Bill Owens: Leisure So that's the way we all became the Brady Bunch. Bill Owens' black-and-white and color shots illustrate what makes American life so distinctively indistinct: the leisurely whiles of suburbanites on vacation and everyday events of not-so-edgy life on the urban edge. Though hokey to some, the captions beneath the photos complement the bland spirit of the images above. Beneath a photo of two women at a flea market, one showing wigs to the other, a caption reads "I don't know why I bought another wig. What I really needed was some deck furniture." Such are the quippy forget-me-nots of a land of overabundance for the high-grounded and lucky. This collection of pictures past, taken in the '60s, '70s and early '80s, seems touched by romanticism. It's not so much that they reek of wistful longing, but rather that they offer only the distillation of a landscape's past, the yesterday of suburbia as seen in Fourth of July parades, a goggle-eyed mother slurping soda pop in front of Mickey D's and a fur-clad woman in her Porsche-filled garage. It's not as though any of this has changed that much. Sprawl has sprawled further. What about the continuation of this life today? Where are the photos of 21st-century Schaumburg outside of Chicago, or how about our own Frisco? Their strength lies in their combined mad-scientist and routinized feel. These images read like an anthropological study. Their deadpan flatness renders human subjects--a smiling husband and wife feeding a chubby baby while tall circuit breakers loom through the kitchen window, brothers in camouflage hats toting toy guns, ladies with wigs in hands--as so many dehumanized species in a terrarium. Through October 22 at Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery, 3115 Routh St., 214-969-1852. (Charissa N. Terranova)
Trenton Doyle Hancock St. Sesom and the Cult of Color Hancock has hit the mark with this multimedia installation, bringing together his talents as graphic artist, conceptualist, painter and, above all else, visionary storyteller. It is a show that, with its fantastic storyline and panoply of parts, could easily get out of hand. But Hancock strikes a balance by way of careful craftsmanship and deliberation over each element. His hand-painted wall narrative frames a succession of things: hanging felt collages, sound-emitting felt-covered bedroom furniture, keenly delineated etchings and paintings layered in meaning, reference and material. All of which tells the next chapter of the saga of the Mounds. St. Sesom, the leader of the colorless underground-inhabiting Vegans, has had a dream about the source of color. What unfolds along the walls and in the space of the gallery is the tale of the Vegans emerging happily if not greedily into the above-ground world, where they proceed to rabidly manufacture color. Several neo-surrealist mixed-media canvases of Miracle Machines at work reveal this process of mechanical color-making. Overall, this extremely adroit work speaks of recent transformations in the scene, from Texas to New York to London: the move toward a more self-indulgent personalized art form. Nevertheless, the breadth of imagination and masterful use of material, everything from color felt and lint to glued coils of string and an orange-juice carton, make Hancock's work a crucial contribution to both the contemporary art world and greater history of art. Through October 22 at Dunn and Brown Contemporary, 5020 Tracy St., 214-521-4322. (C.T.)
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