Arts & Culture » Art Review

Transforming the Landscape



Paul Lurie

When Through 1/7

Where Chicago School of Professional Psychology, 325 N. Wells, 4th fl.

Info 312-329-6621

Though Paul Lurie has been visiting Door County since the 70s and has always found the countryside beautiful, it was only when he started photographing it that he began to understand the reason. "It has a lot to do with the perspectives the old buildings, pieces of sculpture really, lent to the landscape," he says. Several images of silos in Lurie's show at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology pay homage to Richard Serra's huge spiral sculptures, which Serra designed for viewers to walk through. Other Lurie photographs are striking for the way they make the buildings stand out from their surroundings. All the images are lush and painterly, both technically accomplished and conceptually sophisticated.

Born in Chicago in 1941 and still a Chicago-area resident, Lurie has been a practicing lawyer since 1965 but has had a longtime interest in art. While in high school at Senn he worked for a wedding photographer, took photography classes, and did photography for the yearbook. He became interested in architecture in 1966, when he got involved in efforts to save Henry Hobson Richardson's Glessner House, then threatened with demolition. Lurie read up on Richardson, provided legal services, and helped clean out the place for its renovation. He learned more about architecture and art when some of the architects he worked with became clients and he began to specialize in real estate and construction law. Glessner House also helped him gain a sense of the importance of place, as the neighborhood had changed from its former affluence to a mix of rooming houses and industry.

In 1998, impressed by an exhibit of photographs showing derelict buildings in the Dakotas, Lurie talked to the photographer, Maxwell MacKenzie, about the equipment he'd used: a panoramic camera. Lurie bought one for a trip to China in 2000 but also started taking photographs in Door County. The beautifully composed Schoolhouse makes the stark white building, set against dark green trees and a blue sky, seem monumental. Silo Door, which emphasizes surface detail and shadows, shows the influence of Aaron Siskind's abstract photos. Lurie owns one of them, given to him by a friend: architectural photographer Richard Nickel, who was crushed to death in 1972 while photographing what remained of Louis Sullivan's Stock Exchange.

Adam Ekberg

When Through 12/5

Where Contemporary Art Workshop, 542 W. Grant

Info 773-472-4004

Adam Ekberg's surreal photographs at Contemporary Art Workshop show unusual objects in landscapes. For the first image he took, A Disco Ball on the Mountaintop, he bought a reflective ball at a party store and hauled it, a smoke machine, and a battery to the top of a mountain in Maine. He shot the image at twilight and illuminated the ball with a flashlight; smoke made the beams from the disco ball visible. He shot A Bubble Rests on the Grass while alone in a field, after blowing a soap bubble that reflected the blue of the sky.

These photos had their beginning in an idle moment in 2004, shortly after Ekberg came here from Maine to attend the School of the Art Institute. He'd moved from a house near the sea in Portland to a cramped one-bedroom apartment in Chicago and was feeling slightly claustrophobic. To amuse himself at home, he trained a flashlight on a small disco ball. "It was sort of hilarious in transforming my one-bedroom into a party," he says. "I think there was humor, and pathos." He began photographing it and other household objects, such as a lit Bic and a stove with the burners on whose clock read one minute before 12. Ekberg sees the images partly as metaphors for personal anxieties, but these and later photos also reflect a youth spent outdoors, where he savored his discoveries: a house in an unexpected place or an abandoned railroad tunnel hung with ten-foot icicles. Once, in college, he saw a cluster of helium balloons in an empty field--"a trace of the person who had let them go," he says. He also relates the present work to his earliest recollection: watching a barn burn down next to his home when he was five, in a blaze set by an arsonist. He was held alternately by his parents and neighbors, one of whom gave him a glow stick--"not that far from a sparkler or a disco ball," he says--so there were twin nighttime illuminations.

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