Felix Malnig • Robyn O'Neil • Melissa Oresky • Claire Sherman
Gahlberg GalleryCollege of DuPage425 Fawell Blvd.
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137-6599www.cod.edu/gallery(630) 942-2321
Col ege of DuPage
Letter from VermontBy Lori Waxman
It's as beautiful and restful as ever in Vermont. We've been here nearly a week, and each morningwe run straight to the pond and plunge in, happy to wake up to cold, fresh water instead of theusual shower. Then coffee and breakfast on the cabin porch, which overlooks one of the mostmagnificent vistas of the Stowe Valley: Mount Mansfield soaring in the distance, its bare ski runssnaking down conifer slopes, to the north the dip of Smuggler's Notch winding its way to the nextvalley over. In between sits the Trapp Family Lodge, home of the famous singing Austrian family(really!). Behind us rises Pinnacle, with its dual peaks that we climb each year, winter and summeralike, and everywhere grow wild apples and raspberries almost ripe for the picking.
Preparing for our trip, I imagined how symbiotic a place this would be in which to write an essayfor the On Paper
show, devoted as it is to four artists invested in the landscape genre. I admit Ieven fantasized myself in the position of Thoreau, who moved his desk and chair outside each dayso he could work under the inspiration of birdsong and gentle wind. Plenty of ravens and blue jayssinging hereabouts, and the wind never stops rustling the trees – but somehow the symbiosis I'dhoped for is absent.
And how. I'm surrounded by generous beds of wildflowers and familiar, deciduous forests, notthe disorienting, fractured spaces of Melissa Oresky's gardens and landfills. I'm relaxing amid therolling hills and scalable peaks of New England cottage country, not the dark, dystopic expansesof Robyn O'Neil's endless snowfields and oceans, or the sublime, gravity-defying rock faces ofClaire Sherman's Southwest. And I'm staying in an airy, sun-filled family cabin, not one of FelixMalnig's desolate suburban houses. I'm sitting pretty in a picturesque scene – perfect for the kindof decompression and rejuvenation that hard-working urbanites crave, but completely unrelatedto the unsettling perspectives that each of these artists offers through their variously drawn,painted and collaged landscapes.
This morning I went out after breakfast to pick flowers for the house and herbs for lunch. Tigerlilies, red bee bombs, echinacea and some Queen Anne's lace for the big vase on the diningtable, a bunch of lavender for the bedroom, chives and thyme for the omelette. The gardens aregenerous and forgiving, dense, perennial and always surprising. My mother tends them whenshe's here; they manage on their own when she's not. The meadows need no help at all, nor dothe fern beds and raspberry bushes that edge the surrounding forest. Planned or not, these spacesare all gardens in one way or another, but so different from the kind that intrigue Melissa Oresky.
Standing in the middle of a patch of wildflowers, I'm lulled by the lack of straight lines, by theinvisible organic logic that determines what grows where, by the bees that fly from one flowering
stem to another, and by my own general irrelevance to the scene at hand. Conversely, in the formal
Yesterday we had lunch down in the vil age, at Jamie's sandwich shop on Main Street, where they
spaces that inspire Oresky's most recent work – rock beds and German show gardens – lines not
make the best chicken salad sandwiches. The village is classic New England: white clapboard
only order and fragment space, they do so to the point of total disorientation. It's almost as if the
church with a steeple you can see for miles, steep-roofed houses with wide front porches and
stuff of nature from which these spaces were built – pebbles and small boulders, clipped hedges
painted wood trim, a couple of basic shops and cafés, an inn, the town hall. Everything's within
and rows of annuals – finally resisted the strictures of design into which they were landscaped,
walking distance of everything else, and there are always people about – the very opposite of the
rejecting the human order imposed upon them. Oresky renders this tension between the ordered
kind of places pictured in Felix Malnig's paintings. No one seems to live in any of the houses he
and the chaotic, the human and the organic, abstractly, suggesting that it might be repressed in
depicts, be they in Flint or Gumpoldskirchen, nor the apartment complexes, in Jerusalem or
the gardens themselves. And she manages to implicate the viewer's body, also in a way so distinct
Chengdu. And the difference can't be laid solely at the door of architecture – Vermont village
from how it feels to be in a formal garden, where vistas are staged and pathways clear cut. Looking
homes may look nothing like faceless concrete high-rises, but they don't look so unlike single-
at her prismatic series, the viewer must choose between a dizzying multiplicity of views and viewing
family suburban dwel ings, with their covered porches and gabled roofs. No, the difference goes
positions – not unlike me in the midst of a wildflower meadow, but without any of the hard lines,
deeper than stylistic, to the level of urban planning, of geopolitics, and their quotidian spiritual
vertigo or intentions gone awry.
results. The homes in Michigan may once have been full of life, but their owners lost out on thatdream when General Motors closed the local plant and laid off thousands of workers, who in turn
On Tuesday we hiked from the Trout Club up to Taylor Lodge and sat for a while on the cliff that
had no choice but to leave their comfortable shelters behind, to grow dark and derelict. Those
overlooks the quiet, plummeting Nebraska Valley. The scenery was gorgeous but harsh, too, far
in the suburbs of Vienna have met no such financial fate; no, theirs is sealed by the car-centric life
greater than us two small hikers perched carefully on a ledge. Perhaps it's the superficial similarity
of highways and traffic that living outside a city entails. The comfort or lack thereof of apartment
between our situation and those depicted in Robyn O'Neil's drawings that haunts me most, for in
blocks raised on the outskirts of Jerusalem and in the West Bank is irrelevant: these are dwellings
her pictures too are towering peaks and infinite natural vistas, as well as people to explore them.
built on the offensive, less to meet the needs of homemakers than of national security and the
And yet, these people go nowhere, see nothing. Instead of being moved forward and opened
Zionist project. Those in China reveal none of the promise of living in the sky, in a flourishing zone
up, they shrink and shrivel, cowed by the sharp heights of graphite mountains. Instead of being
of economic growth; their faceless, unfinished facades loom forebodingly, perhaps never to be
inspired and invigorated, they fight and stumble, stymied by the unforgiving boundlessness of
finished now that the world markets have crashed. Malnig conveys the effect of these situations
sketchy seas. These people do not – cannot – take in the dramatic, awesome landscape that
through paintings of an almost ironic beauty, with thin washes of magenta and sapphire, razor
surrounds them; they are engulfed by it, swallowed whole, left empty and confused, prostrate in
sharp edges and tearful drips, punctured by windows and unfinished window banks of bottomless,
submission. They are not just humbled by nature and their smal place in it – a sensibility felt by any
haunting black holes that would suck the soul out of anyone who happened nearby, or already did.
conscientious hiker, in fact sought by most hikers. No, these people find something very differentin nature, something irrevocable: their final hours, and far from peaceful ones, bereft with failed
None of this, I'l admit, was quite what I planned to be thinking about while on holiday in Vermont.
resistance, exhaustion and loss. Perhaps they fal so hard and so completely because they resisted,
Tomorrow, alas, we return home to Chicago, to showers in the morning and a topography dictated
because their instinct was to fight forces greater than themselves?
not by mountains and valleys but by wind and skyscrapers.
The hike also had me thinking of Claire Sherman's landscapes, both her large-scale oil paintingsand her small mixed-media studies on paper. The natural world always seems on the verge of
Lori Waxman is an art critic for the Chicago Tribune and Artforum. She teaches art history at
collapse in these images, both materially and pictorially – precipitously cantilevered rocks or the
the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is the recipient of a 2008 Creative Capital Warhol
spindly limbs of a dead tree threaten to fall with as earth-shattering a crash as the strokes of paint
Foundation Arts Writers Grant for her project, "60 wrd/min art critic."
