Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Art review in the Loyola Phoenix

On the state of the zombie:
Antena Gallery offers an introspective.

by Stan Golovchuk

Walking through Zombie: A Mindless Affair, I couldn’t help but feel alive. The exhibit is an ambitious sprawl of mixed media art whose ideas on death and the unnatural manage to stand out in the onslaught of Halloween-themed entertainment offered in Chicago. Zombie could even be this season’s best kept secret, so it’s a good thing the Antena Gallery is keeping it active until Nov. 21.

Antena is a wing of Miguel Cortez’s studio apartment. Part zombie gallery exhibit, part living space surely sounds like an unnatural creation, but it’s actually less weird than it may seem.

The gallery is located in the heart of Pilsen, around the corner from the Jumping Bean CafĂ© and behind a green metal door. After knocking on the door thrice (because that seemed appropriate) I was welcomed by the smiling, laid back owner. Inside, I was led to the gallery and let loose on the exhibit. The grotesque, peculiar and chilling creations immediately absorb the viewer’s attention.

Zombie consists of 35 different works done by 32 artists. Practically every medium and material imaginable went into creating this exhibit, from oil on canvas, to film, meat, prose, leather and music, just to name a few. Every work is somehow unique and brilliant in its own way, but all together, the collection is mesmerizing.

A piece that I thought quite frightening was Andrea Jablonski’s “Clare and the Captured Moonlight.” Half of the piece is a painting of a tortured baby doll with torn hair and a gouged eye, adjacent to a bright crescent moon behind a railed window. This installation is accompanied by a clever poem that tells the story of how a doll named Clare was tormented by her owner and the revenge that followed suit.

A few feet down lies Jacob C. Hammes’ “Meat Phone.” This creation looks just like it sounds, and is vaguely reminiscent of a rejected prop from David Cronenberg’s movie, Videodrome.

On a few occasions, small or seemingly more discreet installations can startle, ones that jump out at the viewer when seen from the right angle.

Bert Stubler’s “Anabaptism” serves as a perfect example. It’s made from fimo, paint and wire, but it basically looks like an androgynous figurine sliding down the wall with a trail of blood. Its simplicity and small size might make it incongruous at first glance, but it becomes unforgettable once seen.

Some of the work is for sale, including a painting called “The Pure Harmony.” This oil on canvas painting by Vladimir Kharitonsky is priced at $3,000. If not for the cost, I would have bought it immediately. The 28” x 34” painting shows a man with a cabbage head posing next to his wife, who has a rabbit head. The work looks like a photo of an old sideshow act, both odd and intriguing. The subtle commentary on gender roles makes me wonder if it was painted after a break up.

On the opposite side of the room is a wall with two portable DVD players. At these stations, viewers can see short zombie films made by local filmmakers.

Organ Factory, which can be bought on DVD for $25, is a six-minute homage to the gore and conventions of traditional zombie cinema. Lots of organs are eaten in this short film, and the make-up looks as though legendary horror makeup artist Tom Savini might have designed it.

The other film is a funny commentary on the frustrations of dating zombie men. I’m SOOO over Zombies tells the stories of two girls and the challenges they face dating the undead. But to be honest, the women in this movie sound awfully shrewish: It’s surprising that their boyfriends haven’t eaten them yet.

The entire exhibit was put together by Cortez’s friend and contributing artist, Edra Soto. Visits are by appointment only, contact information for the artist and information on the exhibit is available at

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