Jun 6th 2013

Monuments and Ruins

@ Frogman

Block 37, 108 N. State St. Ground Floor Chicago, IL

Opening Thursday, June 6th, from 5PM - 9PM

On view through Friday, July 12th

A group show featuring the work of:

Jeff Prokash www.jeffprokash.com
Morgan Sims www.morgansims.com
Nathan Vernau www.nathanvernau.com
and Gwendolyn Zabicki www.gwendolynzabicki.com

Monuments and Ruins

Jeff Prokash and Gwendolyn Zabicki heighten our awareness of the barriers that divide interior from exterior space, separating narratives of domestic life from those that circulate in the public sphere. They help foreground a primary concern in our collective work: the boundaries between unavailable and uncommunicable narratives.
Even in densely populated urban settings, we cordon ourselves off from the world in our homes. We hide from each other in plain sight, engaged in intimately emotional dramas. Although the light that emanates from Zabicki’s houses can suggest warmth within, it doesn’t communicate details about these dramas. Her windows never let us see inside. Prokash comes at this paradox—that the light of the home illuminates without providing insight—from a different angle. In his case, we see directly through interiors. Caught between construction and inhabitation, his model homes reveal nothing about the lives that will fill them. In the absence of homeowners, the spaces that Prokash and Zabicki present seem uncannily empty. We peer inside and find a hollowness into which we project tension, loneliness, and isolation. When the task of filling the homes with narrative falls to the viewer, ordinary spaces become scenes of portentous anxiety.

One might suggest that the figures depicted by Nathan Vernau populate the spaces that Zabicki and Prokash construct—that they embody fears about the secret weirdnesses of unseen ordinary life. Perhaps if we could see inside, we’d catch Vernau cartwheeling across his floor. They voice what we’re nervous about stumbling upon in anonymous domestic spaces: that other people engage in role-playing fantasies of emotional release, and we’re the only ones comporting with Norman Rockwellian norms.
But they also provide a counterpoint to Zabicki and Prokash. Using established narratives of masculine identity, they suggest how hard we work to communicate
meaning to one another. The distress in Vernau’s self-portraits conveys a failed desire to be understood despite constant effort. Regardless of our best efforts, we only convey part of ourselves, or try to play roles and come up short. Empty houses and lighted apartments confound our attempts to learn something about the individuals inside, but Vernau reveals the difficulty of presenting a concrete account of self, even when we do try to come out of our private spaces to speak.

Morgan Sims doesn’t help us solve this problem—that we’re stuck between not knowing and not being able to say what we mean—but he does warn us against complacency
with respect to it. In the absence of engagement in each other’s lives, the project of meaning-making gets co-opted by corporate narratives, marketing copy, and readymade definitions of the good life. All of this jargon amounts to so many shards of neon, an echo of the holiday lights in Zabicki’s work. Sims compels us to shore different narratives against what is otherwise ruinous isolation.

-AJ Aronstein

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