Brian McNearny and Edra Soto’s two-person show, “Forever Vegetal,” treats the themes of birth and death with mythological import. On the birth side, McNearny’s “Bog” is the place where life begins—in a thick, heavily textured oil painting. The primordial Dagobah sends forth the figure of “Glob,” the vaguely mutant form surfaced from oil paint on a found desert-camo-looking banner, giving the work a vaguely sci-fi militaristic tinge.
Edra Soto’s explorations are more geared toward the end than the beginning, though “forever” could probably nest in either camp. Stuffed animals covered in shit-like sod occupy the floor of a too-dark gallery, parked around an illuminated square—think Billie Jean. The light is certainly transcendent, and the animals are appropriately reverent, despite their recent unearthing. The question remains which way the light will take whatever beleaguered soul decides to step on, up or down? In the same corner lives “Light Within the Dark,” where baby Jesus rests upon a charcoal mountain range like Christ the Redeemer surveys a sinning Rio. Tucked behind the miniature range are a string of Christmas lights, the light most directly behind the Jesus figure blinking like a beckoning landing beacon. Crash ye planes unto me, the tot says, in the ultimate come-to-Jesus moment. Merry Christmas. (Erik Wennermark)
Through January 16 at Roots & Culture Contemporary Art Center, 1034 North Milwaukee Avenue