Janice Elkins | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Janice Elkins

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Among the 14 Janice Elkins works at Cliff Dwellers are several elegant black-and-white paintings inspired by the Australian aboriginal artist Kngwaryee. Some have appealing wavy lines, but I prefer Three to the North, in which three mysterious black circular shapes sit near the center of a canvas while irregular, mostly gray brushstrokes swirl around them like halos, as if the circles were distorting the space around them. Better still are Elkins's hermetic small collages, constructed mostly from junk metal. One of the eight panels in "City Assemblage," Urban Collage, combines almost unreadable newspaper fragments at the left, enigmatic painted N shapes at the right, and illegible painted script in the center--three kinds of "writing" that reveal nothing factual but evince the ancient human desire to make marks. In another panel, Urban Assemblage #5, a bent and folded piece of rusted metal adorned with objects such as wire and washers is at the center of a painted outline of a handbag--a joke on fashion accessories perhaps, but the metal, which is much smaller than the handbag outline, seems to draw into itself, its folds hinting at the fetal position. Cliff Dwellers, 200 S. Michigan, 22nd floor, through December 5. Hours are 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, and 11 to 2 Saturday; 312-922-8080.

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