Art

Lilli Carré’s Labyrinthine Visions

Installation view, “Lilli Carré: The Pleasure of Getting Lost” at Western Exhibitions (all photos by James Prinz, images courtesy Western Exhibitions)
Installation view, “Lilli Carré: The Pleasure of Getting Lost” at Western Exhibitions (all photos by James Prinz, images courtesy Western Exhibitions)

CHICAGO — White paper sits on white matting within white frames hung on the white walls of Western Exhibitions, the unnerving blank expanse invoking a sense of being thrust into the heart of an endless maze. Penciled puzzles fill the frames of Lilli Carré’s The Pleasure of Getting Lost, but their light traces are more fairy-tale-like than foreboding. They seem to suggest that there is no defined path, that one could erase them at any moment and start anew.

Lilli Carré, “Solution Drawing (no. 1)” (2014), maze: pencil on paper, solution: colored pencil on paper, 14 x 16 ½ inches, each drawing, 18 x 20 inches, each frame (click to enlarge)
Lilli Carré, “Solution Drawing (no. 1)” (2014), maze: pencil on paper, solution: colored pencil on paper, 14 x 16 ½ inches, each drawing, 18 x 20 inches, each frame (click to enlarge)

Works in the exhibition take the form of drawings, book, and animations. On one wall hang Solution Drawings (no. 1–4), each comprised of two pieces that display, respectively, a maze and its solution. The mazes are created with pencil, delicate yet detailed lines that fill the entire page. The solutions, filled in with orange colored pencil, are symmetrical, like inkblots from a Rorschach test. These mirrored drawings offer a glimpse of the artist’s mind, showing the ways she’s chosen to navigate her own labyrinths; simultaneously, the audience may trace their own solutions against Carré’s.

“Lost & Found” and “Found & Lost” (both 2014) hang opposed on the north and south walls of the gallery. Both are collections of images of body parts peeking seductively out from barriers represented by simple lines. The works’ comic-book composition (Carré is widely known as a cartoonist) also recalls the opening credits of a 1960s heist film, with characters half hidden, appearances and actions masked by conveniently placed walls. An animation, “That’s a lotta paths for one place” (2014), mimics these disjointed mazes, showing silhouettes making their way through a series of lined blockades — indistinguishable figures looping through pathways and continuously repeating their given directions.

“If it feels familiar, you are going in circles” (2014) plays on loop in Gallery 2, guiding you through an animated maze in first-person perspective. Like the drawings in Gallery 1, Carré’s illustrations here are light and playful, with only the most basic outlines of walls drawn to indicate the maze’s structure. As you walk down corridor after corridor, accompanied by the sound of audible footsteps, figures emerge and disappear, flickering in and out of view. The looping video encourages the viewer to want to stay, to figure out the break in the film and attempt to find some beginning or end. But it’s a struggle to find a split in the narrative, leaving you trapped within the animation and the maze. The longer you remain, the more lost you feel, removed from reality and circling through an unfamiliar place.

GIF of Lilli Carré’s “If it feels familiar, you are going in circles” (2014), single channel HD video installation
GIF of Lilli Carré’s “If it feels familiar, you are going in circles” (2014), single channel HD video installation

Carré’s puzzles are light and manageable on paper; it’s only when they’re animated that drudgery creeps into the frame, inviting the audience to imagine an existence completely tied to routine. The static drawings provide the greatest hope for choosing a solution, whereas the seductive animations leave the viewer in a state where choice is not an option. Carré’s works exemplify the cerebral trickery of mazes, offering an outlet to lose one’s mind while simultaneously delving deep inside it.

Lilli Carré: The Pleasure of Getting Lost continues at Western Exhibitions (845 W Washington Boulevard, Chicago) through October 18.

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