Christopher Wilmarth: Arts Club of Chicago. (Chicago)

Article excerpt

Christopher Wilmarth developed a kind of melancholic minimalism during his brief career. Bending plates of steel and glass into new profiles, he offered the hallmarks of sturdy modernist rectangularity as fragile and evanescent. He suffused the plates with a brooding intensity by altering their pristine surfaces, weathering steel with painterly stains and rust, frosting glass with atmospheric washes of hydrofluoric acid. Glass--simultaneously weighty and weightless, present and absent, cool solid and hot liquid--particularly fascinated him. Wilmarth saw in the indeterminacy of glass an ambiguity and inconstancy that paralleled his own intuitive take on geometric abstraction. His work constantly shuttles between literal and poetic, modern and timeless, machine and human.

This exhibition included sculptures and works on paper realized between 1969 and 1987, the year of the artist's suicide at the age of forty-four. A large installation, Tina Turner, 1970-71, formed a kind of centerpiece. Four curved, freestanding green-glass plates, one set atop a stack of thirteen thin glass slabs, create an arc that sweeps decisively through space. Three of the four standing plates are spongily etched with acid washes, while one remains glossily transparent. Wilmarth often resorted to a kind of highly visible, low-tech process to connect his components. Here strands of steel cable threaded through small drilled holes tie the plates together. …