Charles LaBelle | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Charles LaBelle


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Charles LaBelle has always had an uncanny ability to see beauty in the urban morass. His show at Bodybuilder and Sportsman starts with five photographic images called "White Nights," translucent prints mounted on light boxes that look like glowing black-and-white negatives. The three standouts capture the unseen essence of cheap motels. In Ambassador Hotel the white light streaming from the windows contrasts vividly with the building's sterile facade, the spectral glow reminding us that urban motels perform vital, if often unsavory, functions. Then LaBelle takes a psychological turn. Interrogation is a video of a hand pushing mostly mundane objects--cat toys, brass knuckles, and shoelaces--into a circle of light, as if to highlight how personal associations color our relationship to material goods. DIE! is a morbid twist on Die, Tony Smith's six-foot minimalist cube. LaBelle has sealed an undisclosed object inside a hollow steel cube, which he specifies should not be opened until November 1, 2502. In this case, what you see is what you get. Bodybuilder and Sportsman Gallery, 119 N. Peoria, through January 11. Hours are 11 to 6 Tuesday through Saturday; 312-492-7261.

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