If something doesn’t land, where does it go? This is the Bermuda Triangle that Roni Packer and Michael Lopez present in “It Never Really Lands,” their collaborative exhibition at Roots & Culture. Created onsite but smelling of the studio, Packer and Lopez present a vivid constellation of works largely in two mediums—fabric and canvas—that are wholly concerned with the process of translation: How do their distinct approaches to the art object exist in a reconfigured state of collaboration and public exhibition?
It would be tempting to summarize most of what is on view as being in the tradition of the assemblage. Indeed, fabrics of different colors and patterns that are wrapped around bits of wood or containers become literal support to hold brightly painted yellow canvases to the wall; a slashed canvas has a zipper sewn down the middle; packed into a transparent container is an old state ID or pair of underwear. Yet, the overall sense of the work together is of disassemblage, the arrangement of the works together appearing malleable and temporary. This is exacerbated by the fact that there are no titles for the works, no checklist or map offered to the viewer to discern where Packer’s and Lopez’s works start and stop. There are, of course, formal details that give away who did what—the aforementioned identity card, the prevalence of the color yellow on the canvas—but it would seem such distinctions in this collaborative endeavor are less important than an emphasis on how it is experienced altogether.
The exhibition is divided roughly into two sections. The first, a smaller room packed with what could be best described as smaller or more fragmented works, gives off a “backstage” impression, almost like a storage or an inventory of raw materials than works proper. This is only heightened with the second section, which takes up the rest of the gallery, where larger works are presented more sparingly and collide less obviously, feeling more like a standard exhibition presentation. A large, sewn-together tarp covers the floor of the space, guiding the visitor to both sections. The tarp creases and folds with foot traffic, inevitably becoming a residual catalogue of footprints and visits. What happens to the tarp when the show ends is as pressing a question as what happens if we remove one of the fabric support beams from the canvases, and also brings to mind a quote from perennial postmodern philosopher Gilles Deleuze: “We produce something new on condition that we repeat—once in the mode that constitutes the past, and once more in the present of metamorphosis.”
The brilliance of Packer’s and Lopez’s gestures in this exhibition is in their replay of a historic avant-garde vocabulary (one sees equal parts Malevich’s suprematism, minimalism, Mondrian and Merz in this show) presented under the condition of denying clear finality, ego or product. Thinking of the present metamorphosis in this way makes “It Never Really Lands” something of a layover, out of the air and looking forward to the future. (Chris Reeves)
Roni Packer and Michael Lopez “It Never Really Lands” shows through October 7 at Roots and Culture, 1034 North Milwaukee, (773)580-0102.
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.