Skip the Trip to the Library:
People Don’t Like to Read Art at Western Exhibitions, Chicago

Deb Sokolow, Chapter 5. They meant for it to fail., 2011, graphite and acrylic on paper mounted to panel, 30x22", courtesy of Western Exhibitions

“People don’t like to read art.” It’s the sort of self-deprecating, tongue in cheek, slightly hipster-ish title you’d expect from a show featuring just such a group of young artists. “We acknowledge not everyone will enjoy this text+art stuff. And we don’t care, because we say it’s important.” But taken a bit less literally, as I had initially interpreted the title, it gets at the idea that people don’t like to derive meaning, to decipher, art. So in this way, perhaps the language in these text-based pieces helps us derive meaning more concretely; the verbage helps us “read” the works more deeply.

Kirsten Stoltmann, You Will Never Be Punk, 2011, oil paint Sharpie on magazine pages, 10x8", courtesy of Western Exhibitions

The offering in Western Exhibition’s group show sweeps the spectrum in terms of media—collage, drawing, sculpture, video, artist books. And in terms of voice as well. The labored, meditative collages of Meg Hitchcock, each one fashioned from thousands of tiny cut-out squares of individual type are juxtaposed against Kirsten Stoltmann’s loud, sharply funny, colorful sharpie drawings on pages from fashion magazines. One of her models declares, “To fart or not to fart.,” as she looks oh so forlorn with her hand to her cheek. Cat Glennon’s “Fuck This” spelled out with cigarette butts and her “You Don’t Need to Read It” in which the words “you don’t need to read into it, you just need to read it” overlaid with a check from a greasy spoon, dead matches, and playing cards, speak of grungy coffee shop angst.

Meg Hitchcock, detail of In the Day of My Trouble (Psalm 86), 2009, letters cut from the Chandogya Upanishad, 12x8", courtesy of Western Exhibitions

Simon Evans’s pyramid-shaped sculpture, “Monument for Sun Related Events,” is one of the most startlingly intimate pieces in the exhibit. Lined, yellow legal paper covers the pyramid, affixed to which are snippets of hand-written text. An inner world emerges in sentence fragments. Somehow these thoughts, memories really, are a stream-of-consciousness confessional, and at the same time, they’re so familiar you can almost recall, from your own past, the moments he spins forth. It was such a guilty pleasure to read, as if peeking into someone’s diary.

Simon Evans, Monument for Sun Related Events, 2008, pyramidal sculpture covered in lined yellow legal paper with blue and red ball point pen, 28x20x20", courtesy of Western Exhibitions

Whatever an art lover’s appetite for “reading,” whether compelled by a quick glance that packs a punch aesthetically or by more of an in-depth verbal communion with the pieces, from bubble gum beach fiction to heavy tomes of autobiography, the work in this show provides for all preferences, except of course for those people who really don’t like to read art.

“People don’t like to read art” is on view at Western Exhibitions in Chicago through August 13.

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