Eric Ruschman paints directly onto woodworked panels, his abstractions sloping around softly rounded edges. The visibility of his hand varies; at points brush strokes are visibly staccato while the opacity and quality of craftsmanship precludes human production in others. It’s finish-fetish at its finest. A diptych titled “After Tonight, They Will Never Forget My Name (Chairface Chippendale)” smartly reveals the unfinished MDF surface peeking out between the painted-on wood grain; the pattern wraps generously around the sides of the panel. This painting’s companion, a smooth off-white circle hung high above it, is the only piece in the show that seems extraneous. While some works are playful and polite, others betray conceptual darkness and grit. Something nefarious lurks in “I Want To Believe In Deepthroat,” a Roger Brown-esque diptych the lower left corner of which has a large X slashed out of it. The whimsical title (both a double entendre and meta “X-Files” reference) is an exemplar of the pop-culture current that runs throughout his solo exhibition, “Cribs.” Through titles and imagery, Ruschman harkens to nineties sitcoms perhaps consumed during the production of the paintings (or underneath their place of final repose).
The joint consideration of art and design present in Ruschman’s work makes it well-suited for display in Circa Modern, a mid-century-modern furniture store located in Wicker Park. The bold colors and sensually smooth surfaces of his geometric meditations and cityscapes indicate influence by both Chicago Imagists and graphic novelists while reflecting aesthetics consistent throughout the store’s busy inventory and curiosity-filled cabinets. Ruschman handles this display, in what is arguably one of Chicago’s more bizarre exhibition spaces, with aplomb; embracing rather than muting the design aspects and commercial appeal of his work.
For just under a year, the “art-adjacent” venue has hosted exhibitions in collaboration with Joshua Herrington’s online marketing/networking platform Gallerista Chicago. The store’s co-owner, Jared Peterson, describes the process of choosing artists from Herrington’s stable who share their penchant for clean, modern lines and graphic appreciation (his business partner Don Schmaltz used to run his own gallery). It’s clear upon visiting that the showroom has been rearranged to complement the artwork; with furniture and décor artfully arranged to create Pinterest-worthy tableaus. Peterson shrugs off the negative bias associated with art as interior design, saying, “At the end of the day, people are buying these pieces to put in their homes.” Ruschman’s is art that wants to be lived with and loved, and it was wise to display it in a domestic(ish) setting over a white cube. (Erin Toale)
At Circa Modern, 1114 North Ashland, through May 30
Note: Due to the intimate nature of the artist’s relationship with our art editor, Matt Morris has recused himself from the writing and editing of this review.