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It sometimes seems that abstract expressionists of the 1950s were recapitulating the American spirit of conquest in their works. The American artist Ezio Martinelli (1913-1980)--best known for his sculpture--knew and exhibited with some of the abstract expressionists, and his nine large, baroquely complex drawings at Robert Henry Adams, all from the 50s, do seem to seize the space. In one of them (all are untitled), a mass of swirling, interpenetrating forms seems to rise heroically from a base and flower into all sorts of cusps, twists, turns, and holes. Empty spaces are surrounded by what look like ornate picture frames, and the many curves and knobs give this shape a musical rhythm. Another drawing, mostly in blue, shows a giant eruption from a placid sea. Though this sky-filling monster suggests a volcano, its loops and extensions and tentacles also become a world in themselves.

Martinelli's drawings echo Song dynasty monumental landscape paintings, in which fabulously detailed tracts of land dwarf the human figure. In 1952 Martinelli wrote that he saw the artist as a "small object in an enormous universe" and expressed a wish to pay homage to the past and to nature. Some of these works recall Leonardo da Vinci's Deluge drawings, chaotic apocalyptic scenes of water engulfing everything. In one such drawing, Martinelli's winglike "waves" washing in every direction collide dynamically. One feels awe not so much at the natural world, however, as at Martinelli's mastery in these fabulously convoluted creations.

Ezio Martinelli

Where: Robert Henry Adams, 715 N. Franklin

When: Through April 9

Info: 312-642-8700

John Storrs (1885-1956), the son of a Chicago real estate developer, studied with Auguste Rodin and was also best known as a sculptor. Though inspired by Walt Whitman--whom he believed expressed the nation's soul--Storrs lived much of his life in Europe, and the bold, simplified forms of his 24 woodcuts at Valerie Carberry, all dating from approximately 1916 to 1920, seem heavily influenced by the abstracted shapes of European modernism. Daniel Schulman in his essay for the exhibition's catalog suggests that Edvard Munch influenced Beauty and the Beast, in which the curves of the nude woman at the center are framed and amplified by curved shapes on either side of her. The confident expressiveness of this stark black-and-white design conveys an impersonal power: almost featureless, this might be any figure, its humanity universal. Similarly, the stooped everywoman seen through a window in Winter expresses the agony of anyone trying to navigate a desolate, perhaps hostile landscape.

John Storrs

Where: Valerie Carberry, Hancock Center, 875 N. Michigan, #2510

When: Through April 9

Info: 312-397-9990

Chicagoan Timothy Ripley, who's showing paintings and prints at Lobby, is primarily inspired by corporate logos. "I've always felt an attraction to the mystique of these symbols," he says. Though Ripley studied graphic design at IIT and has designed logos for bands, he doesn't merely replicate what he purports to critique: his pleasing but somewhat creepy icons are too complex and suggestive to pass as actual corporate symbols. Because of the bulbous shapes on its body, the cryptic multiarmed critter at the center of Atari Warner has the look of a bacterium or virus schematically represented--one imagines it could insinuate itself anywhere. State Farm--only loosely based on the three circles of the company's former logo, Ripley says--would be symmetrical if only bites hadn't been taken out of the middle.

The filling or emptying of space is a more explicit subject in the digital print Go Team II. A white square is separated from a surrounding black field by a lacy border of silhouetted logos, among them ones for General Electric and the company that makes the Swiss Army Knife. Ripley says he was "trying to hint at just how crowded our environment is with logos." Unlike earlier abstractionists, Ripley doesn't pretend to offer art based on universals. Instead he depicts our literal and philosophical entrapment in the commercial world.

Timothy Ripley

Where: Lobby, 731 N. Sangamon

When: Through April 9

Info: 312-432-4327

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