Show Review

Here is a nice review of the show from Chicago Art Magazine.

A Crash of Critters at Fill in the Blank By Chicago Art Magazine on Dec 11, 2009 in Featured, Reviews

by Anna Rathman

A Crash of Critters at Fill in the Blank

The light-heartedness of Kate O’Leary’s “A Crash of Critters” is both refreshing and fun. The primary content of the show comes from collective nouns for groups of animals, called terms of venery. The artist weaves these terms into vignettes that both mock their absurdity and celebrate their quirkiness. The illustrations and their titles combine to make a show that reads like a storybook with a clever sense of humor. While the apparatus may seem juvenile, it successfully hits a certain note with adults.

The format is essentially one larger image of the venery term, and a smaller image elaborating on the individuals of the group. For example, she introduces the audience to “A Parliament of Owls Plays Scrabble”, and then informs them “Howard wins the Scrabble Trophy”. Similarly, in “A Murder of Crows Interrupts Sally’s Picnic” she later relays “Felix Takes his Tea with Sugar”. The larger works focus primarily on symmetrical compositions, building around a center of activity. The smaller illustrations highlight the individual, but include smaller details to add interest. The simplicity of the drawings put emphasis on color. Not much information is used to articulate setting, so color becomes key in locating scenes and creating mood. O’Leary’s bright colors make the illustrations radiate, and her whimsical animals come to life. One can draw a clear line from O’Leary’s background in children’s illustration to her current exhibition.

Many elements within the show make it feel childish. Beyond the quality of the illustrations themselves, their playful display puts less emphasis on the individual work and focuses more on experiencing the show as a whole. O’Leary’s inclusion of plushies (screen-printed stuffed animals) and the terms of venery playfully scrolled on the walls only further the child-like feel. The different elements operate in ways that tweak the components of a traditional gallery showing to make it more endearing. The skilled illustration and charming puns keep the playful show from feeling naïve. O’Leary creates a space where it is okay to be a little silly and playful, and still maintain a level of sophistication.