Sunday, July 10, 2011

Alibi Fine Art 2011 Summer Group Exhibition

On July 9, 2011 I had the distinct pleasure of attending Alibi Fine Art's summer exhibition, which featured the works of such talented photographers as Sebrina Fassbender, Jacqueline Langelier, Jessie Seib and Sigri Strand. It was a well attended show, in an atmosphere that was classy yet cordial and appropriately understated.

Sigri Strand's stunning cinematic-style photographs evoke an ominous sense of mystery remnant of such horror giants as Dario Argento. Whether it's a stretched out hand in the red-drenched Answer the Telephone or a tentative step into some lurking danger in The Stairs, a sense of foreboding accompanies each image. Strand's artist statement expresses an interest in archetypes of film and a subsequent interest in horror. The goal has been effectively achieved, as Strand's photographs capture the aesthetics of film in a manner that is poignant, subtle and refined.

Jacqueline Langelier's work aims to challenge the nostalgia of childhood and draw attention to its often frustrating and solitary nature by exposing the darker side of those early years. In one of her Untitled works, a sullen and dissatisfied child sits to the side of a table with haphazardly strewn and seemingly abandoned candy, as if to reject this particular childhood icon. In another Untitled work, the often-daunting experience of the child's world is exemplified by a tall, spiral staircase that seems to go into infinity.

Jessie Seib's striking images of rooms immediately drew me in. Mostly black and white with select and well-placed splashes of color, the images of the rooms are sliced and  pieced together in a  manner remnant of a jigsaw puzzle. Seib's work evokes a lonely and austere environment. In Within, the blurred image of the child's face commands attention as she sits in a run-down and nearly abandoned room. The child appears to exemplify the existential crisis to which Seib referrs in her artist's statement when she speaks of the difficulty realizing selfhood. Exceedingly intricate, upon closer examination of the photgraph, the shadowy figure of a woman by the window becomes apparent. This Place is dreamlike with its saran wrap-like overlay and its lurking, mysterious figure in the far corner of the photograph. The In-Between is equally stunning and evocative.

Last but far from being the least is the work of Sebrina Fassbender. Her work documents sex workers, many who were sexually abused and all of whom she is personally close to. She gives a stark look inside the women's lives that transcends the all-too-frequent dichotomized picture of sex workers as either completely idealized or helpless victims. To be sure, the trauma (and subsequent attempts at escapism) of her subjects is palpable, but so is their depth and beauty. The subjects are depicted in a manner that is both intimate and individual: Yolanda is stark, yet pensive and contemplative. Black fishnet juxtaposed against a vintage flower bedspread, Nicolette portrays a woman that looks both porcelain and concealed. Allegra, with her hair dripping into the photograph and her dress straps half-down on her arms conveys a figure that looks worn and weary. This compelling subject nonetheless communicates a sense of quiet desperation. Sabrina 1 and Sabrina 2 show a sharp contrast, between an anguished character surrounded by the poverty and dissolution that often accompanies life on the fringes and a more narcotized state, peering from behind a shower curtain, that looks half-sensual. Fassbender's work appears both artistic and documentary, capturing the most raw moments of her subjects in a way that is as aesthetically rich as it is emotionally expressive.

In conclusion, I highly recommend a visit to Alibi while these artists are featured. In a time when style and sensationalism often trump substance, it is a joy to see the work of four excellent artists who not only are mature in technique, but exhibit depth and authenticity in their message.

Alibi's summer exhibition will run until August 28, 2011. Alibi is located at 1966 W. Montrose in Chicago, Illinois.

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