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Art Wed Sep 02 2015

Stevie Hanley "Synaesthetica" @ The International Museum of Surgical Science

Synesthesia, by definition, is a "sensation experienced in part of the body other than the part simulated," most commonly associated with music being seen as color. Notable cases for the condition include, David Hockney, Duke Ellington and Vladimir Nabokov.

In the current exhibition at the International Museum of Surgical Science, Stevie Hanley, explores everyday experiences and expands the limitations of singular actions to a broader exploration of more than one view, emotion and association. Hanley has translated the medical condition to the form of an art exhibition. His ability to associate color and imagery with personal fear and curious observation is imagined in the exhibition, "Synaesthetica".

The International Museum of Surgical Science is filled with medical tools, equipment, inventions, and history, which contribute to the bizarre and somewhat mystical condition that is observed in the exhibition. Hanley invites viewers into two gallery spaces; both include video projections and installations, only one includes the hum of Dolly Parton.

The viewer is faced with three semi-transparent pieces made from magnifying sheets and Jello, titled "Ommatidia Quilt" when entering one of the two gallery spaces. The three pieces illustrateSnail's Trail, a pattern utilized in quilting. Because the semi-transparent pieces are creating a wall of disillusionment and obscurity from one side of the gallery to the next, the viewer is drawn towards a gumball-esque machine that houses phallic-shaped earbuds in colorful forms of yellow, red, and purple. The viewer is drawn towards a turning mechanism that expels two earbuds for the plugging pleasure; "Ear Plugs to Aid Viewing" is situated in print on the glass that houses the foamy material by the hundreds. This particular piece allows viewers to move beyond the traditions of a gallery experience and invites them to physically touch and own a piece of the art. Hanley gives viewers the chance to break boundaries and multiple associations are created for one piece in the space.

On the other side of the hanging quilts is a video projection that features a view inside of the earbud machine; the vibrant pieces line the glass box as the camera zooms in to the landscape, creating a life-size atmosphere. The video, "Hairy Eyeball Love," is accompanied by sound from Caleb Yono, and suddenly introduces a Tarantula, climbing and straddling the earbuds in the glass box. While watching a spider thrive and crawl through a sea of spongy neon, personal fears escalate when the earbuds in the film look incredibly similar to those in one's ears. Hanley successfully creates a sense of awe-struck fear in his viewers; some sit comfortably, while others immediately remove the earbuds and tuck them into their pockets, safely away from direct human contact. Here, Hanley has given us a gift and created a trust for the viewer. He assumes his position and then simply mocks this trust by repelling and violating the audience in the piece "Hairy Eyeball Love." It's entirely intentional and incredibly brilliant.

In the adjacent gallery space, two sculptures, entitled "Untitled constellation" and "Equipoised Bullseye," are presented on the floor. Their exterior is soft and viable in material, but appear solid and static in place. Hanley has altered the pieces by placing materials such as old paint cans, plates, instant coffee and various other materials, into the center of the foam. The layers and everyday materials that are included in these two works introduce sensations of familiarity and domesticity, but also contradict these senses by introducing the objects in a foreign space.

Stevie Hanley is a Chicago-based artist who holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His yearning to explore unknown materials and constant interest in the abstract allows his exhibition to reach several senses.

"Synaesthetica" is on view at the International Museum of Surgical Science until November 15. The museum is located at 1524 N. Lake Shore Dr. Hours are 10am to 4pm Tuesday-Friday and 10am to 5pm on weekends. Admission is 15 with discounts for seniors, students and members of the military.

Installation photos by Collin Pressler, exhibit curator.

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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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