In Studies in Growth and Survival, curated by Catherine Matthews (Ars Memoria director/head curator),Chicago artist John Airo showcases a suite of new paintings created between 2018 & 2019 at Ars Memoria gallery in Chicago (Apr. 13th, 2019). The work, loud and intrusive, both meticulous and free, lands the viewer in a formally oriented dialogue. Airo’s “Stumps”, forgotten gravestones of trees and stone flourishing with new life and energy, open the viewer to a graphic sensibility that is soaked in an adoration of the history of painting. Reminiscent of the work of Peter Blume, Airo’s Stump’s respect nature and moments of realism both emotionally and formally while locking into his own cosmology. The ever-familiar teetering between representation and abstraction in painting is addressed whimsically and earnestly. Airo’s form invention yields seemingly synthetic life while leaving the viewer uncertain of their fiction. The stumps take long breaths of decay and exhale growth and vibrant movement; bending, pulling, stretching back to the brink of snapping..Life always prevails and swallows the old. Death and decay welcome growth in this body of work.
This is Airo’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Showing along side Airo’s new work, the artist has asked five local artists to collaborate on different paintings. Kelly Pelka( Paranoidgirl, Artwork by Kelly D. Pelka), a Chicago native currently working in Portland, explores tropes of femininity and gesture with prolific elegance in her work. Michelle Graves, director of Agitator Gallery in Chicago, sources her style through a seemingly obsessive and careful discussion with line and text; breaking, dissecting and constantly interrogating her subjects and materials. Chicago native and radio host of “The ISMS Show”, Betty Heredia’s (bettyheredia.com) playful and visceral abstraction skews pattern and seeks a new language oriented around formalism. Local artist Ethan Hutchinson’s delicate line work and soft, almost melancholic imagery slows down the viewer and asks for each moment of each mark to be reveled in. Darius Airo, the artist’s son, dives into a historically oriented formalism that asks for a contemporization of painting’s grand narrative with a cartoon-centric and graphic sensibility.