No longer couched in the intimacy which so defined their exhibition at the Franklin, Sarah and Joseph Belknap’s predominately sculptural cosmological survey finds itself perhaps even more sharply defined in the abyssal expanse of the MCA, wherein it must contest with the terrible scope that has caused our empyreal urges to exsanguinate, lacking the will to continue screaming into the vacuum. Space rhetoric cannot help but be romantic; the gaps are so wide, the voids so vast—and filled, with cruel meagerness, by objects we laughingly named for gods—that the only way it can be comfortably expressed and understood is through either math or poetry, both of which are known for their simple complexity and necessary shattering of the real into vicious abstractions. Blunted by being born into an age where science fiction is a lame pantomime of progress, eyes upcast today cannot even see the moon, and barely alight upon Mars, Mars!, once the most lust-inducing of all heavenly bodies. That with their silicone and “simulated lunar regolith” sculptures the Belknaps drag said bodies down from the heavens and present them to us, in gross textual intimacy, is therefore their eponymous exhibition’s great strength; by forgoing both the admeasurement and aspartame with which we see the universe, they make it possible to engage with it personally, even with the vaginal breadth of the museum’s staircase yawning at our backs. The syphilitic surfaces of the sundry moons and exoplanets are exposed in their frozen-boil beauty, heaves and sulci and, in one particularly eye-searing case, a volcanic open wound, delicate flagella of faux-selenic surface dangling grotesquely from its flapping lid. It is in these moments—or ones showing the remarkable similarities between the Earth’s surface and the moon’s, or reducing a terrestrial year’s cycle of sunspot activity, each blot enough to swallow our own known existence, into a pretty black-and-white print—that the Belknaps allow one to appreciate the universe with fresh, wide eyes, as a child does a centipede. (B. David Zarley)
Through February 24 at Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago.