Rebecca Shore, Untitled (17-05), 2017, acrylic on linen, 24 × 20".

Rebecca Shore, Untitled (17-05), 2017, acrylic on linen, 24 × 20".

Rebecca Shore

Corbett vs. Dempsey

Rebecca Shore, Untitled (17-05), 2017, acrylic on linen, 24 × 20".

On an immediate level, Rebecca Shore’s paintings are impeccably rendered arrangements of ribbons, strings, hoops, chains, and the occasional tassel: They seem to collect emblems of decor, suspending them above and between bold monochromatic forms of a vaguely Victorian persuasion. (The artist’s maternal grandparents were born in the late 1800s, and their various home wares—candlesticks, saltshakers, and the like––left a lasting impression.) The patterns that emerge—each the result of Shore’s dedicated preservation of a consistent interval between her motifs––are visually captivating variations on symmetry, or asymmetry. A closer look at Shore’s fastidious constructions revealed moments of divergence. One ribbon’s curl is shorter than that of its (approximate) mirror image, while the almondine shape created when a string passes through a loop is larger on one side than on the other. Scanning the eight acrylic paintings and four gouaches on view in Shore’s recent exhibition at Corbett vs. Dempsey, which were rife with slight yet brilliant imperfections, the viewer was happily reminded that these bold, graphic works were made by hand.

The shapes, too, have histories that stretch out into the tangible world. Shore has amassed an enormous trove of silhouettes, tracings of images glimpsed in catalogues or quattrocento painting, among other wellsprings. Whatever the real-world source, the process of making these cutouts renders it anonymous. For Shore, this erasure of detail introduces a necessary degree of ambiguity into her compositional logic. With contents removed, only contours remain, and the shapes freely enter a new rationality. For instance, in Untitled (17–12), 2017, which hung on the gallery’s north wall, a diaphanous piece of fabric is strung through four rings, its folds exhibiting  a crisply defined yet believable response to gravity. Additionally rung through white links are a thick lime-green string and black ribbon, which become faint as they pass behind the hanging gauze. Another work from 2017, Untitled (17–11), is imbued with a lyrical cadence by three horizontal bands of color––burgundy, mustard, and pale pink––which have been stacked to form a central column flanked on either side by cumulous fields of mint green. Inspired by medieval illuminated manuscripts, the bands subtly evoke the works of both Mark Rothko and Judy Ledgerwood, the latter a fellow Chicagoan who shares Shore’s interest in pattern but with a decidedly messier approach. Shore develops her compositions by collaging the paper silhouettes on a canvas or a board and seeing what works. Photographing her arrangements as they develop, she sometimes returns to a previously documented version. Then, once satisfied, she begins her freehand replication of the shape-landscape she has mapped out.

Together, the various elements collected in these configurations gently enhance the estrangement from their birth forms. Put another way, in the words of critic Amy Goldin, “pattern is basically antithetical to the iconic image, for the nature of pattern implicitly denies the importance of singularity, purity, and absolute precision.” Repetition engenders mutation. Each of the works on view resonated with the surrounding pictures, their commonalities eliciting a morphological link. This effect hinted at the influence of Chicago Imagist Christina Ramberg, who was Shore’s teacher at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The two remained friends after she graduated in 1981, spending countless hours quilting together and reveling in the ways they could innovate on standard quilt-block patterns while remaining engaged with the tradition and geometric inclinations of their craft. This penchant for re-creation was also a hallmark of Ramberg’s drawing process, which Shore has summarized as “systematically [going] through [and] varying an image, changing one thing, making it into something else, and then [hybridizing] it with another image.” Emerging from a similar working practice, the near-perfect yet joyfully human description of Shore’s accumulated forms seemed to glow with a measured optimism.

––Lina Kavaliunas