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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Haggerty's Summer Exhibitions Not to Be Missed

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The Haggerty Museum of Art is showing a slew of exhibitions you will not want to pass up, particularly if you are a fan of prints and photographs.

"Mark Ruwedel: Dusk" is installed in an annex of a gallery, just inside the entrance. Eight small-scale, black-and-white photographs show houses in waning light. The houses are dilapidated and seemingly abandoned, perhaps falling more decrepit with each passing day. The compositions are straightforward: houses lined up in the center of each photograph, the horizon balanced in the middle. Tonal ranges dip into black, but generally hover in the deep ends of gray, with precious few points of pure white.

The works date from between 2007 and 2011. Knowing recent history, they beg questions of cause and effect, but there are few resolutions here. It's hard to look at these as purely formal compositions, loaded as they are with the baggage of home and all that means.

After the meditative and melancholic suggestions of Ruwedel, the large, colorful prints in "Selections from the Mary and Michael J. Tatalovich Collection" are especially buoyant. Mary and Michael Tatalovich were collectors on a budget, but that did not preclude them from acquiring impressive works from the 1960s to the present. The installation kicks off with a large print by James Rosenquist. The Xenophobic Movie Director or Our Foreign Policy is modeled after an eponymous, monumental painting. A bleached cattle skull pops out of a circled American flag, gazing at the coy legs of a golfer about to swing at a light bulb inscribed with colorful Arabic script. It's all fun and games until the bulb bursts.

One of the most subtle works is Richard Serra's Trajectory #4 (2004). It is an utterly graceful, irregular curve of deepest black arcing over a ground of pure white. The surface texture catches the glistening natural light on delicate, dark ridges. It is simple yet astonishing in its complexity. A similar Serra work, Bo Diddley, shares this texture but with busier details. The latter piece is also the exhibition catalog cover, where it is devoid of nuanced texture. In comparison to the real thing, that delicate surface seems possible only in real life.

Two more exhibitions are waiting in galleries upstairs. "The Sacred Made Real" features religious paintings primarily from the 16th and 17th centuries. The second exhibition, "NYC July 4, 1981: Photographs by Tom Arndt" is miles away in time and space.

Arndt captured black-and-white images in a single session, prowling the streets of Little Italy and Chinatown. Sparks, flares and reflections on the street gleam in the dark. There is a strangeness in the shadowy nature of details, especially in July 4th, Little Italy, NY, #38, (1981). A boy stands backlit, holding a long, horizontal group of poles. He blends into the metal, making it appear that his arms are about 16 feet long. The world can be an unexpected and intriguing place at night. So can the art gallery on an afternoon.

All of these exhibitions continue at the Haggerty Museum of Art, 13th and Clybourn streets, through Aug. 5.
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