Nell Blaine | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Nell Blaine 

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Nell Blaine (1922-'96), who first got attention as a painter after moving to New York in 1942 to study with Hans Hofmann, worked abstractly for about a decade before switching to the pretty, Matisse-inspired landscapes and still lifes she's best known for today. The 19 paintings, drawings, and prints at Valerie Carberry are from her abstract period and include several startlingly original large paintings. Monument (1948) is broken by thick black lines into areas of mostly solid color that mix straight edges and curves; shapes seem clustered to suggest figures at the left and right, with eyes that are like blank, solid-color visors. Blaine had the rare ability to strip away affect and metaphor, giving her colors a sui generis integrity. Tilted Forms (1947) is more austere, its colors restricted to shades of gray, black, yellow, and orange; the gray contains hints of yellow and orange, giving it the feel of an all-encompassing ground. Blaine's lively mix of curves, straight lines, and cusps reflects the influence of jazz; as critic Kenneth A. Erwin once wrote, both Blaine and Dizzy Gillespie truly knew how to express "modern life." Valerie Carberry, Hancock Center, 875 N. Michigan, suite 2510, through December 19. Hours are 10 to 5 Monday through Friday; 312-397-9990.

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