On Friday evening, though I wasn't feeling especially social, I headed out to Jeff Marlin's show at Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery, in Chicago. Marlin (1969-2009) was a Chicago native and School of the Art Institute graduate who'd been close to a wide array of figures in Chicago's visual arts and literary worlds. (I never met Marlin, but periodically heard about him from a number of local poets I know.) His early works, some of which were on display here, explore dot-matrix disintegration of images (mushroom clouds, UFOs, fascist architecture), using scanned and Xeroxed photos and stencils. As if under a zoom lens or microscope, the imagery of these paintings shift as you shift your position and distance from them. Later works on display play with various kinds of grids, patterns, and layered monochromes, towards an often sombre but illuminating minimal abstraction that also represents a grappling, as I far as I could tell, with the legacy of Abstract Expressionism and its aftermath. The Corbett vs. Dempsey writeup of the show notes that some recent "paintings are clearly about surface and working process." I was put in mind of different abstractionists I admire from Agnes Martin, Robert Rauschenberg and Ad Reinhardt to Robert Ryman and Chris Stackhouse (especially in one particular grain-oriented painting, which was redolent of what Chris was also up to about a decade ago).
According to someone who knew him well, Marlin hadn't had a gallery show in years, and was looking forward to this show, which was in the planning stages in 2008, when he tragically came down with leukemia last year. Corbett vs. Dempsey's own press release says the following about the preparations for the show
Before he died in October, Marlin's CvsD show had been rescheduled for this winter (still hoping he would be able to attend), and together with Marlin work had been chosen for the exhibition. En route to hospice from the hospital, Marlin made a final stop at the studio to put the finishing touch on a last painting and feel the energy of the workplace one final time. The intensity of his commitment to his work, his passion, and his artistic achievement are great sources of inspiration, and CvsD is honored to show Jeff Marlin's outstanding paintings.
A few photos from the event, which eventually became very crowded:
The beautiful Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery space
One of the Untitled dot-matrix paintings
One of the black monochrome paintings that made me think of Reinhardt, Rauschenberg, Malevich
Another one of the monochromes
Some of the soft-grid and grainy Untitled paintings
Some of the small, patterned paintings