Ryan Duggan, Alex Valentine and Carrie Vinarsky share many bonds as members of a young generation of printers and poster makers carving out a highly visible place for themselves through their promotion of Chicago’s cultural landscape, but bonds in one case become restraints in another as the three shift to a purely artistic mode of practice with the opening of “My News is Bad News,” on display at Roots & Culture. The title denotes a rumination upon—you guessed it—the sour state of affairs in the global financial world and its permeating effects upon the rest of us; but reading the work as well becomes an unhappy affair, as what initially appears enticing and satisfactory falls short of its conceptual aspirations and flounders when divorced from its functional context as graphic or poster art.
Signaling the theme, a Ryan Duggan piece rests in the doorway, greeting gallery visitors as a simultaneous memorial plaque and title placard. The work reappears in a slightly different guise on the promotional postcard, but its sentiment does not, at least until much further inside. Duggan again picks up on the theme of unhappy ruin with a screen-print titled “Invest for Tomorrow,” showing a pot of gold and a rainbow set next to optimistic yet disconcertingly vague words of wisdom rendered in his characteristic handwriting.
The remaining work coalesces only under a comparable style. Interestingly, all three artists, whether Carrie Vinarsky’s repetitious pinecones or Alex Valentine’s totemic appliqués of screen-printed fabric, adhere to a similar treatment, beginning with images mined from external sources, then hand-drawn and finally silk-screened. The result is a quirky but unified style throughout the work, feeling personal and homemade, but far from evoking the concerns announced up front. (Nate Lee)
Through July 4 at Roots & Culture, 1034 N. Milwaukee.