Doug Smithenry | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Doug Smithenry 

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Just when I think painters have done it all, someone comes up with images unlike any I've seen before. Doug Smithenry's 34 paintings at Aron Packer are based on figures and backgrounds he finds on the Internet--but after he prints them, he crumples up the paper and flattens it with a rolling pin. This makes the figures he paints feel strangely displaced and even more strangely fragmented, and Smithenry emphasizes the arbitrariness of his process by hanging different crumplings of the same figure as series. The jockstrap-clad man in "Cowboy 1-4" is missing his right shoulder in the first painting and part of his left side in the fourth; in all four images some body parts are compressed or foreshortened. The logo on the T-shirt worn by the kid in "Notthinkingstraightteenager 1-4" suggests multiple puns. Many postmodern "culture of the copy" paintings are way too respectful of their originals. But Smithenry's figures seem barely rescued from the trash can, and their strange contortions become a reflection on the way our cultural media glut devalues not only images but the subjects behind them. Still, the creases add a crucial bit of soul: the cowboy's contortions could be taken as a Risky Business-like dance. Aron Packer, 118 N. Peoria, through March 15. Hours are 10:30 to 5:30 Tuesday through Saturday; 312-226-8984.

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