THE BELIEVE INN, CHICAGO
“It’s gonna be epic!” says Chris Kerr in anticipation of his recent exhibition opening, likely referring to the battling monkeys, alligators, wizards and cannibalistic Girl Scouts in his pictures. Kerr’s painted world is a mix of mythic and magical beings, often in ambiguous hazy spaces or non-descript, empty landscapes. As a self-professed friend of animals, and reared on Disney cartoons, Kerr’s sensibility comes across in waves of humor and abandon: a mother and cub tiger hug lovingly, but also monkeys fight in trees with bloody swords. The tooth fairy is a pudgy, balding man and Santa gets it on with a snowman in a snow globe. The just opened “Neo-Country” exhibit also contains the treasures of Kerr’s recent forays in the woodshop including facsimile hangers, irons, clothespins and lint rollers, presumably to accompany the hand-printed t-shirts.
Most of Kerr’s paintings and drawings have an air-brushed background, and the figures are painted in acrylic. He attempts to get a painting just right in a single sitting. This means that as mistakes happen, the work gets thrown away. Kerr’s successful works display his sense of spontaneity and improvisation like a comedian with a good sense of timing. Humor is abundant in Kerr’s pictures and sculptures, as is a rampant imagination. He pulls out witches, robots, gnomes and zombies as if they had always existed and one merely needed to look in the correct spots to see them.
A group of garden gnomes sit squat in the bushes outside the gallery. Kerr’s gnomes are made literally from the garden, as he dug a cone-shaped hole in the ground and filled it with plaster. When they dried, they came out and were painted with pointy hats and beards, their noses the shape of Kerr’s thumb, from the inverse casting. Whimsy seems to flow through Kerr’s blood.
“Neo-Country” is currently showing at The Believe Inn, a new alternative space in artist Sighn’s studio. Known for hand-carving words and phrases in wood, Sighn has been working on carving “It’s OK” in an edition of one million. This Thursday beginning at noon at The Believe Inn he will work for twenty-four hours non-stop, and welcomes an audience. A tree is planted for each sign sold.
Published in Newcity (June 26, 2008)