To the passing eye, the black and white drawings currently hanging in the Ogilvie/Pertl Gallery appear at first erratic and unfinished, reminiscent of a trip through an artist’s workspace. There are sketchy lines and metaphorical figures. But upon entering the gallery space, the abstract pieces by Chicago artist Ginny Sykes begin to reveal quite familiar forms and experiences. The show has much to say and more to evoke.
As indicated by the show’s title, “Alchemy and Archetype,” Sykes’ works seek to discern the substance and value within the simpler elements of life. In translating these basic aspects as a viewer, patterns and prototypes emerge.
Pieces such as “Untitled in 25 Parts” and “Homage to Oriana Fallaci” suggest moments in a life through a series of windows. Both invoke visions of faces, movement, genitals and exploration. Fallaci, an author, journalist and political interviewer, was a strong female figure. Sykes seemingly enjoys exploring the assumptions of femininity and does so through such pieces. Imagery of fetuses are suggestive in works like “Triptych: Homage to Ellsworth Kelly” and “Float 4/#2.” Ellsworth Kelly’s art emphasizes simplicity and the unadorned, kidney-like figures within many of Sykes’ works do just this. “Bulbed Urn 2” guides the eye across overlapping lines portraying a curvaceous urn. The continuity of the lines proposes the continuous cycle of life and death, with the urn as a final a resting place for a nameless member of this sequence.
Much of “Alchemy and Archetype” is meant to stimulate creative reflection and initiate a dialogue regarding the female understanding. The gender symbols found within Sykes’ pieces are subtle, yet powerful, and are accessible through several viewpoints, causing the visitor to successfully contemplate rudiments from their own lives. Be them sexuality, creativity, delight, authority, fear and, ultimately, life and death. (Stephanie Larkin)
Through September 1 at Ogilvie Pertl Gallery, 435 E. Illinois St. Ste. 151.