Critics’ Picks

Michael Banicki, Town Rating: 151st–200th of 6140, 2006, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48".

Michael Banicki, Town Rating: 151st–200th of 6140, 2006, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48".


“Indexical Frontiers”

INOVA - Institute of Visual Arts
Kenilworth Square East 2155 North Prospect Avenue
March 28–May 11, 2008

“How do people have so much free time?” asks INOVA curator Nicholas Frank in the essay accompanying his exhibition “Indexical Frontiers.” It is an artless question concerning a genuine present-day riddle, and to illustrate it, Frank offers three artists whose work is all-consuming, obsessive, and teetering on the edge of pathology. Michael Banicki, Annabel Daou, and Renato Umali employ indexing, itemizing, listing, and recording to process, rank, and aestheticize the world around them.

Banicki has dedicated much of his life to “regarding” the towns of America. The result is a complex grid system comprising fifty-two sheets of paper that categorize the 6,140 towns that he visited between 1983 and 2003. Also included are his new large square-format paintings, which sport multicolored pennants, each with the name of a favorite whistle-stop, among them DAZEY N. DAK., HOOPPOLE, ILL., TROPIC, UT., and DRAIN, ORE. Daou chronicles a less tangible subject. Her modest rhythmic drawings, though, are just as subjective, as they mark the passing of time with a vocabulary of elegant, seemingly abstract ink lines and sport titles such as (2:00 AM–3:00 AM), 2006.

Umali, a Milwaukee-based artist, humorously records nearly every inspired and uninspired facet of his daily life. From a graphic sketch of the fruit he eats to his Monday moods, Umali is fascinated with his own statistics. I Learn Something New Every Day, 2007, is a staggering CD-ROM project that speeds through his daily history. With a click of the mouse, viewers can stop and explore in great detail a random day in his life; each calls forth a small digital picture and text describing his most important discovery that day, many of which seem to be about one of his girlfriends. “How do people have so much free time?” These three artists only befuddle the question further.