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Art Wed Aug 26 2015

Peter Skvara's Approaches at Andrew Rafacz Gallery: The Site of Distress at Sea

By Louis Sterrett


I Am Abandoning My Vessel, Peter Skvara, 2015

Peter Skvara's exhibition Approaches, which consists of enamel paintings on mesh, and a collection of debris entitled "Flotsam, Jetsam, Lagan, and Derelict" is now on display at the Andrew Rafacz Gallery in River West. The paintings are based on flag semaphores used for communication between ships, and their meanings are repeated in the titles. Some of the paintings depict significations that might be seen together such as "I Am Drifting / Will You Give Me My Position" (2015, enamel on mesh). Other pieces, however, take on different, stranger meaning as assemblages of statements. One painting reads, "You are Running the Risk of Going Aground / I am Going Ahead"--a callous expression to one in need.

The gallery's press release for the Approaches exhibit mentions beauty and the sublime tied up in the idea of a ship on the infinite expanse of the overwhelming sea. Another way for the sublime to appear, however, is through the striving to generate perfection in the precise lines of the semaphores, which nonetheless reveal the human touch made more palpable in the method of painting as opposed to screen printing.

The subtle squares make one think of the austere paintings of Ad Reinhardt, and their flatness recalls the work of Morris Louis and Ellsworth Kelly, whose background in designing camouflage for the military Skvara finds especially fascinating. In fact, Skvara formed his preference for working with mesh after doing his own camouflage on the material.


Your Signal Has Been Received But Not Understood, Peter Skvara, 2015

The show presents an interesting dichotomy: On one hand, the painted semaphores seem preserved as if frozen in a moment of crisis on a ship. On the other hand, the flotsam reminds us of the aftermath, the wreckage. Skvara noted that the flotsam balances the show and emphasizes his interest in archaeology. The display of his archeological finds through the mediation of painting and the gallery space both rescues the artifacts and also removes them from their context. Without knowing the flags' meanings, the paintings become reduced to geometric forms that leave the viewer pondering the aesthetics of the flags that don't normally appear in galleries. The paintings could also appear as assemblages of national flags. In this sense the sun-faded appearance of the flags corresponds to the wavering stability of nations' borders and identities over time.

Peter Skvara (American, b. 1985) earned his BFA from Columbia College Chicago in 2009. See his work on Instagram. Starting September 11, Skvara will have a solo show at The Mission, entitled The Path of Storm and Flood.

Approaches continues at Andrew Rafacz Gallery, 835 W. Washington Blvd., through September 5. The gallery, which is devoted to contemporary art, is open Tuesday-Friday 11am-6pm and Saturday until 5pm. For more information, call 312-404-9188.

Louis Sterrett is a graduate of the University of Chicago's Master of Arts Program in the Humanities. Photos provided by Andrew Rafacz Gallery.

 
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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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