Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi, both artists in their own right, made a name for themselves—literally, Sonnenzimmer—when they started out in 2006 with their beautifully abstract concert posters. Since then, they have branched out into a wide variety of mediums and formats, from painting to textiles to printed matter. The large-format screenprints that make up “Vector Sculptures” brings the design duo back to their roots as poster makers.
The pieces in this series, all from 2015, begin with a taupe background with abstract shapes layered over one another. Some works are busier than others, but overall the compositions are spare and precise. Sonnenzimmer’s customary cleanness is evident. The color choices range from neutral greys to a bright blue gradient that fades into a hot yellow, as in “Vector Sculpture 1.” The shapes and layout used are reminiscent of early video-game settings or the fantastical scenes from a Fort Thunder-era comic, but brought up to the present day with Photoshop. “Vector Sculpture 6.2,” which features two repeated turquoise cloud-like shapes intersected with multi-colored patterns and squiggly lines, boasts nine colors.
While Sonnenzimmer are certainly worthy of their esteemed reputation, the works in this show feel a little dull. The fact that the pieces are hung in a corner of the room at Elastic Arts, away from natural light (especially on the day I visited, which was gloomy) doesn’t help. What often makes the design team’s work so vivid is their presence; they are clearly passionate about what they do. From their recent performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which involved performative images and music, to their “Image Furniture” painting series, the hands of the artists are often more apparent. In these lifeless screenprints, the passion behind Sonnenzimmer seems to be missing. Viewing the exhibition during one of the related artist events, such as “Images as Flotation Devices” on April 21, may inspire a different feeling. (Kerry Cardoza)
Through May 21 at Elastic Arts, 3429 West Diversey