Jola Jastrzab @ E|C Gallery

Tucked into a pretty front in the West Loop is E|C Gallery, a relatively new space ran by Polish-born and Chicago-based artist Ewa Czeremuszkin (note the titular initials) which, with its floor to ceiling windows full of western sun, functions perfectly as an import venue for Czeremuszkin’s bad-ass artist friends from Polandland. E|C’s current show Crazy Julka is a perfect continuation fitting with that theme, with Jola Jastrzab‘s drawings and paintings here enjoying their first American exposure.

Jola Jastrzab

Jola Jastrzab, Crazy Julka

Jastrzab’s work exists between two states – material abstraction and figure drawing. Its evident that the work begins at the former with loose  line renditions of (and I’m guessing here from the title) her female friend Julka, who is crazy, and then moves through very rough application of dry and wet media into material fistfights.

As fun as it is, the physicality of the work is a little odd – the paper is beat to shit in some places, with an inexplicable hole chewed through one page, tears on many, and dirty, abused edges on pretty much all of them. Its not that I’d need these pieces to be very clean, its just that I can’t tell why the damage exists in places. The application of materials, while rough in places, doesn’t explain the edges or the tears or holes, so they come off as quicky made and poorly cared for more than aggressively handled.

Jola Jastrzab

Jola Jastrzab

There’s a woman sitting in the image above, legs bent under her and one hand resting on her ankle. Can you see it? Can you try without feeling guilty? One of the first common rules in appreciating abstract or highly formal artwork is to suppress the mind’s natural desire to turn everything you see into people. Enjoying the random beauty in a mass of paint is made much harder if all you can see are faces and arms and legs. See stoner art for examples.

In the case of Crazy Julka, this rule is to some degree turned on its head. These are figure drawings, and though the figurative structure is masked and hung with far more interesting marks, seeing the work without seeing the figure isn’t really seeing the work. It was a little uncomfortable having to step back and find the root, to squint until I saw the legs in Legs or the sitting woman in the image above.

While its moderate breadth and egregious paper damages preventing it from being a “wow” show for me, Jastrzab’s paintings and drawings were overall very enjoyable, the space was pretty, and its always good to see Polish work in Chicago. If you’re looking to see some aggressive figure work, Crazy Julka should satisfy.

I give it a:


Jola Jastrzab‘s Crazy Julka runs June 26th to August 15th, 2009 at E|C Gallery, 215 N. Aberdeen.

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