Home connotes familiarity, relaxation, comfort: a place where robes and sweatpants are appropriate attire. Alberto Aguilar’s art practice stirs that lull of relaxation as he transforms quotidian domestic objects into sculpture, and activities into performance. As part of his Elmhurst Art Museum residency, the artist borrowed objects from neighborhood homes to create compounded readymades. Each sculptural assemblage provides a glimpse into the household of their origin: a library of vintage books, kids’ hockey sticks, a wooden bread keeper and a quirky birdcage. Aguilar’s use of life as the material for his art points out artistic and performative possibilities of the everyday, and at Elmhurst, emphasizes the cultural predetermination of our own materials.
Stemming from the resident-artist’s interest in home life, the Elmhurst Art Museum’s winter exhibition, “Open House: Art About Home” gathers five other artists interested in the subject of home, supplementing the pre-existing conversation created by the nearby iconic Mies van der Rohe “McCormick House,” which the museum owns. In contrast to Aguilar’s multidimensional practice, the artwork curator Staci Boris has placed in contiguous galleries consist of two-dimensional painting and photography. In meticulously painted scenes of remembered interior spaces, Ann Toebbe employs the artistic conventions found in Ancient Egyptian art, privileging directness and detail over realistic depiction of space. In turn, Gabrielle Garland’s paintings could be Toebbe’s remembrances on acid, with skewed lighting and bulging forms.
The placement of Aguilar’s multidimensional, performative work beside these two-dimensional examinations emphasizes the sculptures’ symmetricality. Even in Alyssa Miserendino’s photographic series, “Our World Inside Out,” which images abandoned domestic spaces hardly recognizable as homes, boxy, four-wall interiors predominate. Excepting Bertrand Goldberg-building dwellers and a few others, most Chicagoans (and Americans) inhabit very rectangular rooms filled with couches, tables and all the trappings of “home.” “Open House” explores the many meanings and visualizations of this idea, yet leaves the feeling that in creating one’s own little universe and ultimate stage for self-definition, cultural conventions limit the range of outcomes. (Anastasia Karpova Tinari)
Through April 20 at the Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 Cottage Hill Avenue, Elmhurst