Noelle Mason

Chicago Reader by Janina Ciezadlo

Critic’s Choice: Echelon: Who Is Watching You? This show about surveillance opened the day before the U.S. House of Representatives approved expanded information-gathering powers for the executive branch. Among the sculptures, photos, drawings, and other works on exhibit is a beautiful, disturbing rug conceived by local artist Noelle Mason and woven by Mexican artists Jose Antonio Flores and Jonathan Samaniego. Made of red and green wool, Ground Control takes its dynamic pattern from a map of the U.S./Mexican border generated by Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer technology. The red denotes the patchwork of cultivated agricultural areas, most clustered in this country, while the green, mostly on the other side of the border, indicates arid, undeveloped land. Though the rug is lush, it depicts the site of much conflict and suffering based on economic inequality (Mason paid the two weavers the amount of money it would take for a Mexican family of four to cross the border illegally). This challenging work questions the boundaries between the aesthetic and the utilitarian, the decorative and the subversive. Another standout is a witty, engaging installation by Annette Barbier and Drew Browning in which the viewer is tracked by a motion-sensing camera while reading the titles of “suspicious” books projected on the floor. Among the other artists in the show are Elvia Rodriguez-Ochoa, Patrick Lichty, Gretel Garcia, and Finishing School. Through 9/1: Sat noon-5 PM or by appointment, Polvo, 1458 W. 18th, 773-344-1940. —Janina Ciezadlo

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