Critics’ Picks

Icy Barns, 2003.

Chicago

Maureen Gallace

The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
May 25–September 3

The twenty-one paintings on view here survey the last five years of Maureen Gallace’s output. It’s a broad yet succinct selection that consists primarily of her exquisitely phenomenological renderings of the New England countryside: Morandi-like, tightly geometric visions of windowless beach houses, desolate farms, and isolated highways. In Icy Barns, 2003, the structures move quickly into dialogue with geometric abstraction while remaining refined icons of the buildings themselves. Similarly, Merritt Parkway, 2003, a depiction of one of the bridges over the Connecticut thoroughfare, places us on a road passing through a starkly bright, snowy winter scene and collapses the experience of being on the parkway to a singular iconic image. Likewise, in Cape Cod, Winter, 2004, the beachside houses appear to hover above the sandy shoreline, and embody a deep sense of both dislocated place and idealized reconstruction of the scene. One finds Gallace’s meticulous distillations of landscape reiterating her two-part process of making the studies in the countryside and producing the paintings in the studio; she reconstructs landscape, place, and embodied experience through the abstract mechanics of memory, repetition, and paint. Also included are Brian, 2003, a portrait of her nephew playing guitar, and Self Portrait, 2006. At first they appear to contradict Gallace’s more familiar works by abruptly shifting subject matter, but these paintings are produced with the same valiant brushwork and formal mastery as the landscapes, and in the self-portrait, we find Gallace calmly staring out from the studio flanked many of her most quieting paintings.