Not every painting in “Hard to Believe” is trompe l’oeil, but the amazing works by Russell Harris, Anthony Adcock and Kyle Surges probably inspired that title. The nine artists involved are mimetic in a variety of ways. All were participants in the annual competitions sponsored by the Bridgeport Art Center. The eleven paintings by Harris span his work in portraiture, still-life and genre scene. His trompe l’oeil of a pneumatic airbrush is scarily good. It took all of my self-control not to touch the hose to make sure it was flat. His evening genre scene is just as remarkable; it defines the character of an older woman by the claustrophobic perfection of her kitchen. The most mind-bending illusion is offered by Kyle Surges. The horizontal edges of his shaped canvas recede to a vanishing point on the right, so the viewer seems always to be standing at the left. The most puzzling illusions are offered by Anthony Adcock. He is best known for amazing copies of complex and recognizable surfaces like weathered road signs, but neither skill nor form appear to be the issue in these copies of white primed canvases. Apparently, he is now participating in the contemporary discourse of conceptual art.
Like good illustration, most of the pieces in this show skillfully confront the viewer with an idea, especially the six life-sized portraits of customer service attendants painted by Jennifer Cronin. Sharp characterization of heads and hands bring her subjects into the gallery space, while misty visions float above each, showing where their minds may be wandering. Other artists display skills in architectural and/or monochrome drawing. None of them weld form to idea so intensely that the mind is endlessly curious about how it all fits together, except perhaps the tribute to early Surrealism painted by Zespo, a graduating art student. Its Baroque space is energetically filled with recognizable objects, yet it is thoroughly enigmatic.
Under the curatorship of Lelde Kalmite, the Bridgeport Art Center has developed an ambitious calendar of group shows. Hopefully it will draw from an ever widening circle of Chicago artists. (Chris Miller)
Through September 30 at the Bridgeport Art Gallery, 1200 West 35th