In writing, the parentheses houses the afterthought. Conversely, the parenthetical in art is often a site of reconsideration for that which is typically de-emphasized. Every title given to Nick Albertson’s photographs in “Unrolled” at Aspect Ratio features a parenthesis, with either “streamers” or “tape,” materials used to compose the photos, filling in the brackets. What the exhibition presents in this material foreground/background operation is a tidy summation of art wrestling with moving things from the storage room to the gallery, ascending gilded stairs to ivory towers and descending a mall escalator.
Albertson repurposes his selected lowly objects to resemble paint or collage and thus, something more art-constant and familiar to the gallery goer. “Color Study (Streamers) 27” is an aesthetically pleasing jaunt into old Modernist standbys of color field exploration and abstraction. Where it gets interesting is the realization that this is achieved materially through cheap, semi-translucent crepe-paper party streamers overlaid and photographed. The titles pluck from art’s great color workers of the past—LeWitt, Albers, Rothko—but the parenthetical (streamers) are what makes them exceed mere homage. In the next room, the Arp and Malevich forms in the numerous tape-based “Color Study” works that surround the viewer in Aspect Ratio’s intimate gallery space make the material focus inescapable.
Albertson doesn’t go for broke in celebrating deconstruction, however. These are still rectangularly framed, medium-specific art objects. The repurposed everyday objects photographed and on view are arranged to be pleasing despite their conceptual unwieldiness. Despite the irresistible pull that is swaddling the banal object into the comfortable confines of aesthetic art discourse, Albertson’s show is a clever and aesthetically appealing exhibition that compels the viewer to wonder what would truly happen if margins, footnotes and parentheticals could be viewed on their own terms. (Chris Reeves)
Through July 9 at Aspect Ratio, 119 North Peoria
Chris Reeves is a creative researcher and artist who received his PhD in Art History from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2021. In 2020 he co-edited his first book, “The World’s Worst: A Guide to the Portsmouth Sinfonia” released on Soberscove Press.