Trisha Donnelly once rode a horse into a gallery. That’s the story that you hear every time you mention her name. Here Ms. Donnelly transformed the venerable Renaissance Society into a reception hall for an upscale cocktail party with free spirits and hors d’oeuvre. The lights were dim, candles flickered on the tables and dance music blared out of speakers. The art, which seemed completely beside the point, was sequestered around the outside of the room. Some small drawings hung on the underside of benches placed in the corners. These were liminal drawings, pictures of windows, doors, cracks that were about to be. There was also a wood sculpture, a leather piece laid over an office chair and a video. All of it seemed entirely perfunctory given the atmosphere. People generally come to galleries ready to look. When presented with something unexpected an extreme feeling of self-consciousness sets in and you begin to evaluate your surroundings. To the bartenders this was just another party but to art viewers it was a choreographed event that was trying to disguise itself as not one. They brought a fourth candle to the table at 5:30pm. Does that mean something? The music was louder after Donnelly’s poem was read. Does that mean something? There was one clear difference between Donnelly’s show and a real party; in art they kick you out at 7pm. (Dan Gunn)
Through April 6 at the Renaissance Society, 5811 South Ellis, on the campus of the University of Chicago, (773)702-8670.