Critics’ Picks

Debris Field, 2008, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Chicago

Heather Mekkelson

threewalls
119 North Peoria Street #2C
January 18–February 16

A field can be fallow or fertile, marked out for sporting games, witness to a battle, or a branch of study. Heather Mekkelson’s installation Debris Field, 2008, puts each of these meanings into play, with results both devastating and contemplative, dead quiet and deafening. Meticulously arranged across the gallery space is a walk-in composition of discrete ruins, among them a dirty blanket roll sheathed in tattered plastic, wrecked horizontal blinds twisted up in the shoulder strap of a lady’s handbag, a no-longer-upright electric fan caked in sand, and three linoleum-clad stairs with a lone sock wedged underneath. As objects tangled up with the human—the purse, the sock, a lone dinner plate—each sculpture compels its own queasy reflections. Suspended electric lines and a pendent blue tarp draw the whole together, as do wooden stakes, tied with orange tape, which punctuate the floor at irregular intervals. These small props mark the entire gallery as a disaster site under observation and, in their strange believability—did the artist really drive stakes through the hardwood?—remind the viewer of how unstable is the rich ground where catastrophe meets aestheticization.