A Tale of Two Cities: Artists from Chicago and Philadelphia team up in Hyde Park Art Center’s latest exhibit

"Goodbye Tiny Dancer" by Justin Strom and Lenore Thomas, image courtesy of the artists
“Broad Shoulders and Brotherly Love” is confined to two walls on the entrance floor of the Hyde Park Art Center. The minimal size illustrates the exemplary collaboration between Anchor Graphics, a residency program at Columbia College in Chicago, and Philagrafika, an arts organization in Philadelphia. Both selected prints from the other program that they wished to see exhibited, establishing in the process an artistic dialogue between the two cities. The exhibit can be characterized as a forum of ideas, and indeed the work presented is compelling. At the very least, the prints feel alive with their eclectic thematic range and intense patterns of color: that no two prints are alike is a fact that cannot be overstated. Furthermore, the mixture of prints from each program encourages spectators to ignore any particular order while viewing the prints. This sets the tone for the entire exhibit, one of unity and artistic confusion: the public can either consider each piece individually or choose to absorb the exhibit in its entirety.

There is a lot to digest, ranging from Alice Oh’s “Red Star,” a print that resembles a red eye filled with many smaller black circles, to Judith Schaechter’s “Child Bride,” which with three primary colors–red, white and black–creates a stirring scene of an androgynous girl, dressed in a wedding gown, who vomits a puddle of flowers. In many cases the prints are composed neither of physical forms nor of objects recognizable to the human eye. Charles Burwell’s “Variations,” for instance, is composed of vivid colors in various shades of blue, orange and green, and evokes graffiti art. While there is no clear theme and no political slant to the exhibit, some prints allude to current events. Daniel A. Heyman’s print, for example, titled “England Walks for US,” broaches the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq. Not all the pieces, however, deal with such serious subjects: some, like Ben Woodward’s “Whatever It Takes,” are simply able to capture the viewer’s attention with an original mise en scene. He puts forth three friendly monster-like creatures, all of different colors. The blue creature’s rib cage is open, allowing the viewer to see the colored intestines inside, while the orange one holds a plant that grows over much of the black creature’s rotund body. Each creature serves a distinct role, since if one of them were missing the piece would seem incomplete.

If nothing else, this exhibit is a lot of fun because of its eclectic nature and its utter vibrancy. Without a theme or any specific direction, it departs from traditional installments and looks instead to foster a “connection,” as curator Rebecca Mott describes it, “between fleshy, humanistic images” and “rigid and/or mechanical images.” Those connections between contradictions ultimately define “Brotherly Love and Broad Shoulders.” In the end, the exhibit cares about the emotions that the prints stir in the audience and about the unity that not only persists but thrives in their disorder of color and locations.

Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Avenue. Through March 29. Monday-Thursday, 9am—8pm; Friday-Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. hydeparkart.org