Iterative Art: An Examination of Layer, Mark, Repeat at the Chicago Artists Coalition

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Installation view, “Layer Mark, Repeat,” Chicago Artists Coalition 2022/Photo: RenStudio by Ren Freeman

Repetition is painful. The repetition is frustrating. Repetition is harmful. Consider how repetition is used as punishment by the antiquated elementary school discipline of writing on a blackboard: repeatedly writing a sentence to get the student to meditate on it and retain the lesson.

Repetition is satisfying. Repetition gives power. The repetition is melodic. Consider how repetition is used as solace: a repetitive chorus in a favorite song, predictable and rewarding with every note.

The exhibition “Overlay, Mark, Repeat», organized by Cristobal Alday at the Chicago Artists Coalition, features the work of Bryana Bibbs and Sirimas Benz Amatayakul. Together, the two artists explore the different intense and visceral reactions of a body to repetition. Each artist offers their own perspectives, resulting in contradictory aesthetics. The exhibition is exceptionally well balanced, inviting and thoughtful.

Bibbs piece,”After,” spans almost an entire wall of the gallery. Crafted from strips of hand-woven cotton, paper and felt, the textile invites the viewer to consider the colossal feat of physical echo from which this piece was born. On the far right of the room is a QR code that shares video documentation of Bibbs making the textile. Performative, contemplative and meticulous, Bibbs works tirelessly with these strips of paper as a way to sift through the concepts of trauma, time and memory. The document is made up of old journal entries. Although unreadable to the viewer, the volume of the entries is enough to pack this piece with the heavy weight of emotional baggage. “After” dwells on the tedious and methodical side of repetition. Bibbs argues over the act and molds it into a healing elixir. “After” feels like a massage: a constant probe of pain, light enough to last but hard enough to tear muscles and allow the body to grow stronger.

Installation view, “Layer Mark, Repeat,” Chicago Artists Coalition 2022/Photo: RenStudio by Ren Freeman

The wall in front of “After” hosts a row of seven Benz paintings. Each acrylic painting explodes into a layered, rich and controlled chaos. A performative element is added as the acrylic paint spreads over the surface of the canvases and onto the gallery wall behind it, as if this exploration forcefully grips the artist. Benz uses repetition as a vehicle to ruminate on the loss of childhood innocence. The canvases house layers upon layers of thick, frosting-like strokes playfully depicting whispers of abstract flora, insects, stars and more. The resulting texture is incredibly interesting and demands a deep desire to be felt. Looking at each piece is reminiscent of searching for shapes in clouds: noticing the dimensionality of clouds, just out of reach, wishing that a fleeting moment could be touched and materialized.

Both Bibbs and Benz explore complex realms within human experience using repetitive materials and practices. Although the aesthetics of each artist’s work are contradictory, they are united by their undeniable feat of endurance. “Overlay, Mark, Repeat » abandons the melodic nature of repetition in a warm and deeply meditative way that leaves room for the viewer to reflect in a deeply personal way alongside the artists. (Foot allies)

“Layer, Mark, Repeat” runs at the Chicago Artists Coalition, 2130 West Fulton, through July 14.

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