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Review: End of the 80s/Avram Eisen Gallery

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Darryl Jensen

Darryl Jensen

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Twenty-two artists, all alumni of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from the mid-late eighties, have come together for “End of the 80s,” a ‘reunion’ show, at the Avram Eisen Gallery. The exhibition is primarily curated by Laura Olear and Bruce Linn, both class of ‘88, with the group collectively dedicating the show to Ray Yoshida, a recently deceased professor and mentor to many participating artists.

A co-mingling of diverse styles can be expected in group shows of this proportion, and “End of the 80s” holds to that. There is unusual grace and also chatter. No obvious Yoshida ‘style’ is identifiable in the exhibition. “It was more a thing of his teaching, his demanding, his aggressiveness,” said Olear of his pedagogical approach. “Few of his students didn’t feel he’d a profound impact on them,” added Linn.

Approaching Lindsay Obermeyer’s “Red Blood,” a cranberry red bead embroidery, connections among the exhibition’s layout emerge. Nearby is Olear’s “Tracheal Diverticulum,” a dark mixed media on arches with the a medical tone, and Linn’s blood-red and black layered oil on canvas, “Sacred Heart with Bullit & Band-aid,” an intensely political statement the artist lays at the feet of the Bush-Cheney administration.

One corner holds Steven L. Jones’ penetrating “Mothman Took My Baby Away,” a two-piece of acrylic and ink on dyed red paper in conjoined wooden frames, “colored by grief and filtered through a mood disorder,” according to the artist.

The exhibition highlights, in sharp relief, vast differences of artists schooled in close time and space. Complicity courts sedition. “People still tell stories about Ray and feel, ‘I’ve got an idea of what Ray would say,’” Linn reflected. Perhaps so, and perhaps he would concur there are works here containing commentary and polish, while others appear swept and bruised and requiring a viable alternative to just muddling through. (Jeffery McNary)

Through August 31 at Avram Eisen Gallery, 5202 N. Damen

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