societies to each other, Mario Ybarra Jr’s exhibition “Take me out … No Man is an Island,” comparing Chicago with Southern California’s Catalina Island, sets its sight on geopolitical and cross-cultural ties. The room resembles a children’s museum or another didactic institution with brightly painted walls and objects in vitrines, yet without explanatory wall texts. The vitrines contain faux folk sculptures of William Wrigley Jr., the central figure of this historical tale, and the last Mexican governor of Los Angeles, Pio Pico. It is the Wrigley fortune that facilitates the link between Chicago and Catalina. Wrigley actually owned the island at one point and ferried guests back and forth on the luxurious S. S. Catalina that now sits half sunken in a Mexican port. It is recreated here on a bubblegum sea and placed in a vitrine. Apparently there was also another Wrigley Field built in L.A. in 1925 that is also recreated here in painted wood. The back wall of the exhibition is filled with screen prints mixing Chicano Rights protest literature with Catalina Island travel brochures. But in the absence of wall texts Ybarra’s objects don’t present a story linking them; that, instead, is left to curator Lisa Dorin’s accompanying essay. The artworks themselves aren’t compelling enough to elicit the curiosity to link the various stories yoked by Ybarra. The most interesting part of “Take me out…” is the history, but Ybarra mélange comes off as inscrutable and haphazard. (Dan Gunn)
Through August 24 at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave.