Synthetic Organics 

Scott Wolniak's Patterning

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SCOTT WOLNIAK sees patterns in things we all see—scraps of rubbish on the street, junk mail inconveniently streaming in each day and rising in a pile—and he wonders about the regular intervals in which post-consumer waste is encountered on a daily basis.

While noticing and collecting waste in various forms, Wolniak found similarities between these discarded items and wild plants—both a sort of debris. Like trash, weeds are cleared, and with a seasonal regularity they reclaim their abundance. In 2005, Wolniak clarified this observation, telling the Chicago Reader that both trash and weeds are "very tenacious—they [keep] coming back." Wolniak began making wire frames of plants, using weeds from around his neighborhood as models, and later wrapped these frames with strips of litter to render them solid. These trash-skinned weeds debuted at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art in 2005—and currently, they appear to grow from the floor of Chambers @ 916 as part of Patterning, which brings together five of Wolniak's past projects.

"Weed" is coupled with a similar body of work, "Improvised Grass," in which blades of grass are made with trash, and arranged into clumps and rows. Martha Morgan, director of Chambers @ 916, said she finds these two bodies of work joined to the rest of the show through underlying explorations of "synthetic nature." This observation holds especially true in Wolniak's collection Simulated Sunprints.

For Simulated Sunprints, Wolniak used bleach on colored paper to harness what he calls "synthetic sunlight." The original idea was to make traditional sunprints (using a combination of chemicals and sunlight to produce images), but the Chicago winter did not allow for the project. Without sunlight, Wolniak decided to substitute bleach. "Simulated Sunprint Untitled #7" started with a brown sheet of paper. With bleach added, ink from the paper bled down the page—the result suggests a maritime scene, with horizontal zigzags as waves and splotches as birds or clouds.

Also on display is Wolniak's series Untitled Tie-Dyes (in which the artist traces the patterns of tie-dyes with graphite), as well as a video composition entitled "Musical Notes in Harmony with the Attuned Healing Colors," which reads like an audio visualization plug-in interpreting ambient sound. While all of Wolniak's represented bodies of work were intriguing at a conceptual level, I found the strongest visual engagement in "Weed" and "Improvised Grass"—without which I wouldn't recommend going far out of your way to visit Chambers @ 916 for Patterning.

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