Here and Now | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Here and Now

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This survey of work by 22 mostly young Chicagoans, a collaboration between four different curators, includes the good, the bad, and the silly--sometimes in a single piece. Christopher Vasell's video Clenched Jaw/Sunken Cheeks (Tom Cruise) (2000) intercuts a handful of hypnotically repeating images of Cruise; Vasell wanted to show the limited range of the actor's expressions, but instead he's fetishized a face that's already received ample attention. But Vasell's other work, Untitled (Thought It Was a Man, But It Was a Muffin) (2002), is fascinating. Installed in a hallway across from the exhibition space, it uses a polymer clay called Super Sculpey to make it seem that one corner of the mosaic floor is raised in an irregular wavy shape, and Vasell has painted the floor's pattern over the material so that it appears to be one with the stained and cracked tiles. Constructed so that the three-dimensional effect vanishes when viewed from one particular spot, it seems to represent one possible version of the floor--perhaps its future. Among the other pieces that make the show worth seeing is Joe Baldwin's large painting Brown Flowers (1999). Bright paintings of pretty flowers are cliches that tend to aggressively grab the viewer's attention, which may be why Baldwin mutes and muddies his colors and keeps his plants at an almost Richter-like distance, as if questioning the primacy of objects or even sight. Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, through December 29. Hours are 10 to 6 Friday, 10 to 5 Saturday, 11 to 5 Sunday, 10 to 7 Monday through Wednesday, and 10 to 9 Thursday; 312-744-6630.

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