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Current's C A R T exhibit offers another take on the art market

Photo: Monique Crabb, License: N/A, Created: 2011:07:09 17:46:02

Monique Crabb


At the Current Gallery through Sept. 4

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If you’re a frequent stroller of the 400 block of Howard Street, or a light-rail commuter, it’s hard not to notice the handmade storefront signage that has cropped up and accumulated in the windows of the Current Gallery over the past month or so. Advertising ambiguous products and remarkable deals, it makes it hard to tell exactly what lies on the other side of the gallery’s windows. Within the smaller of Current’s two exhibition spaces, CART has transformed the typically open, white-walled room into a dense functioning store that is half minimart and half gift shop, where the art on display is produced as multiples, shrink-wrapped, and price-tagged. Amid flamboyantly attired mannequins, viewers are encouraged to browse and purchase the displayed handmade items with the same automatism as a trip to the corner convenient store.

Curators and organizers Michael Benevento, Andrew Liang, and Monique Crabb put out a call for entries requesting work made in multiples, including but not limited to books, zines, postcards, jewelry, and edible objects, that fit loosely with the theme of a grocery store. They then filled the gallery with shelving and display units to showcase the work they’d be receiving, including book and postcard racks, a desk, and a cash register. They also printed their own shopping bags (canvas totes) for the show.

Many of the included works adhere strictly to the grocery theme, such as Bonnie Brenda Scott’s psychedelically screenprinted cuts of meat, while others stray as far as Elke Wardlaw’s Jason Urick earrings, featuring the former Baltimorean electronic musician’s face, available for a mere $30 per set. More than 80 artists and collaborative art groups from 28 cities internationally responded to the call, making and sending hundreds of items that are included in the show. Works range from decorative to functional to absurd, including packaged scrapings from artists’ pallets, and the prices jump between pennies and $50.

Crocheted and embroidered food, cassette tapes, photographs, and zines make their expected appearance in CART, while other items stand out for their humor or originality. Nick Peelor, a 2011 graduate of MICA, included painted landscapes, which were pieces from his thesis exhibition, exhibited therein as panels in a drop-ceiling. At CART, the paintings get a new context, and a new laugh. The nearly identical works are packaged in sets of two, and sold in shrink wrap as “two identical Bob Ross style landscape paintings” for $20. Chiara Keeling-Gonzalez, a Chicago resident, exhibited a series of small sculptural works made with afghans and wool blankets. Keeling created crystalline, patterned forms, which look like small, soft stones, each facet emphasized with the blankets’ stripes. Emmanuel Nicolaidis included wooden bookmarks and sets of coasters—the bookmarks, a particularly hot item, were sold out by the end of the opening.

Embracing the minimart theme, Gary Kachadourian created life-size folded-paper sculptures of convenience-store foods. Drawn and folded Tastykake singles were available for the actual product’s retail price. Kachadourian also included his books of cut and fold-out objects. Cara Ober brings her own flair to the theme with small drawings of condiments—Nutella, Marmite, etc.—each with a made-up slogan below, delicately penned in her signature fonts.

Taking advantage of its divided layout, Current has been running simultaneous shows in its larger and side galleries, allowing the exhibition schedule to differ between the two spaces. Some events, such as Jordan Bernier and John Bohl’s book release, were single-day events, but CART could easily become a permanent fixture. With Current acquiring flat-file cabinets for a permanent inventory of works on paper, there are many fingers crossed that the sculptural and other works will continue to be available. While the main space changes over for new exhibitions, CART has continued to run out of the side gallery, making an exciting companion to any show mounted in the main space. As CART has run through the summer months, it continues to accept additional submissions, while other works sell; the changing inventory and display make it fun to revisit.

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