TimeOut Chicago

Art & Design
February 7, 2013

Observer Effect at Gallery 400 | Art review
Steve Roden and other artists examine various phenomena.
By Laura Pearson


 John O’Connor, Blood Pressure, 2001. Photo: Paul Takeuchi

Jessica Hyatt’s Signature Dessert is a bread-pudding, custard and raspberry concoction that Chicago artist Hyatt based on a recipe by a chef also named Jessica Hyatt. Visitors to Gallery 400 can taste the dish, which is part of Hyatt’s investigation into the lives of people who share her name. As she re-creates the chef’s dessert over and over, the artist becomes the true subject of this unusual portrait.

Hyatt’s work demonstrates how “Observer Effect”—as is typical for a show at UIC’s Gallery 400—tackles a heady theme through unstuffy, engaging art. Curated by Lorelei Stewartand Carrie Gundersdorf, the exhibition explores the systematic yet idiosyncratic ways in which six artists observe and investigate phenomena ranging from rocks to ancient Greek texts.

In her 2012 Epikur drawings, Berlin-based artist Jorinde Voigt interprets data pertaining to electrical currents, wind patterns and kisses through an indecipherable jumble of lines, arrows and scribbled text. Parsing the meaning isn’t the point, so viewers appreciate Voigt’s captivating schemata on a purely visual level. The gold-leaf shapes—such as a present tied with a bow—layered over her pencil diagrams suggest the artist’s seemingly scientific approach allows for flights of the imagination.

Steve Roden experiments with more tangible stuff in his 16mm film striations (2011). The L.A. artist uses his own complicated system to guide installations of half-carved stones and other artifacts he found in his grandmother’s sculpture studio after she died. The results are often poetic: In manipulating and recontextualizing these inanimate objects, Roden imbues them with new life. Though it riffs on the scientific process, “Observer Effect” is profoundly informed by the personal.