Michael Ferris Jr. | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Michael Ferris Jr.

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Labor-intensive art often gains meaning from the very act of its making: if thousands of beads are arranged to depict a kitchen, the viewer is at least impressed by the obsessive effort. Michael Ferris Jr. takes this self-reflective process a step further in his show of five inlaid-wood sculptures and eight paintings at Aron Packer. The sculptures are mostly male busts whose elegant, partly symmetrical geometric patterns in multiple colors and grains of wood suggest a fixation on his craft. They contrast sharply with the realistic figures in the "Artist's Studio Series" paintings, which provide a context for the inlaid wood. In Artist's Studio Series No. 8: Awakening the artist as old man faces off with one of the busts in a room filled with other heads and torsos, as if to suggest he's been creating portraits of different phases of an unstable self-identity. In Artist's Studio Series No. 7: Sleep the artist is seen sleeping in front of a painting of a younger man sleeping, and hundreds of pieces of wood lie on the floor--perhaps a reflection on the limitations biology places on an artist's energy and career. Aron Packer, 118 N. Peoria, through November 15. Hours are 10:30 to 5:30 Tuesday through Saturday; 312-226-8984.

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