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Review: Janice Kerbel/Arts Club of Chicago

Galleries & Museums, Michigan Avenue Add comments

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British-educated Canadian Janice Kerbel makes abstract, analytic and philosophical artworks. And it’s not warm and fuzzy philosophy, like Socrates in the agora asking questions; it is rigorous and linear, more akin to Charles Peirce, the early investigator of semiotics. At first there seems to be not a shred of subjectivity, nothing remotely like the mark of a hand or the palest shadow of the drift of an individual consciousness in Kerbel’s works on paper. Neither is the work particularly visual, but it looks very good. The play of the mind, it turns out, is clean and minimal.

Kerbel has three works on view here: “Cue” (2012) is a series of thirty-six silkscreen prints referencing the play of theater lighting. Overlapping circles and ellipses in shades of gray trace the movement of characters, the arc of narrative and its implicit conflicts in a kind of Cagean arrangement foregrounding one element of a complex spectacle. “Remarkable” (2007) is a series of striking typeset broadsides for imaginary sideshows. The artist reworks the discourse of the genre into a kind of poetry that beckons us to see the characters she has realized through the play of hyperbolic language: “Antipodean Slippage,” “Balancing Revolutionaries” and the “Synchronized Mercurial Cat.” There is a sense of melancholy in the challenge to “See it Now or Miss it Forever,” and in the character of the “Regurgitating Lady” who brings back “Things Misplaced,” “Stolen” and “Forgotten.”

Lastly, but most appropriate to Chicago, is an audio installation of a baseball broadcast. Kerbel studied the language of baseball broadcasts and created an average game with just the right amount of innings, plays and even names that sound typical. My only criticism is that the voice actor, despite his changes in tempo and dynamics, sounds more like a WFMT announcer than a baseball personality. The stark sound apparatus, standing alone in the gallery, reminds the viewer that the broadcast is just a schematic of the actual game, where the senses are filled with color, motion, smells, tastes and the feeling of the crowd. In all these works, what seems at first like an intellectual game of abstraction and reduction becomes a complex meditation on what is absent or lost. Here and elsewhere: the pleasure of the senses and community. (Janina Ciezadlo)

Through December 21 at the Arts Club of Chicago, 201 East Ontario

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