Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Second Nature: Drawings by E.W. Ross



Rarely has nature seemed more fragile than it does in E.W. Ross's 53 small landscape drawings at the Chicago Cultural Center, which resemble tiny, dreamlike dioramas. In The Frog's Agony, a dying creature perched on a branch recalls the recent massive dying off of frogs around the world--a possible sign of looming ecological catastrophe. But the drawing is gentle, romantic, not at all preachy: Ross carefully renders tree bark in pencil and uses watercolor to add sensuality. Some images are a bit surreal, like one showing a prosthetic foot in a forest. The chair in Wheelchair in Landscape #2 (Nod to Seurat) is dwarfed by the surrounding trees yet so precisely outlined, every spoke visible, that it suggests the power of human intrusion, however benign; uneven swaths of tan and blue green give the tree trunks and forest ground a floating, almost weightless feel. Throughout the exhibit Ross's mix of Durer-like precision and airy watercolor creates a fine tension between the world as it is and flights of fancy, and he often makes incongruous man-made elements--like a tiny traffic light hanging among trees--seem signs of ego in places where it doesn't belong. Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, through October 27. Hours are 10 to 7 Monday through Wednesday, 10 to 9 Thursday, 10 to 6 Friday, 10 to 5 Saturday, and 11 to 5 Sunday; 312-744-6630 or 312-346-3278.

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