The Nature of Disturbance

Justin Berry, You Ni Chae, Zak Prekop, Carrie Schneider, Sarah Mae Stone


The Nature of Disturbance
Rowland Contemporary
, Chicago, IL. June 18 – August 27, 2007

To disturb is to interrupt or intrude—when the delivery system of that intrusion is an artwork, the effect can have a very subtle or an aggressively pointed impact. Where that agitation occurs and what it displaces defines a significant component of the mechanism of art practice.  Historically, art has been used to upset entrenched cultural mores—often with the intention to expose inertia and influence change. So, to present an exhibition using the apparatus of the disturbing is to open up a discussion that may have surprising consequences. Rather than make conspicuous statements intended to provoke disquiet, the work in this exhibition delivers through an internalized anxiety that is delivered slowly and impassively, but not without provocation. The disturbing here isn’t obvious nor is it overt, but it is more likely to invoke questions of decorum and appropriateness while it simultaneously invites and seduces. It’s a different kind of intrusion here whose agency is the attractive and inviting language of facile painting, inventive construction and sumptuous photography.

The Nature of Disturbance is a kind of proposition. It is a presentation of the work of young artists at early stages in their careers, whose investigations offer delicately troublesome positions. There is a range here from the faintest tremors of imbalance occurring in the formalist language of abstraction to the deepest and most resonant emotional outpourings of individual longing.

In this exhibition, there is the awkward moodiness of the carefully fashioned oil paintings of Zak Prekop. The modest scale of these quiet paintings belies their powerful and evocative astriction. Within the Prekkop’s abstraction are hints of image and figuration, but mostly there is a hermetic intensity at work here that requires careful attention and close inspection.

Sarah Mae Stone’s installation of drawings, studio fragments and photographs reveal something of her background growing up on an island off of the coast of South Carolina. Steeped in gothic melodrama, these self-consciously spooky images play into clichés of the paranormal and southern mythology. They’re disquietingly personal images that look at identity and ego through an unfiltered lens.

Carrie Schneider’s large photograph “From Eternity,” finds its inspiration in a famous scene from the move “From Here to Eternity.” Unlike that image of unbridled passion between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr from the 1953 film, Schneider’s self-portrait is an amorous embrace of the absent other. Or, in fact it may be a more literal depiction of “nature lust,” a kind of displaced erotic attention put upon what is inescapably absent in her “other.” In either case, the emotional intensity here is felt and effectual.

You Ni Chae’s angular abstract paintings place linear form against field in a battle for space. The pressures applied here increase the claustrophobic anxiety inherent in Chae’s language. Although forcefully wrought, these linear structures have a tendency towards the fragile and brittle. Like all good abstraction, You Ni Chae uses her painting to strike a balance between aesthetic pleasure and a shaky indeterminacy.

Justin Berry is a performer of experiments that seem to undermine the object of their own purpose. Unlike a scientist trying to prove theories, his projects are designed to invalidate their own function, thus revealing unsettling truths. Like his tall, paper Archimedean screw attempting to move ink upwards, the material transference becomes the object of its own dysfunction and failure. In many ways this piece is like a model for the act of drawing; in another, it is a gracefully elegant failed operation. In either case, we feel the desire for the work to prove and to be believed.

Dan Devening