There is no longer comfort in the house of common cause. The current dysfunction built atop our past presages collapse. An extraordinary burden is foist upon familiar places to offer a sheltering calm in the face of calamity. The artists of Uncommonplace speak to this private unease, this public unknowing. When the time comes, will you stay in your place?
Alyssa Dennis’ geopolitical artwork collapses the continuum from a rangy field of wild goats, to a Midwest automobile factory, to an upscale condo complex, and back, again, to nature. In her precisely rendered architecture, the current iteration of a place coexists with its ghostly past, recalling tribal, Moorish and Gothic influences. Her carefully drawn graphite structures are haunted by watercolor images of wallpaper patterns, and rooms without furniture, without appliances, without useful designation. Discarded tires, separated from a car now made in a foreign place, like a family de-nationalized, no longer free to call this place “church” or “school” or “home.” Dennis’ deconstructions invite the diaspora of the dispossessed. Emptiness looms present in her architecture, warning that the distance from the ascendancy to the demise of Detroit can be achieved in a single lifetime.
Peter Harris is a Canadian painter with an international following, who looks to the American artist Edward Hopper to inform his precisionist urbanscapes. Harris urges us into his bulb-lighted buildings, past unseated chairs and unwalked corridors. His oil paintings are neighbors to Hopper’s Nighthawks, as Canada and Mexico are to the US. Yet, where is the friendly association within and among these tidy places? There is a vague notion of a considered past, evidenced by art upon the walls, artistically placed, perhaps by an artful person. It is our clue to the vibrancy once resident within these rooms. Someone once understood the value of a well-built place, well tended, and properly appointed for the purpose of conducting a life and creating a community. Harris presents this to us in a palette as quiet as the night, hoping the hour is not too late to appreciate this common cityscape for what it is: a backdrop, awaiting the stories of the world’s population, commingled, messy, tolerant, just, and thriving.
Juan Fernandez aims his photography like an accusation toward the guilty. Like Harris, he presents us with common structures, seen, but ignored, everyday. We don’t consider their existence, nor do we fear their strength. But in Fernandez’s straightforward presentation, these places are no longer available to you. Your privilege will allow you access through neither window nor door. Your right to entry has been rescinded. The utility of these structures, made grand and monumental through Fernandez’s use of perspective, will no longer serve you. Your neglect of their materiality, and of those who built them, and of their story, is repaid in kind. Through Fernandez’s lens, this vernacular architecture, customized to suit the place where it lives, redefines its own usefulness as a thing of beauty, a work of art.
“Uncommonplace” opens Friday, March 24th, 6-9 pm. An artists’ talk will take place as part of the opening reception. Exhibition runs March 24th through May 27th, 2017. Gallery19 is located at 4839 N. Damen Ave. 773-420-8071.