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Art Wed Jul 29 2015

"Body Building" Review @ Richard Gray Gallery

I've only been in the Hancock Tower once and I never thought it would be to visit an art gallery, but hey, there's a first for everything. Amused, I found myself inside the swarm of tourists and photographers who posed and smiled near a colossal sculpture that hung low from the ceiling in the lobby. In order to enter the space, I had to stop at the security desk where my driver's license was scanned and I was handed a slip with a barcode that granted me access through a futuristic gate. Once the door swung open I entered the elevator, free at last to look at art. I felt underdressed and out of place as I tiptoed quite dramatically to the glass doors of the Richard Gray Gallery.

Founded in the 1960s, the gallery has been a prominent and important creative hub for artists at both locations in Chicago and New York. The gallery is "collector orientated" and focuses on the importance of fine art, authenticity, and quality. Magdalena Abakanowicz, Jan Tichy, and Jaume Plensa, are some examples of artists who are represented by the Richard Gray Gallery.

RGG Body Building 2.jpg
Installation Image, courtesy of Richard Gray Gallery

The newest exhibition, Body Building, which opened July 6, is located down the hall from the main gallery room, which features works by Susan Rothenberg and David Hockney. Body Building, curated by Gan Uyeda and Raven Munsell, presents works from the 1900s until present day and focus on the relationship between the physical human form and the way that it is viewed through an architectural lens. The works in the exhibition date from 1917 to 2012, and display a variety of mediums and materials, such as wax, ink, wool, crayon, and collage.

Immediately greeting visitors into the gallery is, by far, the strongest piece in the show: a painting by Jim Lutes, entitled Escape from Brooklyn, (1995). The radiant hues of pink and yellow, which form into clots and lumps, float lightly against the backdrop of a realistic setting. Slightly off center in the canvas is an dazzling eyeball. It makes itself known, looking at us, almost winking, and continues to exist among the swelling and the bulging of the oil and hues that practically encompass it.

Near the center of the gallery space are small plexiglass works by Jose de Rivera. Created much earlier than Lutes' piece, Rivera amassed Working Model No. 12, 20, & 33 in 1955. Two of the three works displayed resemble recognizable structures, right angles are apparent, and architectural similarities reach out to the viewer. On the opposite spectrum, the third piece celebrates the roundness and irregularities that appear in forms such as the on the body or among the natural world. Working Model No. 12 and Working Model No. 20 are geometrically displayed, while Working Model No. 33 evokes a sense of tangibility and familiarity in form and in texture.

RGG Body Building 1.jpg
Installation Image, courtesy of Richard Gray Gallery

The dreamscape work of Ellen Lanyon's pastel on paper piece, Untitled (1964) features two individuals lying down haloed by a lime green background. The verticality and lack of depth and environment in the piece create a more monumental perspective for the figures that are depicted. Appearing side by side, the bodies mirror skyscrapers. Peach in color, linked by one another's hands, and steadying their heads into their towels, the artist utilizes the bodies as a framework for architecture. The forms tilt their heads and remain still for eternity, forever peering into the sun. By choosing to display two figures in an identical posture, the work conveys a strong sense of structure and concreteness. Ultimately, translating the figures into the man-made world in which we thrive.

Including the works mentioned above, artists, Malia Jensen, David Klamen, Robert Nickle, Judith Rothschild, John Stezaker, and John Storrs are among the artists featured in Body Building.

de Rivera, Working Model No. 20, 1955.jpg
Jose de Rivera, Working Model No. 20, 1955 Courtesy of Richard Gray Gallery

The exhibition, displayed in a city known for its architecture, is an illuminating example of how an artist's work can be influenced by buildings, construction, and the physical body which we house. Although I believe that more experimentation with materials, or installation-based work, would have completed the exhibition, Body Building stands on its own as a centerpiece for connecting the body and the city.

Body Building is on view until August 14. The Richard Gray Gallery is located at 875 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 3800. (Be sure to bring a photo ID.) For more information about upcoming exhibitions, email info@richardgraygallery.com. Gallery hours: Monday-Friday 10-5:30pm, Saturday by appointment only.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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