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Mike Rea
Devening Projects + Editions, Chicago, Illinois
Recommendation by Robin Dluzen

Mike Rea, "Exile on Main Street," 2014, installation view

Continuing through April 12, 2014


With his astonishing woodworking abilities and his decidedly boyish subject matter, Chicago-based artist Mike Rea has delighted viewers through craftsmanship and humor for over a decade. In the past, the artist’s preferred media of inexpensive lumber and other readily accessible materials have been transformed into incredible feats of engineering: jet skis, video game-style weapons, Ghostbusters’ proton packs and an array of large-scale, science fiction-inspired machines and robots. Here Rea’s humor and pop culture references still abound, though this time in a significantly understated way.


The installation of “Exile on Main Street” reads like a sound stage or a movie set. A wooden microphone hovers over a structure of chain link fence, a bathroom wall and a jail cell door, effectively pulling backdrops to the forefront as subject. Elsewhere, culturally loaded subject matter, like a full-scale wooden gong and faux aboriginal-looking masks, is offset with the banality of objects like the handcrafted vent and drain cover. However subdued the new work may be, lighthearted moments throughout the installation, like the “scrawl” of carved graffiti paired with a viscous squirt of wood glue on the “bathroom wall,” prove that the youthful edge of Rea’s point of view is still very much present.

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