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Review: Wipe Out!/Peanut Gallery

Humboldt Park, Multimedia Add comments

Chris Hodge, "Tower of Babel"

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Attending an Apocalypse-themed art show is one way to start the new year, particularly if you follow the Mayan Calendar. Six artists’ responses to the subject are currently on view in “Wipe Out!” at Peanut Gallery.

Upon entering, one is confronted with a large white tree. Made of paper and found materials, the installation runs floor to ceiling along one corner of the gallery. Along the structure, bulbous clear plastic shapes disrupt its trunk. The edges fade into the surrounding walls, but the tree itself invades the gallery space, raising questions about its significance. An explanatory text can be found around the corner, paired with two framed fragments of the tree. This is Andrea Jablonski and Merje Veski’s conceived vision of a post-apocalyptic world: a barren landscape, with what the artists note are “Pompeian-like figures” melted into the body of the tree. Standing alone, the tree left me wanting a larger installation to truly immerse in their imagined world.

The other artists in the exhibition took different approaches. Otto Splotch and Erik Peterson explore nightmarish scenes of popular culture in smaller-sized works. While the diverse approaches of featured artists leave “Wipe Out!” without a united vision, it evokes the ubiquity and historical continuity of end-of-the-world fears. In two highly detailed ink-pen drawings, Chris Hodge explores a modern apocalypse using Biblical themes. “Tower of Babel” illustrates the modern rat race in a twisted mountain with human figures scrambling over each other on their way to the top. A gnarly looking devil figure turns the machinery that runs the capitalist climb to success. The second drawing, an excerpt from a larger scroll illustrating the Book of Revelations, depicts the four horses of the Apocalypse, famously explored by Albrecht Durer, whom Hodge credits as an influence.

Correlating to Hodge’s interest in Christian apocalyptic theory is Mary Porterfield’s large painting in oil on wood panel. Individually painted lions and various saint and human figures combine to form two volcanic mountains. Close up, the bodies mix together in a jumble of ground and sky. From further away, the volcanic landscape clearly reveals a different chaos: natural phenomena men cannot harness. Perhaps last year’s multi-billion dollar disasters should cause more apocalyptic concern than a 2500-year-old calendar. (Anastasia Karpova)

Through January 24 at Peanut Gallery, 1000 North California

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