It makes sense that Vincent Uribe, director of LVL3 gallery in Wicker Park, would choose to have a summer exhibition based on collaborations: the dedicated mission of the gallery is to bring together local, national and international artists.
In 2 of a kind, LVL3’s July show, the theme was just that: collaborations that derived from intricate and intimate relationships between artists. The show focused on eight pairs, including siblings, lovers, friends, former colleagues and near strangers.
The anchor of the show was undoubtedly artists Mike Paro and Wyatt Grant’s permanent mural in the back of 1550 North Milwaukee Avenue, commissioned by the gallery. The mural sits on the north/south side of the blue line ‘L’ tracks, between the Damen and Western stops, and it provides a welcome break to the visual stream of Wicker Park advertisements. Blink and it’s gone, but look closer next time to see the nuances of each carefully crafted shape and line. Look tomorrow and notice something else. The audience is always on the move.
The mural isn’t a large rectangle, or any other typical shape. It has no traditional signifier that designates it as a mural, and there’s no immediately obvious narrative or public service announcement. If you’re on a train, it simply gives you a quick glimpse of color and varied composition. The puzzle-piece design, spread across the building wall, encourages the viewer to attempt to mentally put the disparate pieces together. The 30 foot heights reached to bolt down the highest piece are impressive and anxiety-inducing (the fact that no one was hurt or killed in the process is itself commendable). Regardless of tension, the permanent splashes of color against the faded brick wall are a welcome addition to the standard view of Wicker Park from the ‘L’.
Given the nature of the exhibition, there’s a moment when viewing the individual pieces becomes a guessing game of authorship. Each “cut-out” piece has one of the two artists’ distinct styles. Generally, Grant’s painting pieces extend beyond the form through decisive gestures, with brighter strokes of color edging out the dominant white. They hint at a larger, united painting. In contrast, Paro’s paintings are colorful, patterned, and more compositionally contained. Together they are directly incongruent, making a dual statement with the same punchline. This is about color and form. This is a public service project, designed to break up a commute otherwise full of sameness and visual white noise.
2 of a Kind was up June 29 – July 21, 2013 at LVL3 Gallery, 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave. Paro and Grant’s outdoor mural will be on view permanently on the rear wall of the building.