Consider two moments: the meme-deluged aftermath of Drake’s James Turrell inspired “Hotline Bling” video and the so-called “Renoir Sucks at Painting” movement, a facetious rally for collective action against the perceived aesthetic tyranny of the Impressionist painter. What unites these seemingly disparate events is our apparent want for a moment of collective ironic distance. A closer analysis of this phenomenon is outside the purview of this review, but is a pertinent backdrop for viewing Katie Pennachio and Matt Mancini’s “Feel Flows” at Fernwey. Pennachio’s “screen” paintings are a sturdy collection of anthropomorphic ledgers that queue the aesthetic and inert connotations of our daily screen gazing in no particular order. They also cite the gridded art canon (LeWitt, Mondrian, etc.), a reference that lead us easily over to the 1960s and seventies poetics of post-formalist sculpture that are the ground for Mancini’s biomorphic objects.
The grid is modernity’s proud emblem, not only for its manufacturing potential, but also for its painterly possibilities: establishing perspective and allowing for the ordered chaos that abandons it. Pennachio’s titles, most of them “screen” followed by a number, are opaque enough to refer us to any number of references to horizontal viewing—computers, film, paintings—and depict an aggregate of different formal variations on the grid, appearing somewhere between a glitched Excel spreadsheet and a confident borrowing of past formal interventions. Mancini’s large works, “MoonGlow” and “Chenrezig,” both refer to kinds of Enlightenment universalist modes of contemplation (the moon and religion, respectively) and thus invite a collective viewing of their formal sculptural sheens through a theorized notion of beauty.
The feel and the flow of these objects make up the tension: feeling, being Modernism’s arm outstretched to grasp beauty and flow being the other hand holding a cell phone. “Feel Flows” firmly imprints our muddy contemporary art moment of Modernism’s co-mingling with Post-Modernism, a hunt for feels in a moment that collectively desires it through ironic distance. While the success of this pairing depends on your individualized feels, what it does beg us to consider is our collective desire through the arts and the art of viewing. (Chris Reeves)
Through November 22 at Fernway, 916 North Damen.
Elliot J. Reichert is a Chicago-based curator, critic, and editor. He is a currently Curator of Contemporary Art at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana Unversity, and Hatch Projects Curatorial Resident at the Chicago Artist Coalition. Formerly, he was Art Editor of Newcity and Assistant Curator at the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. His writing has been published in The Brooklyn Rail, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Newcity.