that comprise them. Yet by some geological and compositional magic everything remains in place,held together in an exciting tension, one that suggests but ultimately refuses a stable viewingposition. No stable position – impossible for a hiker. Yes, there's the exhilaration of lookouts andscrambling and challenging orienteering, but only thrill-seekers get a buzz from standing right onthe edge, from having rocks shift beneath their feet, from getting lost in the woods. Such threatspresent themselves in Sherman's most affecting pictures, large and small, but the scale andmedium of the latter – watercolor and gouache versus oil, five inches high versus nine feet – makethem far less daunting, less of a bodily threat and more of an idea. Which, in the end, is closer tothe experience I find myself having in the woods here, when the trail skirts a steep ravine or passesby a massive collapsed tree. What if I slip? What if a tree falls while I'm nearby? Though notimpossible, these scenarios are nevertheless implausible enough to constitute intel ectual fodderrather than bodily fear, something interesting to ponder while walking in the woods, not somethingto be genuinely worried about.
Felix Malnig (Austrian, b. 1967) was raised inGermany and Canada, and currently livesand works in Vienna. Malnig studied fine artsat the University of Applied Arts in Vienna,under Maria Lassnig and Christian LudwigAttersee, and graduated in 1992. Some recentexhibitions include Ghost Town
at the StrabagKunstforum, Vienna; In Between, AustriaContemporary
, Genia Schreiber UniversityArt Gallery, Tel Aviv; Ghost Town
at deveningprojects + editions, Chicago (2008); Delusion
atHabres + Partner, Vienna (2007); Visual Drugs,Zurich (2006); First View
at Hilger Contemporary,Vienna (2003); artlab, Vienna (2002); and manymore. He has received numerous awards andscholarships such as: Recognition Award ofLower Austria (1993), Erwin Ringel Art Award(1999), Stipend of the City of Vienna (1999),Art Award of the City of Vienna (2000), StrabagArt Award and Recognition Award (2008); ascholarship at Accademia di Belle Arti, 1993,Venice, Italy; Artist-in-Residence programs inBudapest, Hungary (2000), Cheng Du, China(2003) and Chicago, IL (2007); and a Viennastudio grant (2006–2012). More information:www.felixmalnig.at, www.deveningprojects.com
Top: Outskirts of Jerusalem
, 2009, acrylicand spray-paint on paper, 19.5" x 25.5"
Bottom: Derelict House
(Michigan), 2009,acrylic and spray-paint on paper, 19.5" x 25.5"
Page 5: Derelict House
(Michigan), 2008,acrylic and spray-paint on paper, 19.5" x 25.5"
Robyn O'Neil (American, b. 1977) is aNebraska-born artist who lives and works inHouston, TX, and is primarily known for herlarge-scale graphite on paper drawings. O'Neilstudied British art and architecture at King'sCollege in London in 1997, and then went onto receive her B.F.A. at Texas A&M University-Commerce in 2000. She also completedgraduate studies in fine art at the Universityof Illinois Chicago from 2000-2001. Her mostrecent solo exhibitions include The Dismantledat Praz-Delavallade in Berlin and A WorldDisrupted at Roberts and Tilton in Los Angeles.
Some of her other solo exhibitions have takenplace at Clementine Gallery in New York;Dunn and Brown Contemporary in Dallas, TX;Praz-Delavallade in Paris; the Frey Art Museumin Seattle, WA; and the Contemporary ArtsMuseum in Houston, TX; among many others.
