The Kipper and the Corpse at Robert Bills Contemporary | Art review
Jessica Labatte, Mike Andrews + two other artists show playful works.
The central form in Jessica Labatte’s masterful photograph Column (2011) resembles a segment of Brancusi’s sculpture Endless Column, except for one absurd detail: Someone seems to have stuck hot-pink Post-its all over the modernist icon. Curator Elizabeth Chodos selected approximately 20 works by Labatte and three other Chicago artists—Lauren Anderson, Mike Andrews and Montgomery Perry Smith—that rely on trickery, transformation and deception, according to the exhibition statement.
While the strong compositions of Labatte’s images make her work consistently intriguing, Andrews’s computer-generated animation Cartoon Lava Mask with Two Forms in Purple, Red and Green (2012) is the show’s best individual piece. It employs the same layering techniques as Andrews’s paper collages, which are also on view, but its colors are more vibrant, and its shapes, lines and textures create an illusion of depth. Unfortunately, the piece’s 48-inch monitor is installed on the floor, making it difficult to watch. (Despite Robert Bills Contemporary’s friendly atmosphere, the 500-square-foot basement gallery, with its harsh fluorescent lighting and claustrophobic feel, isn’t an optimal place to view art.)
Trickery in “The Kipper and the Corpse” extends to Labatte’s other works, which look like 3-D collages, but upon closer examination reveal themselves to be flat ink-jet prints. Anderson’s abstract etched-glass pieces are less successful, and it’s hard to tell how they address the show’s themes.
Smith transforms everyday objects into sculptures like Pink (2012). This big tropical flower is really an open parasol, topped by intricate felt constructions that recall petals, stamens and pistils—a reflection of the exhibition’s subtle humor.