Connected by a desire to explore isolation and shared themes of anxiety and solitude in relation to the production and thought process behind artistic practice, artists John Henderson and B. Ingrid Olson come together in conversation with one another for “I wish I was alone right now,” a two-person exhibition at Soccer Club Club, organized by Donald Ryan.
The exhibition space plays a pivotal role in furthering the narrative of the works. What was once a former Polish social club, the space is multifunctional and includes a bar, dance floor and sound booth with the original interior and decoration intact. The walls of the space are dark wood panelling and brick, enveloping you in a balmy embrace. Entering the gallery evokes a strange sense of familiarity, as though you are entering the home of a friend or grandparent—a stark contrast to the clinical white walls and empty spaces of a typical gallery. The homely feeling of the space is simultaneously comforting and anxiety-inducing, lending itself to the themes of anxiety and power in relation to architecture and mechanical reproduction that the artists’ works employ.
Interrupting the otherwise open space is a large wooden structure, made by B.Ingrid Olson, bearing a resemblance to the inner framing of buildings that can be seen on construction sites. Situated on the structure are copper electrotype works by John Henderson. Through electrotyping (the process of using electricity to make a metal copy of an object), Henderson creates copies of paintings. The copies are finely detailed and feature the same texture as the original paintings but are no longer paintings in the traditional form. The works feel organic and abstract, and work well in contrast to the man-made appearance of the structure they reside on.
In any discussion of mechanical reproduction, it is hard not to draw an immediate connection to the Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” In that essay, Benjamin discusses the implications of technological advancements in mass production on artistic practice and questions the role modern industrial techniques such as photography play in art. It is within this discussion of mechanical reproduction and the impact of architectural space that the photographic works of B. Ingrid Olson join the conversation. Olson explores architectural spaces and deepens the exploration by adding to the conversation a consideration of the symbiotic and power-driven relationship between bodies and space.
The photographic and sculptural works of Olson line the walls of the gallery in one continuous pattern. The photos are small and feature heavy matting, creating a view that is almost tunnel vision. They force the viewer to get closer to the works in order to discern what they are looking at, and once they do, they are met with images exploring isolated body parts. The placement of the photos in one continuous line, though interrupted by the physical space itself, feels difficult to view but lends itself to the ongoing motif of isolation present throughout the exhibition; each photograph must be viewed on its own before moving on to the next.
The exhibition marks the first time the two artists have shown together, and the connection between their work doesn’t immediately come through. It is not an obvious conversation and requires a more conscious thought process regarding the relationship between the subject matter and the process of production.
John Henderson and B. Ingrid Olson “I wish I was alone right now” at Soccer Club Club, 2923 North Cicero, on view through August 4.