Color, coded | Art Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Color, coded

In "Tell Tale Signs," Chicago painter Art Green uses images that not even he always knows how to parse


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"Same Difference" by Art Green
  • "Same Difference" by Art Green

The paintings in Art Green's show "Tell Tale Signs" suggest stained glass. They have the broken look of cathedral windows built from multiple panes and held together with leading. In and around those panes are images that Green, a member of the Hairy Who, has recycled throughout his long career: an ice cream cone, a flame, a canoodling couple. They form a kind of code aimed at both viewer and artist. In an interview with John Corbett of the Corbett vs. Dempsey gallery, Green says that he likes to look at his paintings a few years after he's made them and "try to figure them out."

Green's beguiling iconography pops up throughout the show, giving the works a pleasingly recursive feel. They may not yield clear answers, but they're comfortable to look at. In two paintings, he draws inspiration from a 1950s-era photograph of his dad, an engineer, overseeing a construction site. The fedoraed father is a motif of Willful Representation, which is set off by a border of urban buildings that look like something from SimCity. Hang Time is shaped like a dollar sign—the straight line filled with geometric shapes, the "s" containing some of those private symbols. In addition to Green's father there's an ice cream cone, a skyscraper, a fingernail, and more. Green said he started the painting at the beginning of the economic crisis.

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