"Paper Products," the smart group show at the Evanston Art Center, jolts viewers simply by shifting its focus from works on paper to works of it.
Guest curator Dan Devening has chosen 10 artists who use paper as a material that is central to each work of art's conceptual and physical structure. This means paper is the art, whereas it traditionally has been the arena where art has taken place.
It also means paper has been thrust into the third dimension, because once liberated from the painted or drawn marks it usually holds, paper is more free to be shaped into various kinds of sculpture. The range on view runs from Chris Patch's playful origami imitation to Daisy Mitchell's dematerialized cartoonlike evocation of hanging pieces by Robert Morris and Eva Hesse.
Paper additionally becomes the stuff of large-scale installations that play with light (Danielle Gustafson-Sundell's hanging perforated screen) as well as narrative and sculptural weight (Nicola Axford's living-room set, complete with couch, broken window and quasi-poetic text).
Other large pieces suggest an architectural model of a city (Anna Kunz's abstraction of painted boxes) and a play on the seriality of minimal sculpture (Lora Lode's sanded cereal boxes 72 of them imposingly lined up on shelves).
More orthodox are Carrie Gundersdorf large-scale collages that aspire to the ambition of early modern abstract paintings, Michelle Grabner's colored strips woven into geometric abstractions and Mark Murphy's collages from advertising sources, though here the artist has added a twist by making them into small interlocking puzzles.
Best of all, for this viewer, are three fool-the-eye sculptures by John Arndt, who painstakingly replicates a moth, wasp nest and leaf, deploying them as they might actually be found in life, which means they are easy to be missed. These are wonderfully fragile little things, far down on the chain of being yet still artistic cousins to the superreal figure sculptures of Duane Hanson and John DeAndrea.
In sum, then, here's a show that's both wholly contemporary and rich in appeal. Many of the artists' strategies will be new to viewers, though none is off-putting or in the least forbidding. Perhaps because of the material at its heart, there also is a welcome sense of intimacy even in the largest pieces.
"Paper Products" will continue at the Evanston Art Center, 2603 Sheridan Rd., Evanston, through April 9. Call 847-475-5300.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun