|"Andersonville Water Tank," oil on canvas (click to enlarge)|
A century ago, almost every apartment building had a water tower sitting atop the roof. As modern plumbing was installed, most of these water towers were disconnected or demolished, to the point where there are currently fewer than 200 left. It is against this backdrop of urban renewal (which some might call destruction) that artist Kevin Swallow’s recent exhibition, “This Must Be the Place,” can be evaluated. In this show of some fifteen paintings at Firecat Projects, the water towers of Chicago are the central feature. Some are depicted from close up, as if viewing them at eye level from the rooftop. Some are shown from below, as if the viewer is looking up from the street. In some pictures, the skyline takes up most of the space, and the water tower becomes a bit player in a larger architectural ensemble. Most of the paintings are executed in bright colors and picture-book style contours, giving them a child-like or cartoonish feel. The better painting occurs when Swallow uses a more subdued palette, as in "River North Electricity", and instead of using quick flat strokes, spends more time framing the water towers against curling entanglements of power cables, or the intruding bulwark of an El track’s support. This seems less like a postcard than many of the works on display, and more like the work of someone whose visual interest in the shape of the water tower has begun to encompass how that shape interacts with its environment.
|"River North Electricity," oil on canvas (click to enlarge)|