“Please take off your shoes” welcomes viewers as they enter Roman Susan to seek refuge from the barren cold. Playfully enhanced with black painted bubble letters and animated stick-like legs, the five words sprawl across the front wall of the gallery. Their placement is not only a polite request for compliance, but also an invitation to actively participate. Take off your shoes, as to not ruin the floor. Take off your shoes, so your feet may stand where ours have.
In Alex Bradley Cohen and Marissa Neurman’s collaborative room-sized installation piece, “Living to Work Together,” a mixture of primary colors and bold shapes have been stitched, painted, stapled and strung across all facades of the space, beginning with the floor. The carpeting has been transformed into a type of jigsaw puzzle composed of large triangular pieces of felt that have been first fitted and then visibly sewn together. The sharp shapes further reinforce the abnormal, angular floor plan of the gallery, as do a series of patterned ceramic pieces that politely form a line on a shelf that stretches diagonally in front of the gallery’s storefront window. In the window hang three large-scale felt tapestries that lack the calculated, flat appearance of the floor; instead their odd shapes and snippets of varying colors layer atop each other like unmixed paint on a canvas.
As if entering a child’s playroom, mundane elements of the room have been whimsically transformed into fantastical daydreams and physical vestiges of moments past. Graffiti doodles of primitive forms bend and flicker about the space, painted with thick black lines directly onto white walls. Elsewhere, a painted window reads like green and yellow stained glass, within which emotive scenes that pay tribute to Keith Haring live.
Viewers are led on a journey exploring what these artistic collaborators discovered as they constructed their installation. Our eyes trace their doodles, muse over their playthings, and follow in their felted footsteps with our own shoeless feet. (Maria Girgenti)
Through January 23 at Roman Susan, 1224 West Loyola.