Comic artist expands to abstract work

12/05/2012 10:00 PM

Phil Morehart
Contributing Reporter

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Lilli Carré’s work is distinct.

The Chicago-based artist has made a name for herself in the comic book world and beyond with a body of work that combines the whimsy of fantasy with the lived-in nostalgia of silent cinema and classic cartoons. Her comics, animated work, self-bound books, drawings and more are fresh and charmingly antique-ish simultaneously. The quality of Carré’s work makes it a familiar sight in comic shops and bookstores, but also in the Museum of Contemporary Art and other galleries across the city and the United States.

Carré’s recent endeavor, a collaborative exhibition with artist and filmmaker Alexander Stewart (who also teaches animation at DePaul University’s School of Cinema & Interactive Media and co-directs the Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation), finds her moving away from the comic book aesthetic into abstract realms. It’s bold work.

“Where Did I Leave the Thing Itself,” which runs at the small storefront gallery Roots & Culture Contemporary Arts Center in West Town through January 5, is a series of conversations conducted on slides, paper, and in animated form. Carré and Stewart use the precarious and seemingly random placement and juxtaposition of shapes, lines, and colors to comment of the very nature of said elements, as well as the nature of the modes within which they exist. The name of the exhibit itself is derived from such happenstance placements — sentence fragments that pop together in the exhibition’s opener, “Poiple Phase.”

“Poiple Phase” serves as a perfect introduction to the exhibit. The double-projection 35mm slide installation throws dual sets of shapes and text on top of one another, each filtered through respective red and blue filters. The placements and staggered timing of the projections allow the shapes and words to play off each other. Text augments and re-imagines the forms and vice versa, creating dialogues and narratives that shift and mutate as the slides click by each other.

Seven collaborative works on paper line the gallery walls that further the exhibit’s conversational mission.

Literally titled “Chit,” “Chat,” “Conversation 1,” “Conversation 2,” “Conversation 3,” “Conversation 4” and “Conversation 5,” the pieces find Carré and Stewart playing with form and placement. Using paint, drawing, and collage, each artist added and subtracted elements in turn to create the compositions. The works are conversations betweens the artists, but they contain dialogue, as well. Imagined narratives can be constructed between the elements. Why does a line stand solo away from certain shapes? Are they ostracizing it? What is this cluster of forms saying to each other?

Exhibition centerpiece “Cruxfilm” turns the ideas found in the exhibit’s slide and still work into animated form. It’s a beautiful piece. The five minute and 15 second loop finds objects moving, shifting shape, and interacting with each other. They’ve moved from an inanimate state to being very much alive.

Triangles, circles, lines and odd forms become characters in short mini-dramas. A background soundtrack of found noises and other sounds provide a sense of place: In a tub of water, on the street, in the African bush. “Cruxfilm” recalls Chuck Jones’ groundbreaking 1965 MGM cartoon, The Dot and the Line, another work that challenges viewers’ perceptions of objects and space. The parallels tie the exhibit to the world of cartoons as well as abstract art with grace.

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