Roz Chast: Theories of Everything... And Much, Much More

our_group_photograph.jpgRoz Chast is funny. Best known for her nearly 30-year stint with The New Yorker magazine, she is the quintessential observer. Let’s say she can best be described in artistic terms as a Situationalist. (You need those ists and isms.) What she takes from her everyday observations, she turns into crisp, clean extrapolations of a given situation, event, or moment, often filling that extrapolation with emphasizing details in curious locations. She can find, and express with wonderful words and images, the confounding and confusing to the commonest of experiences. What I find most appealing about her work is that it is sublimely approachable. Her drawn lines are expressive, yet forgiving. The expressions her subjects bare are subtle yet telling, and her compositions, which are straightforward and true, are filled with wit and humor from edge to edge.

The exhibition opens with what the show’s curator Helen Klisser During says is only the second wall drawing Chast has ever done. When I was told this, I immediately thought of Chast as a child, drawing countless people in places with funny things all over her bedroom walls - but I didn’t say anything. What is of note with this opening work is how well it maintains that Chast intimacy, even when wall-sized.

Another great surprise in this exhibition were the collage drawings done by Chast as a sort of travel journal through the Galapagos Islands. These works were created for Travel and Leisure magazine in 2006, and they key off of one of my favorite topics, evolution.

One key work is “Not Too Long Ago.” Here we see Roz with her companion on this trip, Patty, discussing the three possibilities for how we got to where we are today: evolution, intelligent design, or alien intervention. Very funny. Another work in the series is “Our Group Photograph” (shown) where we see the seven seekers with their tour guide – all drawn on paper, cut out, and pasted on a photograph of a distant ocean liner and its seas – rafting down some waterway. It’s easy to recognize Roz and Patty, the New Yorkers, because they are the only ones wearing long-sleeved black shirts and black hats. Chast takes liberties with one male companion who looks a little bewildered, branding him as a possible missing link.

Then there’s a photograph of blue-footed birds in “Boobies” discussing how garish their feet might appear, while another work of copulating lizards pleading for privacy in “A Little Privacy” hangs nearby. My favorite piece in the show is perhaps its simplest. “The Kranes” (1979) shows a mailbox with the address 1,022,796 W. 79th St. The mailbox stands at the end of a long, winding driveway that leads to a small house on a faraway horizon. Talk about getting the best of both worlds! – D. Dominick Lombardi

Theories of Everything runs through April 18
Silvermine Guild Arts Center Gallery
1037 Silvermine Road
New Canaan, CT

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D. Dominick Lombardi is an artist with representation in Kasia Kay Art Projects and Lisa Boyle Gallery in Chicago, and Van Brunt Gallery in Beacon, NY; a writer with Sculpture, DART, & Magazine and NYARTS; and an independent curator.

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