When you go to the latest group exhibition at The Martin, walk around the gallery, look at the artwork, then make sure to view it at least one more time. Whether your second viewing is later that day or later in the week, chances are that some of the artworks will have changed in appearance. A strip of LED lights hung across a flowing crimson tapestry that previously shone a warm shade of yellow-white may later glow a midnight blue, seemingly on a whim. A CRT television monitor on top of a stack of larger monitors shows a constantly shifting display of colors and patterns that correlates to the gallery’s ever-changing sonic environment.
Debuting at The Martin on January 20, the group exhibition “DIFFERENT NAMES (for the same thing),” curated by The Martin’s founder Whitney LaMora, features artworks across many mediums that all interpret a broad theme—change. From paintings to photographs to installations, the works included in the exhibit possess a key element that allows the artwork to transform in appearance either temporarily or permanently. Though each artist brings their distinct vision to The Martin’s gallery space, “DIFFERENT NAMES (for the same thing)” harnesses color, light and motion to present an examination of change as a force with the potential to adopt many compelling, dynamic forms.
While some works change in appearance entirely on their own, many require interaction from the viewer to activate them. At first glance, K Hieronymus W’s painting “Bell Bowl Prairie, Camp Grant” looks to be a map of a town delineated by thick, multicolored lines and shaded rectangles. But the viewer must shine a black light at the painting to reveal the hidden roads of Camp Grant and the Prairie, which take on a neon quality underneath the blacklight’s beam. Matt Zuska’s “Motion” requires the viewer to stand directly in front of the piece to illuminate a photo strip, making it easier to see the strip’s image of a mountain that matches the intricate painting of the same picture on the film canister above the strip.
Navigating through the entire body of work calls for similar actions—the shining of a blacklight, the wave of a hand, or even the repositioning of one’s entire body. Through these points of interaction, the viewer becomes an active participant as well as an active force of change onto the works themselves. Kaleidoscopic colors act as a recurring motif across the group exhibition. While looking at the photographs that make up Justice Macklin’s “BLACK BARBIE: Collector’s Edition” series, which features the artist’s clothes and hands wrapped in an iridescent, crinkly covering, I wondered if I could somehow enter this world by jumping into the multicolored ring of light decay surrounded by a similarly crinkled, holographic material in Katie Carpenter’s large-scale installation “Portal 47.”
Often, these sites of interaction double as access points into personal reflections on changes the artist has experienced in their lives. In Ilhana Kisija’s “Schooliosis” illustration, a Black student wears a backpack while standing in front of a row of lockers. However, once the viewer waves a hand over the top left portion of the frame, the frame’s inside illuminates to show another drawing underneath of the student’s skeletal system drawn in red and thus literally and metaphorically shining a light on the strain and pressure academic environments place onto their students, especially students of color. Furthermore, Ari Karafiol’s “Whisker Wishes” invites viewers to use a small pair of scissors to trim one piece of hair from a big beard made of wool yarn. Inspired by the artist’s own experiences with hair growth in their hormone replacement therapy journey, the process of making a wish, taking a piece of hair, and leaving it for another person to find is meant to make the viewer’s wish come true.
Through an engaging exploration of a far-reaching concept, “DIFFERENT NAMES (for the same thing)” proposes that while change can lead to new challenges, it also just as often leads to new discoveries. By embracing this as fact, “DIFFERENT NAMES (for the same thing)” ultimately grants itself the freedom to undergo an evolution in which, at each stage, viewers can gain a new perspective on what it might mean for an artwork to change over time.
“DIFFERENT NAMES (for the same thing)” at The Martin, 2500 West Chicago. On view through February 12.