A 'Flattened' Look at Abstract Art
BY MYRNA PETLICKI CONTRIBUTOR
Five contemporary abstract artists from diverse backgrounds, and with very different approaches to their work, are showcased in "Flattened," opening Sunday at the Evanston Art Center.
Roscoe Village artist Katherine Drake Chial's paintings in the exhibit include "Brave New World," a striking image with a bold red center that seems to pulse because of the effect created by dripping paint. The wide, irregular red band is blanketed by shades of blue, green and white, evoking the appearance of a landscape with a lake in the foreground.
After graduating from Kenyon College in Ohio with a degree in history, Chial realized she wanted to pursue an art career. She earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Michigan State University and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Georgia (both cum laude). The mother of two young children is a full-time artist whose paintings have been exhibited in California, Georgia, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Illinois.
Chial admires the work of American artist Mark Rothko and German artist Gerhard Richter, but often takes her inspiration from reading physics, space, philosophy and art theory. "I'm also very influenced by things that I see in nature," she said.
Chial described her paintings as "process-oriented. I do a lot of pouring and dripping, and yet I try to maintain a certain amount of control. But with a dripper/pourer it's always going to be somewhat random. I try to work within that space between chaos and order."
Jason Shelby of Morton Grove will have five paintings in the exhibition -- two large pieces and three 30-inch by 30-inch works. The names of Shelby's pieces are as imaginative as the works themselves.
"I generally do anagrams," he said. "Creating the title is kind of like how the paintings are created. Things are broken apart and reconstructed -- put back together again in different ways."
He noted that some abstract artists number their paintings. "It's very sterile and the work is not sterile -- it's very imaginative." A listing of Shelby's paintings sounds a bit like a language from an exotic country, including such titles as "Brito Gream," "Mechasonap" and "Brocca Druleb."
One of the larger pieces in the show is called "Creelawpoosh."
"I don't remember what it came from," the artist laughingly admitted.
The predominately blue painting is every bit as imaginative as its name. Spend time studying it and the design elements may lead you to believe that you are seeing a shark, a spaceship or a mechanical toy near the center. This is typical of the artist's arresting style.
"There are no real, tangible things you can see in the work," Shelby said, noting this is a change from his earlier paintings. "Before, there were actual silhouettes and actual objects -- more of a seek-and-find sort of thing. It kind of evolved into (being) totally removed from actual evidence of things."
Shelby uses a multi-step approach to creating his work. When he gets an idea, he first creates a sketch by hand, and then scans it into his computer to further develop it. The final step is reproducing that sketch on canvas in acrylic paint.
Although his work is influenced by many sources and people, Shelby was particularly drawn to artist Lee Bontecou, whose work was featured in a 2004 retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art. "She was making work on her terms, and the work was really inspirational," he said.
A full-time artist until very recently, Shelby now works days as a graphic designer -- a financial necessity because he and his wife are expecting their first child. The Oklahoma native, who is in his early 30s, earned a bachelor of fine arts degree four years ago from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been exhibited at galleries in Arizona, Chicago and Evanston.
Also represented in "Flattened" are artists Keith O. Anderson, Alisa Henriquez and Fraser Taylor.
Sunday through April 2
Opening reception 1-4 p.m. Sunday; a panel discussion with the artists begins at 1:30 p.m.
Evanston Art Center, Center for the Visual Arts, 2603 Sheridan Road, Evanston