The sparse aesthetic of “Text Off The Page” may only work because it’s nestled in the bosom of three other shows at the excellently urban Sullivan Galleries, all full to the brim with moving lights and colors, mesmeric installations and cacophonous sounds, which draw you in, completely oblivious to the existence of “Text Off The Page” at all. Only after saturating yourself in the rest of the galleries and making your way out do you see it, a calm typographic stretch of wall, a neutral palette cleanser before being swallowed again by State Street.
Hoping to “reimagine the possibilities of language and image construction” and to challenge “assumptions of the textual and visual,” the show succeeds mostly at presenting little mysteries, Borges-like fragments of poetry that might make you question image and language momentarily, but most likely will not linger. “Text Off The Page” is no garden of forking paths—not visually, textually or symbolically. V. Corzo-Duchardt’s “Reimagining Cuba” is a memory map, in photos and words, of a visit to Havana, which asks the viewer to write or draw their thoughts of the installation in a notebook attached to the wall. There is no novel to unravel, no labyrinth to get lost in. It feels more like commenting on someone’s weblog. Though options seem limitless for commentary, you’re still only commenting on someone’s weblog. Eunsong K’s “Someone Imaginary” is closer to labyrinthine in its mystery, but like many aspects of the show, eventually feels a bit like an ad campaign with its crisply cut vinyl lettering and soft-focus video. It’s sleek, cold. Steffani Jemison breaks the ice, however, by quietly insisting that “We are beautiful—but there is more work to do. And just being beautiful is not enough.” In this show, I would agree with and consider those words more than any others. (Damien James)
Through January 10 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Sullivan Galleries, 33 S. State Street, Seventh Floor