Curated by Jeff Ward and Shannon Stratton, and featuring the work of seven artists (Todd Chilton, Pete Fagundo, Carrie Gundersdorf, Katy Heinlein, Jessica Labatte, Andrea Myers and Tessa Windt), five of whom are from Chicago, “Ps & Qs” posits what a sociable twenty-first-century Formalism might look like. Including painting, drawing, sculpture and photography, and incorporating several of the materials (fabric, Styrofoam, colored pencil) that an older, more traditional Formalism eschewed, these looser but utterly self-possessed images and objects range from pure abstraction (Gundersdorf) to a more minimalist approach (Labatte) and encompass most things in-between.
First exhibited in Houston, in 2006, three artists (Chilton, Meyers and Heinlein) are holdovers, although all works in this present iteration are new. Curators Ward and Stratton see the examination of contemporary art’s conversation with Formalism as endlessly fruitful and, when asked, they suggested the thesis of the show could support a countless number of new artists and artworks, yielding many more results and fresh insights if ever repeated in the future. Following suit, the Hyde Park Art Center’s version sees Ward and Stratton less concerned with an iron-clad curatorial conceit and how works fit into it, and instead delights in the presence of the work itself.
The title of the exhibition, taken from the etiquette imperative to mind your manners, sets the stage for the pleasant politesse of the works on view; they are gracious, and to some extent gendered, hosts and hostesses, and visitors feel welcomed to enjoy them in the intimate exhibition hall, specifically designed to function on a human scale, with works hung low and arranged in suites of three throughout. The intimacy and focus these circuits foster prevents subtler pieces, such as Fagundo’s sculptures constructed from found wooden end tables and painted Styrofoam, from being overlooked, and is counter balanced by the “a-ha!” moments that abound around every corner. (Thea Liberty Nichols)
Through June 6 at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Avenue.