Critics’ Picks

Philip von Zweck, Note, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30".

Philip von Zweck, Note, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30".

Chicago

Philip von Zweck

threewalls
119 North Peoria Street #2C
September 11–October 10, 2009

Philip von Zweck is known as a producer not of objects but of contexts, as he calls them, which have included a radio show, a well-regarded domestic art space, and numerous collaborative projects situated outside mainstream or commercial institutions (even his 2007 solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, was a group mail-art project). His latest exhibition is framed as a “return” to studio-based practices and, more important, to the vulnerabilities of working alone. Comprising a series of new paintings—nearly all of them abstractions—it presents risks not only for the artist but also for viewers familiar with his previous work, as they must assess the credibility of von Zweck’s current, post-poststudio output. Certainly, the show’s nonprofit setting and the fact that he has priced all the paintings equally tempers its commercial aspects. Executed on standard-size canvases, the works betray tensions between mass production and private authorship. Stripes, squares, and circles spray-painted with varying levels of intensity are allowed to bubble, pool, and crackle, yet their aphoristic titles, taken from Situationist-inspired street graffiti, deflect further formal analysis onto the realm of the social and the historical. Titled “The Fortieth Anniversary of the First Anniversary of May ’68 (in September),” the exhibition acknowledges a refracted legacy of cultural and political activism that has shaped von Zweck’s own artistic trajectory. Thus his return to solitary practices is less a rejection of the past than it is a restaging of it in terms that make room for the personal as well as the political.