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Review: Troy Richards/Thomas Robertello Gallery

Sculpture, West Loop Add comments

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Using three-dimensional computer models, Troy Richards created a virtual place—a modernist home high above a field—and crashed a virtual plane into it. The simulation allowed him to survey the wreckage from various angles, views he then reduced to two-dimensional “drawings” and replicated in white vinyl on black Plexiglas panels.

These are images of disaster, but with no visible suffering. Indeed, there are no people, only their traces (fashionable chairs, an art collection including a wavy Bridget Riley painting and, notably, the broken fuselage impaled through the porch). In one nocturnal view, looking back at the house and the wrecked plane, stars in the sky above, it is as if the Rapture has come and solved the problem of the human once and for all. Winking from a wall of the house is Christopher Wool’s text painting “Apocalypse Now,” quoting the last letter home from a soldier who deserted to Colonel Kurtz’s side: “SELL THE HOUSE SELL THE CAR SELL THE KIDS.”

Riley’s Op work is further referenced in the other series on view here, “paintings” employing the same cut-vinyl-on-Plexiglas technique to generate the classic Op Art effect, where squiggling lines induce, in the viewer, confusion of depth perception. This effect is heightened by Richards adding another layer to the Op Art game, skewing perspective lines manipulating each painting’s shape.

Richards has constructed a show at once bludgeoning and clever, coy in its employ of optical trickery but not without (metaphoric) depth when it comes to tackling disaster as subject matter. Here we have abstract images that can induce dizziness and mild nausea alongside representational presentations of an assuredly deadly event, in which the viewer may focus more on the carpet patterns or on the claustrophobic way the home’s art collection crowds the visual field.

A domestic space, decorated with images that are physically painful to look at and with fractured fragments of Hollywood prophecy—one begins to wonder, trapped in the disorienting world Richards has created, whether selling this house might not be the best idea, even before the vinyl shards of shrapnel and splintered wood begin to fly. “The Perfect View” offers a meditation on violence with many levels, a show worth staring down, in part because it stares back. (Spencer Dew)

Through April 3 at Thomas Robertello Gallery, 939 W. Randolph St.

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