Dennis Lee Mitchell

The Northwest Passage

UIMA opens new exhibit featuring 3 Chicago artists
Posted on 09 August 2012 by Heather Momyer

The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art opens its next two-month exhibit on Friday, Aug. 10, featuring three Chicago artists: Dennis Lee Mitchell, Olivia Petrides and Lisa Sambor. The artwork ranges from ceramic sculptures to smoke paintings and all share an attention to organic shapes and movement.
With most of the work hung on the walls—though some of Sambor’s ceramic pieces were still lying on the floor—curator Stanislav Grezdo discussed the process of putting this exhibit together.
“First thing, we do contemporary art,” Grezdo said. “It needs to be something new and unique.” In other words, another landscape or still life of flowers would not be accepted. “We don’t want to spend time and just go through landscapes or plants or sunflowers,” Grezdo said.
“If something is already done, why repeat it?” Grezdo asked. “[We want] something exciting and different than what we usually see.”
Take, for example, the work of Dennis Lee Mitchell who paints with smoke by spraying the smoke from a pressurized can. “Very unique,” said Grezdo. “Paint with smoke…I’ve never heard about that.”
Mitchell’s work is unique, but it also meets the UIMA second criterion: it has an idea. Mitchell’s first idea is based on a unique technique, but he also has an idea about temporality.
“Material exists and then it changes, and it moves forward, “ Mitchell said. “Everything around you, everything you see, in the future will not be here. It’ll be here, but in a different way.”
“The smoke seemed perfect to me to start to discuss the human condition,” Mitchell said.
“Many people are good craftsmen, they can paint like photographs, they can build things, but it’s not about that,” Grezdo said. “It’s about the idea.”
Next to Mitchell’s work, you’ll find Olivia Petrides’ paintings that whirl as impressionistic representations of the Northern Lights, and the patterns have some similarities to Mitchell’s smoke swirls.
In an email response, Petrides wrote, ”I use specific natural manifestations as a starting point.”
“My process is more akin to that of classical representation,” Petrides said. While she travels and sketches as she goes, the final product is not a direct result of those sketches. “I don’t work directly from the sketchbook imagery, but from the experience of having worked on site, having taken the time to record the concrete particularities of a place”
Closest to the entry way is Lisa Sambor’s ceramic snail-like sculptures that will eventually be placed on the wall. Grezdo is working on a fluid design to suit the organic shape of her materials.
The organic shape of the snail body or the ceramic leaf-like patterns in Sambor’s other pieces share similarities in design and movement with Mitchell’s and Petrides’ work, as Grezdo point out.
“We try to fit the artists together that would work,” Grezdo said.