Adult Contemporary, a new artist-run apartment gallery (formerly Murdertown) in Logan Square, recently kicked off their programming with a two-person show. “Stranger Danger” features a site-specific installation comprised of several sculptural artworks, from hanging tapestries to strategically placed trinkets made, some collaboratively, by Karolina Gnatowski and Judith Brotman.
The work is delicately constructed and placed around the relatively large, creamy-walled apartment, which features no shortage of wood trim and peculiar, decorative architectural details. There are a lot of individual pieces in the show but they have plenty of breathing room in the space, which is split into three rooms. And breathe they do—their organic shapes and wispy construction gives them the sense that they are alive, gently humming, sighing, whistling, whispering—like Gnatowski’s “Badge,” a woven leather piece adorned with childlike jewelry and beads spelling out a Kid Cudi lyric: “Pretty Green Bud / All In My Blunt / Oh I Need It / We Can Take Off Now / Oooh I Wanna / Marijuana.”
The coupling of these two artists feels natural enough; they’re both instructors at SAIC, and both have delicate aesthetic sensibilities and a flair for gently awkward lines, embracing the irregularities of the handmade. Brotman’s work features a lot of white paper twisted and bent into linear sculptures and formed and fastened with string and wire. Gnatowski’s pops of color and playful details complement Brotman’s muted palette and meditative energy, evoking a hushed party, where partygoers pass joints instead of chugging beers. A pale yellow plaster-casted hand by Gnatowski holds a cluster of resin-covered stem-like wires, dotted with glass beads, plastic trinkets and weed paraphernalia.
The work, especially in this domestic setting, emits a distinct flower-child vibe. The mood is lighthearted but far from exuberant. Gnatowski’s work is tugged back down to earth from the clouds by Brotman’s contemplative sensibility. The titles describe the dichotomy—compare Gnatowski’s “Heeeeeeey Buddy” to Brotman’s “Although I Wasn’t Certain, Still I Knew it to be So,” for example. Without knowing the age of the artists there is almost a mother/daughter-like relationship going on between the works in “Stranger Danger.” Brotman’s work is romantic, her work often being inspired by classic love stories and soap operas. Gnatowski’s feels more immediate, more pleasure-seeking, almost smug. It is this dynamic that makes “Stranger Danger” particularly worth seeing.
The work was clearly selected and installed to suit the space, and it does, but easily disappears into it, too. The show, just like the construction of the pieces themselves, requires a bit of patience. Visiting the exhibition with a clear head and a good chunk of time for relaxed discovery will serve the viewer well. (Kelly Reaves)
Through March 8 at Adult Contemporary, 2351 North Milwaukee, 2nd floor. Closing reception and catalog release party: Friday, March 8, 7pm-9pm.