Monday, February 15, 2010

On Troy Richards at Thomas Robertello Gallery

  Troy Richards, 'The Perfect View (interior 1)', 24" x 72", Laser-cut vinyl on plexi, 2009

Imagine a stylish home or apartment from the early 1960s. You're looking at something from the set of Mad Men, perhaps: a Mies van der Rohe modernist pavilion of glass and slender steel, furnished with low chairs of Nordic design, op-art paintings on the walls, globe lamps hanging from the ceiling. Now picture what this home would look like if an airplane crashed into the garden. This is the world depicted in Troy Richards' exhibition 'The Perfect View' at Thomas Robertello Gallery in Chicago.

Three of the pieces are two feet high and six feet wide, and two more pieces, though smaller, still retain the landscape format. The landscape on view is of course far from perfect, as the intrusion of chaotic lines and shapes from the tangled wreckage disrupts the neatly ordered patterns of the interior design. Richards achieves his effects by novel methods: creating small models of the scenes, photographing and digitally manipulating them, having each shape in the scene laser-cut onto white adhesive vinyl, after which he patiently sticks each piece onto wide black plexiglass panels. The final pieces look like richly detailed linocuts, or like a brilliantly black-and-white version of Matisse's cutouts.

At the opening night last Friday, Richards told me that he wanted to create a balance between something that looks like it was produced mechanically, and something that retains the trace of human handiwork. There is evidently a conceptual underpinning to the images, but they are also extremely satisfying to look at, leading the eye to get lost in the profusion of patterns on carpets, paintings, furniture shapes, flowers, and the jagged diagonals of the crashed plane. If you want to have a rewarding visual experience at a welcoming commercial gallery, I would recommend making the trip to the West Loop to see this show.

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