Adam Ekberg

Chicago Reader by Fred Camper (text)

Adam Ekberg
When Through 12/5
Where Contemporary Art Workshop, 542 W. Grant
Info 773-472-4004
ADAM EKBERG’S SURREAL photographs at Contemporary Art Workshop show unusual objects in landscapes. For the first image he took, A Disco Ball on the Mountaintop, he bought a reflective ball at a party store and hauled it, a smoke machine, and a battery to the top of a mountain in Maine. He shot the image at twilight and illuminated the ball with a flashlight; smoke made the beams from the disco ball visible. He shot A Bubble Rests on the Grass while alone in a field, after blowing a soap bubble that reflected the blue of the sky.
These photos had their beginning in an idle moment in 2004, shortly after Ekberg came here from Maine to attend the School of the Art Institute. He’d moved from a house near the sea in Portland to a cramped one-bedroom apartment in Chicago and was feeling slightly claustrophobic. To amuse himself at home, he trained a flashlight on a small disco ball. “It was sort of hilarious in transforming my one-bedroom into a party,” he says. “I think there was humor, and pathos.” He began photographing it and other household objects, such as a lit Bic and a stove with the burners on whose clock read one minute before 12. Ekberg sees the images partly as metaphors for personal anxieties, but these and later photos also reflect a youth spent outdoors, where he savored his discoveries: a house in an unexpected place or an abandoned railroad tunnel hung with ten-foot icicles. Once, in college, he saw a cluster of helium balloons in an empty field — “a trace of the person who had let them go,” he says. He also relates the present work to his earliest recollection: watching a barn burn down next to his home when he was five, in a blaze set by an arsonist. He was held alternately by his parents and neighbors, one of whom gave him a glow stick — “not that far from a sparkler or a disco ball,” he says — so there were twin nighttime illuminations.

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