“Daddy Daughter Death” is arguably the centerpiece of “Depress Mode,” a sculpture show by Mike Rea at The Franklin in East Garfield Park. The open casket, standing upright on shims and custom-built for two, is life-size; the artist himself fits inside of it. The interior of the casket isn’t satin-lined, however, but instead painted with garish black stripes. “We had like a weird funeral procession,” Rea says of transporting the piece from his nearby studio to the backyard gallery. A lid for the casket, split into two pieces, is displayed nearby.
Across from the casket hangs “There, Their, They’re Kind of Town,” a pink-foam-and-wood rendition of the ISIS flag, with holes cut out to evoke the eyes of a Halloween ghost costume. Beautifully crafted, the flag resembles the wooden masks also made by the artist, which were worn at the show’s opening by two bartenders staffing an outdoor bar. The pieces work together to be both performative and stand-alone sculptures. Rea, who teaches at Northern Illinois University, often mixes performance with sculptures based on everyday objects, from pipes to guitars and amps to a drain. Fabricating these objects with wood injects some humor into them, and Rea takes it one step further through wordplay (an earlier project is called “Pleasure Wood”) and bizarre juxtapositions.
Also on display is the clever “Dirty Ghost,” which depicts two cartoonish ghosts having sex atop a steel frame. The piece is a play on the contemporary concept of “ghosting,” that is, ceasing contact with a love interest. Rea likened the way we try to find a connection through our phones to a kind of romantic Ouija board.
While at The Franklin, be sure to check out Rea’s studies on paper inside the house. And downstairs, a video by the Tel Aviv-born, Chicago-based artist Nelly Agassi plays on a mesmerizing loop. A black-and-white illustration, resembling an architectural drawing, rotates its many moving parts to the sound of clinking metal. (Kerry Cardoza)
Through October 15 at The Franklin, 3522 West Franklin