As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is the concept of urban environment. “City Views” at Addington Gallery juxtaposes two artists’ notion of the word “city.” Misha Goro, who grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia, is endlessly fascinated by Chicago’s streets, architecture and raw industrial essence, as well as the traffic that clogs the streets day and night. Karen Perl, a lifelong Evanston resident, has been painting scenes from that city for many years.
While Goro’s dynamic work is built on motion, Perl’s is still, muted. Goro’s slick, wet pavements reflect the headlights and taillights of vehicles. There is often precipitation—snow or rain—which lends atmosphere and grit to his urban scenes. Adding to the industrial quality of the work, Goro paints on slabs of aluminum, building up layers of paint that have actual dimension, while Perl’s paintings are soft, matte, almost velvety. Both Goro and Perl work from photographs they have made of their respective cityscapes, changing, subtracting, adding elements as they see fit. Goro’s work is more immediate, almost urgent in nature, vibrant and lively, as is the city he paints. Perl’s work is more introspective, mystical, not quite of this earth.
Goro’s painting “City Panoramic,” is a four-foot-wide fragment of life under the El tracks. The stripes of a crosswalk slice the frame diagonally while tracks hang suspended overhead, darkening the rain-slick street beneath. In his large square painting, “Van Buren and Wabash,” we see traffic moving in both directions, lights reflecting enticingly off the wet street, while an El rushes along the tracks above.
Perl works with precision, creating theater-set spaces in muted colors, dreamlike places in soft, almost pastel hues. Her scenes are silent, empty, save for the dog that appears in most of them, looking lost. Perl says the dog is proxy for the artist herself. She has created this half-real, half-fictional world, and enters it, as the dog, as if in a dream. In my favorite of Perl’s offerings, “I Will Follow You,” a haze lies over the street, somewhere between fog and a dust storm. At the end of the long street, a light appears to be shining, and the omnipresent dog stares toward that light. It is a mysterious painting, one you’d like to think on for a while, or write a short story about.
In another, “It’s As If They Know (Armitage and Damen),” the eye is drawn to the second floor of the corner building where a curtain flutters in an open window.
The combination of these two artists with disparate views of what it means to be a city makes this a captivating exhibition—the dialogue between two exceedingly gifted painters via their works is as beguiling as the art itself.
“City Views: Misha Goro and Karen Perl” at Addington Gallery, 704 North Wells, on view through July 12.