The work in “Reality Slips” exists in the elusive realm between expressionism and minimalism, where everything is beautiful and effortless. The three artists in the exhibition, Veronica Bruce, Brian McNearney and Morgan Sims, move fluidly between mediums, grabbing elements from, say, photography or painting, and repurposing them to suit a grander formal agenda. Bruce’s clever assemblages of consumer discards and construction materials play nicely with Sims’ hyper-painterly paintings and eye-catching neon sculptures. Trendy, candy-colored zip ties appear to grow out of abused chunks of drywall, bubble wrap, Plexiglas, or some other manufactured material and held together with elastic hair bands. Grids of color melt away like a Chuck Close painting left out in the sun too long. A colorful, pulsating pile of neon sits in the corner like a Pawn Shop sign that found a greater calling.
When people say artists have the ability to find beauty in the everyday, this is what they’re talking about. McNearney’s somber use of color, antique hardware and natural materials balances out what might otherwise be almost too much fun for an art gallery—which is funny, because a quick cyber-tour of his portfolio reveals his work as often silly, albeit thoughtful. In “Reality Slips,” however, he is The Skipper to Bruce and Sims’ Mary Ann and Gilligan. The objects he has included in his assemblages, like dollhouse furniture and wallpaper, seem precious, as if he has been holding on to them for a long time, waiting for the right moment to use them. Bruce’s materials, on the other hand, could have been picked out of a gutter yesterday to be gifted a high-art life, much grander than they were manufactured for. All of the assemblages in “Reality Slips” have a similar nonchalant elegance to them, though, and this is what makes the show really stand out. The two-dimensional pieces, then, almost function as cheerleaders for these odd characters. On the whole, “Reality Slips” feels delightfully unrestrained yet perfectly balanced—a graceful, goopy ode to mass culture and consumerism. (Kelly Reaves)
Through April 14 at Robert Bills Contemporary, 222 North Desplaines