Deb Sokolow, a 32-year-old artist from California who lives and works in Chicago, combines text and image in storyboards that unfold left to right through space. These diagrams chart both a narrator’s inner-dialogue and external events that encompass both personal and political fictions. Sokolow began experimenting with flow-charts during her studies in The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s progressive Fiber and Material Studies program. Since graduating in 2004, she has gained widespread attention in many of Chicago’s alternative and institutional art venues. Sokolow’s art, like a serial pulp novella, has a definite appeal; Chicago viewers just can’t seem to get enough. Her exhibition history includes the coveted 12×12 emerging-artist showcase at the MCA and a performance in a Marshall Field’s window display.
Bred from her parents’ library of political history and popular espionage novels, Sokolow’s art is a tangle of myth and reality. Her current work at Gallery 40000, titled “Secrets and Lies and More Lies,” presents Sokolow’s experience of a ghost sighting at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. The plot unfolds to include a possible terrorist scheme told through trifling details about the narrator. This narrator in Sokolow’s drama—who is a consistent character in all her projects—is a bored and disaffected corporate-world peon who is officially in charge of ordering office supplies and unofficially in charge of guarding those supplies from theft. Such paranoiac tendencies breed further anxieties about the world at large. The narrator’s voice is a reflection of insecurities about mediocrity, manifesting itself as a schizoid internal dialogue, an excessive use of correction fluid, the inequities of local politics, even a spooky house.
The narrator is only called “You,” as in you, the viewer. “You” daydream yourself out of the city of cubicles and into a labyrinthine story of secret operations. The monotony and alienation of office life is transcended through a narrative that results in investigations into the bureaucracy of social relations in the information age. Fantasy spawns truth; whether personal truths or capital “T” Truth—both are the compound result of the humor and the horror of self-consciousness. (Jason Foumberg)
Deb Sokolow shows at 40000, 119 North Peoria, (312)738-0179, through December 30, 2006.