With her resume boasting an extensive career with Leo Burnett and exhibits chair at Intuit: The Center for Outsider Art, one might expect something markedly less subdued for Jan Petry’s first solo show. “Juicy,” however, is an exhibit in simplicity, featuring fourteen works of organic wooden sculpture. The sculptures, reflective of Petry’s history as a collector of folk materials, are crafted largely of simple found elements. To call these works minimalistic would border on understatement: solitary blocks of maple, walnut burl and cedar mounted on pieces of ebony or bound with rawhide spot the gallery, each unique, though overwhelmingly similar. “Let Them Eat Fake,” one of the more playful works in the collection, features a single hunk of walnut burl resting upon a sterling silver plate, generating an amusing resemblance to crumb cake. Petry’s whimsy is the crux of her show, but is unfortunately relegated to the titles of her works. Without their monikers, Petry’s woodwork is reduced to fine sanding and rich tung oil finishes—sometimes, not even this: “Primary,” a single branch of unfinished cedar mounted on an ebony plank, is stripped of its charm when anonymous, particularly when held in contrast to the carefully tended knots and oiled grain of “Survivor.” The craftsmanship found in “Juicy” is undeniable, yet the true richness of this exhibit is hidden in Petry’s witty titling, not her varnish. Perhaps the artist’s next show will more successfully align the two. (Jaime Calder)
Through June 28 at Carl Hammer Gallery, 740 N. Wells, (312)266-8512.