“Division of Labor”

Glass Curtain Gallery, Columbia College Chicago
1104 S Wabash Avenue
November 20, 2014–February 14, 2015

Claire Ashley, Sleepovers and Playdates (detail), 2014, spray paint on PVC coated canvas tarpaulin and fan, dimensions variable.

Despite America’s espoused celebration of family values, the boundary between professional and family life is generally strict, especially within artistic occupations for which “motherhood in particular is often seen as the endpoint of a serious career.” So begins the curatorial premise stated in the catalogue of Glass Curtain Gallery's current exhibition, “Division of Labor,” curated by Thea Liberty Nichols and Christa Donner.

The mess of parenting appears unapologetically, as does the energy of play, as well as practicality; Claire Ashley’s soft sculpture and neon-light installation, Sleepovers and Playdates, 2014, consumes the front window display with such exuberance that a few tendrils of the inflated fabric creep over a partition into the main exhibition. Cándida Alvarez’s napkin paintings hang nearby, made and framed in homage to bygone years of child rearing when going to the studio to paint was impossible. Each work inadvertently reveals an intersection of accumulated choices that ultimately reflect parenthood’s deeply personal logic. Looped through a speaker overhead, the disembodied voices of Alberto Aguilar’s family sing together; despite evident improvisation and the absence of any coherent lyrics, their abstract musical accompaniment is harmonious, even if we cannot hear the original Enya song with which they’re singing along.

There are sentimental moments as well, such as Andrew Yang’s index of materials that weigh the same amount as his daughter at birth. Or the shoes of Lise Haller Baggesen’s family, left outside her tent-cum–reading room/womb installation, Mothernism, 2013. Grouped together, the sixteen artists on view acknowledge the complex influence relationships—particularly custodial ones—have on the creative process.

Caroline Picard