Contemporary art is happening all throughout Chicago, as well as extending out into the suburbs. The Riverside Arts Center (RAC), located at 32 E. Quincy St., in Riverside, IL, is currently exhibiting J Clayton: Colorspace, Michelle Bolinger in the Project Space, and Michelle Grabner + Brad Killiam in the RAC Garden; curated by Karen Azarnia.
When I stepped into the front of the Riverside Arts Center gallery space, it was hard to miss J Clayton’s big, bright paintings on canvas. Working in acrylic on raw canvas – an unforgiving medium – Clayton paints series of color spots marking points in space, establishing both structure and pathways of movement. At first glance Clayton’s colorful, busy paintings recall Yayoi Kusama, although nowhere near as compulsive, though they sit in a more relaxed, spatial manner. Clayton’s organization makes sense when I find out that she was also an architect. Clayton's use of acrylic on raw canvas is impressive, as not many painters can achieve successful paintings with these hard to manipulate materials. I also enjoyed what I perceived to be a little touch of silver flock on one piece. Her color-space paintings are a reflection of an internal world mapped from a lifetime of gathering information, processing data, recognizing patterns and solving problems. For Clayton, her art making practice is her “way of thinking about the world.” Although I obviously enjoyed Clayton’s paintings, I would like to see her to push her works even further, perhaps integrating an element that disrupts the flow or doesn’t seem as comfortable.
Next I entered the project space, where I stumbled upon smaller-scale but brilliant, intimate, and also colorful paintings by Michelle Bolinger. These works made up for their modest size through intense mark making. I particularly enjoyed the largest of Bolinger’s paintings, and had the lingering wish of how lovely it would be to have this work in my apartment to constantly stare at it. If paintings had feelings, I would hope the beautiful yellow, green painting is aware of its great presence, or at least Bolinger should be. Her use of space, which she refers to as “faux architecture,” was fresh, and it’s clear she’s interested in the balance between concrete geometry and atmosphere. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Bolinger’s works in a similar vein.
MICHELLE GRABNER + BRAD KILLIAM
There was another discovery to be made outside in the RAC garden, where there was a single, large-scale wood and concrete cube, approximately four or five feet wide, built by Michelle Grabner and Brad Killiam, a married couple who have been collaborating on artworks and exhibitions since 1993. Isamu Noguchi’s influence on the piece was apparent to me, but when one sees the texture embedded in the wooden planks, it’s also evident that similar textures are found in Grabner’s own paintings. Killiam described the reasoning behind the space and the particular piece: “The garden has a history with ceramic works, a few trees, crushed rock ground surface and a busy suburban location... A contemplative cube, made from wood and concrete, makes sense in that space.” The structure is peaceful yet it adds a satisfying, considerate, modern element to the reflective air of the garden, allowing the viewer to take everything in with a few, quiet breaths.
The three exhibitions run until November 24. For more details and upcoming events at the Riverside Arts Center, please visit their website.
J. Clayton, 2012, After the Quake: The Thousand Autumns (detail)
Michelle Bolinger, 2012, Tied, Oil on Panel, 34" x 28"