You can’t spend March in Chicago and not be aware of yourself as a corporeal being subject to the vagaries of the outside world. There are the incessant rounds of fluctuating precipitation, random sixty-five-degree Sundays, and that weird oily shit you touched on the El, all affirming our intimate, earthly bonds. It’s this sensory engagement with our immediate surroundings that rests at the core of great art and it’s a theme that preoccupies painter Molly Briggs.
A sleeker, more concentrated version of her January exhibition at the same gallery, “Walking, Looking, Making: New Paintings” is currently on view at Zg Gallery. Winnowed from sixteen works in the first show, the six remaining paintings employ Briggs’ familiar blend of fluorescent Flashe (a vinyl-based paint) and matte gray grounds to depict various locations within the city’s built, albeit organic, environment.
In moments such as “Way In #5″’s tree-branch “lines,” or “Humboldt Park: Wet Prairie”’s iridescent panorama, the hyper-saturated, unreal coloration repeatedly prompts us to reevaluate our gaze. The works’ leafless tangle of red trees yields spectral green afterimages that flicker across the paintings’ surfaces, aiding us in the recognition that what we are viewing are not merely reproductions of actual locations—but, rather, perceptual experiences translated into paint, a creative reinvention of reality born of the artist’s immersion in the physicality of her surroundings.
Briggs’ interest in landscape architecture—she is currently pursuing a PhD in the field—undoubtedly affords her keen sensitivity to the sophisticated manipulation of even the most “natural” of human spaces. But her desire to transpose the viewer’s gallery-bound attentiveness into the chaos of busy streets and deafening noise, to see the world’s landscapes as analogous to those in the gallery, seems a bridge too far. “Walking, Looking, Making” is a handsome collection of works, and that ought to be enough. (Alan Pocaro)
Through April 15 at Zg Gallery, 300 West Superior