The Presence of Absence, May 8-Jun 2, 2013

Curators: Dave Tolchinsky and Debra Tolchinsky

“A show about invisible forces in the world…”
-Chicago Magazine

“One of the best art gallery shows in Chicago right now.”
-Chicago Magazine

“a remarkable group exhibition curated by Dave and Debra Tolchinsky and including work by a refreshingly unpredictable handful of emerging and established local artists . . .”
– Chicago Tribune

Northwestern University Department of Radio-TV-Film Professors Dave Tolchinsky and Debra Tolchinsky have curated the Contemporary Arts Council 13th annual exhibition, The Presence of Absence at the Hairpin Arts Center in Logan Square, Chicago.

The Presence of Absence grapples with that which should be there, but isn’t, and that which shouldn’t be there, but is still felt, seen or heard. Gathering work for the show, the Tolchinskys found themselves attracted to artists who explore the tension between that which is and that which is not in a variety of media (film, video, installation, sculpture, and paint) and from a multitude of perspectives.

Participants include renowned installation/conceptual artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle (MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowship winner, Documenta participant, Northwestern University faculty member), in a rare Chicago appearance; new media artist Christopher Baker off his recent sale to Saatchi of his Hello World! Video installation, featuring thousands of YouTube users announcing themselves to the world; filmmaker/installation artist Melika Bass off her recent Lincoln Film Center screening and acclaimed video for icelandic band Sigur Ros; internationally recognized sculptor and School of the Art Institute professor Laurie Palmer; well known Colombian/Chicago painter Paola Cabal and installation artist Katarina Weslien, as well as newcomer filmmakers Robert Chase Heishman and Brendan Meara.

The exhibition runs from May 8 to June 2, 2013 and is accompanied by a catalog. Curators and Artists Talk, Saturday, May 18, 2-3pm. All events are open to the public. Gallery hours are Wed. 12-3pm, Fri. 5-9:30pm, Sat. 2-9:30pm, and Sun. 2-5pm.

The Hairpin Arts Center was established by the Logan Square Chamber of Arts. The space acts as a place for cross-disciplinary exchange. By offering a variety of traditional and experimental programming, the Hairpin brings together local, national, and international artists and arts groups connecting them to the local community.

Hairpin Arts Center, 2800 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL, 60618,
For more about the exhibition and gallery hours, visit the Hairpin Arts Center’s web site.

IMG_0182Curators’ Statement

Awakening from a deep sleep and the dream begins to fade. Trying to hang onto a particular image, an evaporating face. A face that belonged to a person whom the dreamer loved. The person has passed. What remains? Dust and bone and something even less tangible . . . absence.

The initial concept for our exhibition came about from such a dream and the ensuing awareness that an absence of anything—a person, an action, an idea—often affects us more acutely than that which may be concretely present.

Gathering work for the show, we found ourselves attracted to artists who explore the tension between that which is and that which is not in a variety of media and from a multitude of perspectives.

For example, with Robert Chase Heishman and Brendan Meara’s video, we consider what it means to confront an endless fuse. How keenly we await an explosion that will never come. And the longer the fuse is lit, the more palpable the ghostly ka-boom.

In contrast, Christopher P. Baker’s immersive video installation bombards us with thousands of YouTube users simultaneously introducing themselves to the world. We ask: What does it mean to announce oneself if no one can hear because of the cacophony of announcements?

Meanwhile, Melika Bass uses film and installation to transport us to odd cult-like communities, cut off and hermetically sealed, where the abnormal becomes the normal and where we slowly become attuned to all that is wanting.

Similarly, Laurie Palmer fills our minds with the elements that have been removed through her construction of a large-scale hole. Like the image of the sun burned into the retina of someone who stared too long, Palmer’s work prompts us to reflect on the meaning of a space that is at once monumental and nonexistent.

And speaking of the sun, what if even the sunlight is . . . just an illusory wish. With Paola Cabal’s painted wall, we perceive something that isn’t there even while appreciating the cold beauty that is. We long for the warmth, which we might even mistakenly feel.

Across the room, Katarina Weslien offers us spiritual waters transported from afar, inviting us to imagine the missing location. And as time passes, we witness these waters transform. They become mystically suspended between two worlds, neither here nor there, not what they were nor what they will be.

Finally, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle bathes us in crimson light while an instrument for measuring the wind flutters outside a red-tinted window. We think about the effect of that which we see and believe but can’t feel or confirm, and as we continue to contemplate, it dawns on us—Manglano-Ovalle’s artwork occupies no physical space inside the gallery.

In fact, like the remnants of our original dream, his artwork and all the artworks in our exhibition embody the presence of absence.

Dave Tolchinsky and Deb Tolchinsky