O'Neil's work was included in the prestigious2004 Whitney Biennial, and she has alsoparticipated in numerous acclaimed groupexhibitions taking place throughout the U.S. andinternationally. Concurrent with On Paper, she
The Pre-Conference with an Unfair Fight in
has a solo exhibition at Tony Wight Gal ery, titled
the Back, 2004, pencil on paper, 7.5"x10"
On Sinking. O'Neil's work can be found in thepermanent collections of the Dallas Museum
Top: This Seething Devotion, This Ignition
of Art, Dal as, TX; Whitney Museum of American
of Fear, 2004, graphite on paper, 20" x 32"
Art, New York; Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita,KS; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; Museum
Page 7: Towards the Tranquil, 2008, graphite
of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Kemper Museum
on paper, 32" x 40"
of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; amongmany others. O'Neil has been the recipientof multiple grants and awards, including theHunting Art Prize in 2009, the Joan MitchellFoundation Grant in 2008, the Arthouse Texasprize in 2005, the Artadia: The Fund For Artand Dialogue grant in 2003, and the DeGolyerGrant in 1999. She was also the InternationalArtist in Residence for the ArtPace Foundationfor Contemporary Art in San Antonio, TX, in2003. More information: www.robynoneil.com,www.tonywrightgallery.com
Melissa Oresky received her B.F.A. from theSchool of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996and her M.F.A. from the University of Illinois atChicago in 2000. Her paintings and drawingsengage a revolving set of concerns, includinglandscape, color, science (and science fiction), thebody and cognition/perception. Solo exhibitionsinclude the Museum of Contemporary Art,Chicago, IL; Western Exhibitions, Chicago, IL;Van Harrison Gallery, New York, NY; and ADAGallery, Richmond, VA. Concurrent with OnPaper, her work can be seen in a two-personshow, Streaking, at Proof Gallery, Boston, MA,with Carrie Gundersdorf, and in a soloexhibition of paintings at Western Exhibitionsin Chicago. Group shows include Thinking inColor, curated by Judy Ledgerwood, LembergGallery, Detroit, MI, Into the Midst, MixtureContemporary, Houston, TX, and many others.
Oresky has attended residencies in Germany(Schloss Pluschow, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern),New Mexico (Santa Fe Art Institute) and Maine(Skowhegan). In 2005 Oresky received anIl inois Arts Council Fel owship. Recent projectsinclude Mineral Fabric, a silkscreened artistsbook editioned by Kayrock Screenprinting,Brooklyn, NY. Oresky lives and works inChicago and Bloomington, IL, and is associateprofessor of painting at Illinois State University.
More information: www.melissaoresky.com,www.westernexhibitions.com
Untitled drawings from the Rock Garden
series, 2009, acrylic, graphite and col age on
Claire Sherman has had solo exhibitions atKavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago; DCKT Gallery,New York; Houldsworth Gallery, London; Hofand Huyser Gal ery, Amsterdam; and AuroboraPress, San Francisco. Sherman's work hasbeen in recent group shows at the NeubergerMuseum of Art, Bodybuilder and SportsmanGallery, Western Exhibitions, Samson Projects,Galleria Glance and Gregory Lind Gallery.
Her work is included in numerous collections,including UBS Bank, the Martin MarguliesCollection and the Nerman Museum ofContemporary Art. She has completedresidencies at the Terra Foundation for AmericanArt in Giverny, France, and the MacDowellColony, New Hampshire, and will participatein the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation's SpaceProgram in Brooklyn in 2009-2010. Recentpress includes the New York Times, the LondonSunday Times, Flash Art, Time Out Chicago,ArtInfo.com, and the Chicago Tribune.
Sherman was born in Oberlin, OH, in 1981,and received her B.A. from the University ofPennsylvania and her M.F.A from The School ofthe Art Institute of Chicago. More information:www.clairesherman.com, www.kavigupta.com
Top: Untitled, 2009, watercolor, gouache,water-soluble crayon and pencilon paper, 5" x 7"
Middle right: Untitled, 2009, watercolor,gouache, water-soluble crayon and pencilon paper, 7" x 5"
Page 7: Untitled, 2009, watercolor, gouache,water-soluble crayon and pencil onpaper, 7" x 5"
Gahlberg GalleryOn Paper: Felix Malnig, Robyn O'Neil, Melissa Oresky, Claire ShermanThursday, Oct. 15 to Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009
The Gahlberg Gallery/McAninch Arts Center would like to thank the artists, Felix Malnig, MelissaOresky, Robyn O'Neil and Claire Sherman, the writer, Lori Waxman, and the artists' galleries –devening projects + editions, Chicago; Western Exhibitions, Chicago; Tony Wight Gal ery, Chicago;and Kavi Gupta Gal ery, Chicago – for their generous contribution and creativity in developing thispublication and exhibition.
Barbara WiesenDirector and CuratorGahlberg Gallery
This program is partial y supported by a grant
from the Il inois Arts Council, a state agency,and by The National Endowment for the Arts.
Generous support for this exhibition is providedby the Austrian Consulate General Chicago.
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