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May 8 to June 12, 2010

In Gallery 2
As you pass by and cast an eye as you are now so once was I


press: Chicago Magazine
| Chicago Tribune | Flavorpill

As you pass by and cast an eye as you are now so once was I

Rachel Niffenegger will present two sculptures and four paintings on paper for her exhibition, titled As you pass by and cast an eye as you are now so once was I. Drawing inspiration from the title, an ancient epitaph, Niffenegger will covert Gallery 2 into a hall of heads.

Rachel Niffenegger's disembodied heads, be they in sculpture or painting, come from a place of physical and psychological unrest, while also betraying an obsession with gross out humor and fantastical death scenes. Niffenegger's visceral work walks this tightrope between the tragic and profane. Her painted heads, born out of intuitive and surrealist techniques, are as grotesque as they are intriguing, as they touch upon themes of mutilation and torture, witchcraft and philosophy. Her three-dimensional work references traditional sculptural busts. She considers them "sculptures with painting materials", bound and pressed by hand to fully realize the texture of the constructed figures and their gnarled skin.

Niffenegger is inspired by the psychic automatism and fumage techniques of the surrealists. Her use of materials is key. The way she puddles pigments, and layers mediums is meant to evoke spirits, conjuring ghostly faces and body parts that are both decomposing and regenerating. She plies spray paint and smoke for ghostly and ghastly effect; resin, glue, candle wax and varnish to replicate melting flesh; and all sorts of random bits like sharp crackled plaster, wood, sawdust, rolls of butcher paper, glass eyes and found bones for her monuments of the defeated. Her process is intuitive, physical and violent, feverishly binding together paper and tape into portraits and death masks as if in a trance of remembrance. To cover them in alien slime is to revivify the creation.

This is Rachel Niffenegger's first solo show at Western Exhibitions. She has been included in exhibitions at Corbett vs. Dempsey, the Sullivan Galleries at SAIC, The Post Family, and the Hyde Park Art Center, all in Chicago. Imperfect Articles has featured her work at VOLTA New York in 2010 and VOLTA 5 Basel in 2009 and she will be included in a group show at the Ceri Hand Gallery in Liverpool this summer. New City named her "the best painter under 25" in Chicago in November 2009 and her work has been discussed in TimeOut Chicago and Whitehot. Niffenegger lives and works in Chicago.