“The Sixth Annual 12×12 Show” at Elephant Room Gallery brings together more than sixty different artists, each with their own unique voice, in response to an incredibly simple brief with one direct rule—the work must be created on a twelve-inch-by-twelve-inch “canvas.” The rest is left up to the artist’s interpretation resulting in a vastly diverse and compelling showcase of work. The majority of artists are local to Chicago with a few outside exceptions, staying true to the South Loop gallery’s mission of focusing on “local new, emerging and under-represented artists.”
Such a large number of works being shown together has the potential to be overwhelming in sight, but the limited size of the works allows for a more manageable viewing. Although not directly connected by any specific thematic guidelines, the works are cleverly hung in groupings of six corresponding to their overall aesthetic and thematic undertones creating a more nuanced and layered experience. The mediums exhibited include painting, mixed media, sculpture and photography, and despite the works following the twelve-by-twelve rule, the amount of detail and creative thought is not limited at all by the small stature. Personal standouts from the show include the vibrantly colored and intricately detailed acrylic and ink work “T.V. Baby” by Canada-based artist Ten Yetman, the politically striking acrylic and oil stick work “Kill Your Masters #4” by artist Esteban Whiteside and the elaborate and technically advanced laser-cut-on-wood work “Untitled” by artist Adrian Halpern.
As varied as the mediums are, the conceptual themes of the works are even more diverse. Ranging from the bold and abstract to more candidly political and direct, each work has its own captivating voice, but what felt more interesting were the connections formed in the conversations the works have with one another. The compact size of the gallery allows for fairly quick viewing; however, the works themselves require careful attention to detail as not to miss any of their (sometimes very) minute attributes. No matter where you look, you are bound to see something new. The standardized size of the works played a larger role in the impact of the show than I had initially anticipated and as I walked through the gallery, I found myself growing in anticipation to see the next artist’s take on the small scale. While some of the works do feature a more heavy and contemplative undertone, what truly stuck out to me was just how fun viewing the exhibition was. A group show offers the exciting opportunity to see different perspectives and artistic talents, a group show of this scale goes above and beyond.
Elephant Room Gallery’s “Sixth Annual 12×12 Show” is an entertaining and insightful look into some of Chicago’s (and beyond) most exciting emerging and established talents. Regardless of artistic preference, viewers are bound to find a work to connect with.
“The Sixth Annual 12×12 Show” is on view at Elephant Room Gallery, 704 South Wabash through January 6, 2024.