Art review: Making Room exhibit juxtaposes different domestic styles

By Nancy Ramirez

In the exhibit Making Room, the O’Connor Art Gallery features works by artists Gabrielle Garland and Susan Kraut whose observational paintings of domestic interiors go beyond traditional still life subjects.

The selected works show the space of domestic interiors in a unique way, resulting in an unnoticed human presence that captures a movement or moment in everyday life.

Even though both artists show the space of domestic interiors, they both have very different styles of rendering the space and very different techniques and color use. Although Garland’s and Kraut’s works are displayed on separate walls, the paintings even out to create a sense of balance.

The artists have very different styles. Kraut paints more realistic, observational paintings with colors that evoke a certain mood and catch a moment in time, while Garland uses more simplistic shapes and paints in a way that distorts or manipulates the space of the domestic room she is depicting.

The juxtaposition created in the gallery gives viewers a chance to compare both of the artists’ techniques and their choice of domestic interiors. Kraut’s subjects are windows, tables or bedrooms in a New York apartment. Kraut was inspired by nineteenth century romantic painters of northern Europe who considered opened windows an important motif in their paintings because windows represent the interior world inhabited by men and women and is separate from the world of nature. This can also be seen as a metaphor for what is known and what is remote and mysterious. In her paintings, Kraut intends to capture a particular moment in time by detailing half-eaten food or unfolded newspapers. Although humans are not present in Kraut’s paintings, they always leave evidence of their activities.

Kraut layers paint to make the brush strokes more visible in an attempt to slow down the eye and allow the objects depicted to hover in space that is not perfectly resolved. Kraut’s painting, New York Window III, Before Sandy, 2013, is very successful in making the sky out the window so impactful that it takes most of the attention. At the same time, the light that comes from that sky reveals newspapers and an apple sitting on a table in front of the viewer. This painting makes the viewer feel like they are inside that room looking out the window at that moment in time.

Kraut spoke at the opening reception of Making Room and spoke on behalf of Garland, who was not able to make it. Garland is an artist and curator based in New York City but has many connections to and showings in Chicago, where she attended the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago.

Garland’s style of painting is more simplistic and less colorful than Kraut’s. The spaces in each of her domestic room paintings are very manipulated and employ distorted perspectives. Most of her paintings are untitled and she uses acrylic on monoprint of original ink on panel drawing. Garland’s paintings are primarily black outlines with white backgrounds but each one features a small, unique spot of vibrant color, for instance, a small trapezoid of highlighter pink.

The exhibit ultimately did pay tribute to the title Making Room,since both artists painted domestic interiors that captured a moment in time regardless of their painting styles, techniques, or use of color. Both have a particular way of catching the viewers’ attention and making them wonder of their choice of subjects and colors.