Oct 16th 2009

Melissa Oresky: A Wildness of Edges and Eric Lebofsky: Superfreaks

@ Western Exhibitions

119 N Peoria St, 2A, Chicago, IL 60607

Opening Friday, October 16th, from 5PM - 8PM

On view through Friday, November 13th

In Gallery 1, Melissa Oresky will debut Rock Gardens, a dynamic group of paintings that make an analogy between painting and gardening, combining a range of visual languages and elements within a series of small, paired canvases. The show’s title intentionally misquotes author Roderick Nash, as he describes the role of the labyrinth in a garden as a “wilderness of edges.” In her work, Oresky places herself into the role of the painter as gardener of shapes, marks, images and thoughts in a relation to a predetermined field. She contends with disorientation and weediness in her divided compositions—compositions that seem to fold back in on themselves—as well desires for order and control.

It is this order/control vs. disorientation that gives her paintings such compelling and strange spaces, spaces that effect simultaneous experiences of overlapping volumes. Her process employs improvisation within rigid parameters, rules proving to be generative rather than reductive, that allow her paintings to have conversations between oppositions – garden/wilderness; control/chaos; opaque/translucent; natural/artificial; architectural/atmospheric.

Oresky’s paintings and drawings in the past few years have engaged a revolving set of concerns, including landscape, color, science (and science fiction), the body and cognition/perception. This new body of work, 18 paintings in identically scaled pairs, takes on a greater degree of abstraction. Each pair is driven by color (orange, red, blue, black, etc.) with one canvas more explicitly abstract (folded and divided spaces) and the other maintaining some vestiges of pictorial landscape (garden walls and organic forms).

In a recent essay for the exhibition On Paper at the Galhberg Gallery, writer Lori Waxman describes Oresky’s work thusly:

Conversely, in the formal spaces that inspire Oresky’s most recent work – rock beds and German show gardens – lines not only order and fragment space, they do so to the point of total disorientation. It’s almost as if the stuff of nature from which these spaces were built – pebbles and small boulders, clipped hedges and rows of annuals – finally resisted the strictures of design into which they were landscaped, rejecting the human order imposed upon them. Oresky renders this tension between the ordered and the chaotic, the human and the organic, abstractly, suggesting that it might be repressed in the gardens themselves. And she manages to implicate the viewer’s body, also in a way so distinct from how it feels to be in a formal garden, where vistas are staged and pathways clear cut.

In Gallery 2, Eric Lebofsky presents selections from a new drawing series, Superfreaks. Starting on his 32nd birthday and continuing until his 33rd in August 2010, Lebofsky will post one Superfreak drawing a day on his blog, http://superfreaks.tumblr.com. WesternXeditions will publish a book reproducing the drawings in 2010.

What is a Superfreak? Lebofsky defines it a superhero whose powers are derived from character flaws and/or transgressive behaviors, distinguishable from their civilian counterparts only by ornate costumery and/or literal embodiment of their issues. Lebofsky draws these characters in a graphic style with clean lines and the occasional snippet of idiosyncratic descriptive text, like how he describes The Analysand:

Disgruntled over his progress under psychoanalysis, this villain-to-be attempted to obtain a PhD in psychology, thinking it would allow him to jump to the end of the line, as it were. His outfit was a spontaneous emanation borne of research for his dissertation. Now, he is taunted by the nearness of his own “super nipple,” forever just out reach…

Lebofsky’s heroes explore common human frailties like passive-aggression, neurosis, and anxiety. Some offer a unique take on more conventional superhero powers like ESP. They are introspective yet identifiable, as we recognize our fears and imperfections in their powers. Most of Lebofsky’s chareacters are invented, though he occasionally assimilates characters from TV, film and literature, like Gary Numan posing as Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, or a Silentist from Ben Marcus’ novel Notable American Women.

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