The latest exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Chicago Works series presents the work of Chicago-based artist Paul Heyer. Heyer creates a dream-like realm in his multisensory approach with his ethereal paintings and sculptures that are set to a trance-like soundtrack that can induce hypnotic or hallucinogenic feelings. A number of influences are at play with Heyer’s work — from ’90s rave culture to the works of Claude Monet and Spanish Renaissance painter El Greco.
This exhibition is set in two rooms. In the outer room, Heyer presents his recent sculptural work, Model of the Universe(s) as Brooms that include multiple brooms of various shapes and sizes that hang in a tight circle in a constellation above the viewer. The brooms are charred matte black and coated with a shiny resin and also decorated with pearlescent shells that resemble the night sky. In the same room is his series of sky paintings. These works can have a meditative effect on the viewer because in the foreground of these Monet-like sky scenes are cryptic, koan-like phrases in bold black letters such as “I am the Sky,” “10,000 Years” and “Every Day is Halloween.” These works challenge us to contemplate our own preconceived views of reality.
In an adjoining room is a metallic lamé fabric titled Comforter (Silver Cloud) that rests on a bed-like platform—it merges sci-fi with the magical or what Heyer calls “a supernatural, sci-fi nap zone.” Also in this room are three paintings that also capture a magical look at nature. Heaven works as a surreal storybook illustration with its blue apples and leaves of various colors — this work not only has a sense of playfulness but also gives us an alternate view of nature. Another work titled Drinking Water (Cowboy) shows a cowboy hunched over a pond as he cups some water in his hand to relieve his thirst. But this scene is not an iconic image of the West but rather a scene that has a spiritual and dream-like tone — the cowboy’s skin is blue and pink and large white iridescent orbs float in the foreground. Also worth noting is Nexus (Lily Pond) that gives us another surreal look at Heyer’s view of nature.
Chicago Works: Paul Heyer challenges our perceptions about the world around us as the artist blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. His work reminds us that we shouldn’t view life at face value that is grounded in harsh reality, but rather to view the world around us with a Zen mindfulness and child-like wonder.
Paul Heyer’s (b. 1982) was born in Chicago where he currently lives and works. His recent exhibitions include solo shows in New York and Los Angeles. He has also been included in numerous exhibitions at various galleries. His work has been profiled in The New York Times, Flash Art and Art Forum.
This exhibition is part of the Chicago Works series that feature Chicago artists — both up-and-coming and established — who are shaping the local contemporary art scene.
Chicago Works: Paul Heyer will be on display through July 1 at the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E. Chicago Avenue). The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $15 for adults, $8 for students and teachers, and $8 for seniors ((65+). Admission is free for MCA members and members of the military, police and fire departments, for veterans, and anyone 18 and under. There is free admission for Illinois residents on Tuesdays. For more information, call the museum at 312-280-2660 or visit their website.