Critics’ Picks

Profile of Part I, 2008, gouache on paper with glue, 29 x 33".

Profile of Part I, 2008, gouache on paper with glue, 29 x 33".

Chicago

Caroline Picard

Around the Coyote
1815-25 West Division
January 12–March 1, 2008

Artist Caroline Picard is something of a local enigma: By day, she runs the Green Lantern Gallery & Press; by night, she writes endless, loopy novels, doodles awkward comix, and fashions fabulously hued assemblages from cut paper and gouache. Then, when no one’s looking, she dons a flowing cape, little gold shorts, white face paint, and a red mask, and off she goes as Fortuna. WORLD’S GREATEST SUPER HERO. COME SEE HER FOR 25¢ trumpets a retro playbill hanging in “Bygone(s),” Picard’s solo exhibition, which brings these personalities and projects together into a weirdly charming whole that gives up only some of its secrets. One mystery is a peculiar icon called the Ancestors, a white silhouette not unlike that which might be cast by a caped superhero with her arm around a regular girl’s shoulders. Stuffed-cotton and cut-paper formats dot the gallery, while a video depicts small paper versions in urban installations—riding an elevator, piled up on a bus seat, hanging from a clothesline, stuck in a grate. Sometimes, the Ancestors seem to fly, safe above the city; at other times, they seem poised for destruction but escape unscathed, magically. Equally mystifying are ten meticulous vortices of finely diced paper. Out of the swirls arise a peacock tail, a fat lady’s leg wearing a hot-pink bootee, a sensuous Art Nouveau pattern, a toothy Chinese dragon, and a ship at sea amid stylized waves, then back into the oddly colored maelstrom they go, a crash of fragments both compelling and incomprehensible. Picard explains them as visual manifestations of Bygone(s), her novel in progress from which the exhibition takes its name (copies are available in a limited edition), but they triumph on their own. Elsewhere, the artist’s alter ego takes center stage. A video shows Fortuna in action, postering her own mug up on a wall in Hong Kong, while passersby alternately ignore her and stare briefly. As she proves less than deft with the poster tape, one wonders what exactly Fortuna’s special powers are. Will they be enough to save us? Perhaps—if only from the disenchanted everyday.