Jef Scharf | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jef Scharf 

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The cluttered mess that is Jef Scharf's show at Dogmatic is mirrored in his hand-drawn, hard-to-read checklists, each of which is different; mine says "Please begin on the other side"--on both sides. And the sprawl of imagery haunted by greed, aggression, terrorism, and war mirrors the uncertainties of our time. An untitled installation consists of seemingly unthreatening plastic knives and cocktail swords plunged into the wall, some of them uncomfortably deep. TRUST America is a mordant representation of U.S. power in the figure of an octopus outlined in black on wrapping paper. The rear of the gallery is illuminated by candles mounted on the wall in front of wooden candle-shaped cutouts that cast large shadows, and nearby are drawings of abstracted buildings with hints of the twin towers. The drawings feel unfinished and vaguely catastrophic, yet the candles, like the work of Christian Boltanski, have a sacralizing effect. The entire exhibit, which resembles a messy apartment more than a gallery show, is disorienting--and that helps Sharf's relatively simple imagery work its way under your skin. Dogmatic Gallery, 1822 S. Desplaines, through May 10. Hours are noon to 4:00 Friday and noon to 6:00 Saturday; 312-492-6698.

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