Dissenting Colors

The walls at Slow are white. At least, they are in the exhibition room, which is sandwiched between the worn grey of the snow-covered outdoors and the wooden-floored back room of this alternative art space in Pilsen. The back room doubles as the apartment of director Paul Hopkin and is furnished accordingly–bright kitchen counter-tops, a circle of cushioned chairs, and a bed onto which coats were thrown as visitors flooded the gallery on Saturday night. The occasion was the opening of the exhibition “Extended dissent is no long goodbye,” which showcases the work of artists Carron Little and Dave Richards.

The styles of the artists, though both abstract, aren’t quite coherent. On the white of the walls, Little’s pieces–varying in medium, from sculpture to painted glass and wood–co-exist with Richards’ pieces, which are Styrofoam and cut, painted, and plastered onto one another.

photos by Paul Hopkin

The fact that Richards’ and Little’s work are interspersed on the same white walls was intentional on Hopkin’s part. The tension in the exhibition comes most strikingly from the juxtaposition in color scheme between them. Little’s pieces are bright–pink, blue, white–and she describes her colors as indicating “enlightenment.” Conversely, Richards’ pieces are faded greens, yellows, browns and blues, which he describes as “industrial.”

“In any field of vision, you can’t see one artist’s work without the other,” Hopkin said. “Dave’s color palette makes Carron’s look garish, whereas the brightness of Carron’s color scheme brings out the ugliness in Dave’s.”

A London native, Little is best known for her performance art as the “Queen of Luxuria.” Her work at Slow is part of a larger series called Dream Minds, in which she interviews volunteers about their dreams. She takes these transcripts and writes poems about the dreams, generating corresponding visual representations. To date, she has chronicled 25 dreams, interviewing one person each week, primarily strangers.
Richards’ work is likewise abstract, though his oeuvre is the byproduct of years of doodling. Collages of painted Styrofoam pieces, his pieces carry names like “Foot Fetish Moderne” and “Charm Defect.”“The idea is to put yourself in different locations, so I’m not interviewing friends and colleagues for the most part,” Little said.

“I do a lot of noodle-like drawings in sketchbooks and then choose the ones that are most interesting to me,” Richards said. “It’s kind of like making furniture. Once you’ve cut out shapes, what you’re working with is pre-determined.”

What is most interesting, perhaps, is not where there is tension between the works, but where the two artists come together. This happens particularly in one piece–a series of glass panels framed in white, positioned one in front of the other. Though painted in acrylic in Little’s customary blue, pink, and white, they are transparent; it has almost a three-dimensional effect. This is Little’s depiction of Richards’ dream, which also has a poem attached to it. This poem, entitled “The Importance of Being Lost” is unique in that one stanza was written by Little and the other stanza was written by Richards. One line from Little’s stanza–“I take a spin following my eternal friend / The cadmium yellow exit sign”–is painted in pink on the second panel.

“I thought it was a tough line, since it seemed to be talking about fear or cowardice,” Richards said. “I like the toughness of that, as though she isn’t withholding her criticism of my subconscious.”

This vulnerability relates to the title of the exhibition, “Extended dissent is no long goodbye.” The “long goodbye”–a euphemism for death–refers to Raymond Chandler’s noir novel, as well as Robert Altman’s film of the same name.

“Both of these artists have a long history of doing work that is of distinctly their own perspective,” Hopkin explained. “It’s not in fashion, but that also doesn’t mean that’s its death or the end.”

Slow, 2153 W. 21st St. Through February 23. Saturday, noon-5pm. (773)645-8803. paul-is-slow.info