Hunt Slonem | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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About 40 tropical birds, some uncaged, live in Hunt Slonem's New York studio, so the bird paintings in his show at Jean Albano may be more realistic than they seem. In Habitat Hyacinths red, green, yellow, and blue parrots face all directions, and rough black brushstrokes represent perches. But everything is covered with a rough grid of lines that implies a cage--Slonem says he means to show that his birds are bred in captivity and that he's not taking rare species from the wild. He's made the lines by scoring the wet paint with the end of his brush, often pulling away colored paint to reveal white underneath, softening the bars and adding a lush sensuality to the work. The lines covering the birds are even finer and more irregular in Chinensis, the birds even more numerous. Colored disks add to the general decorative feel, but they repeat the colors of the birds' feathers, intensifying them. Slonem, who was an exchange student in Nicaragua while in high school, says, "Latin America, unlike North America, is full of devotion and spiritual fervor." Perhaps as a consequence his birds and human faces have a startling, almost fetishistic presence. Jean Albano, 215 W. Superior, through August 28. Hours are 10 to 5 Tuesday through Friday, and 11 to 5 Saturday; 312-440-0770.

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