Review: The Dynamics of Quantum Physics Through Abstract Art at Oak Park Art League

In the last few years, a number of visual artists, writers and musicians have been exploring new perspectives through the lens of quantum physics. Perceptions of time, light, distance, and alternate dimensions are just some of the areas that have been examined. In the latest exhibition, Entanglements, at the Oak Park Art League (OPAL), concepts in quantum physics is also explored through abstract art. On display are 63 works by 42 artists that include a wide range of media—paintings, drawings, mixed media, fiber, printmaking, sculpture, photography, as well as an installation. Kathy Hirsh, Tidal Translucence, Kathy Hirsh, Tidal Translucence, 2020. Mixed media. Photo Courtesy: Oak Park Art League. Many of the abstract works on display make us question how we see the world around us. Is our perception merely based on an unconscious choice that is dependent on our mindset at a particular moment in time? Is our perception in continual flux? “Abstract art can sometimes turn people off because they find it a challenge to see meaning in the work, or else, they don’t fully understand it. But I feel the art in this show is very approachable. Despite the abstract quality, the works connect to something visual from the real world,” said Jill Kramer Goldstein, Executive Director of the Oak Park Art League. One of the strengths of this exhibition is that each of the works stand on their own as an individual entity, yet they all come together as a whole. It’s as if we are entering a visual lab where we can see quantum mechanics at play — many of the works convey a sense of motion, energy, and the expansion of space and time. And there is also the reminder that the act of observation is not as objective as we think it is — that it is instead a subjective affair at best. When looking at the art in this exhibition, viewers will invariably see something new, no matter how subtle, when viewing a particular work for a second or third time. John Signorelli, Fuse,
John Signorelli, Fuse, 2019. Acrylic, string and modeling paste. Photo Courtesy: Oak Park Art League. It is worth noting that there are a number of works that are small in scale (some as small as 12 x 12 inches) which create a sense of intimacy for the viewer. Good examples of this are works such as Fuse  and The Present  by John Signorelli, Red Dot Triptych  by Janice Elkins and Younger  by Lisa Friedman. These works although small in size, create an immediate impact due to the artists' command of color, brushstrokes and texture. They invite the viewer to take a closer look.
“Getting physically close to many of these smaller works make them that much more approachable. In a way, it forces the viewer to become more personally involved in the art and that personal involvement can lead to a change of interpretation with each new viewing,” added Kramer Goldstein. Many of the works also create a mind-expanding effect that remind us about the mysteries in our universe. Works such as Lisa Friedman’s Apology, Liz Meyer’s Palimpsest-Scape, and Michele Silvetti-Schmitt’s Fleeting  act as a visual exploration into the world of quantum physics. The viewer can also enter a magical realm as if seeing a hidden world through a microscopic lens such as in Kathy Hirsh’s Tidal Translucence, Nathanial Gilchrist’s Simulation and Simulacra, and Margot McMahon’s Ripple Effect. Also worth noting are works that show the merging of humans with nature in Karen Schuman’s Rooted in Knowledge and Merge with Butterfly. Lisa Friedman, Younger, Entanglements Lisa Friedman, Younger, 2020. Oil and cold wax. Photo Courtesy: Oak Park Art League. This exhibition engages the viewer because it wisely avoids the pitfall of merely becoming a philosophical/scientific study about quantum mechanics. Rather than creating a sensory overload, there is a spirit of playfulness at work. And that sense of playfulness brings home the point that all living things in this world are connected together — highlighting the “entanglement” theory in quantum physics that one particle can affect another particle even when separated at a great distance. The works displayed in this show also remind us how artists and scientists share a common goal of expressing the world (seen and unseen) through incredible ideas. And it is this process of expression that leaves us feeling in awe about the world around us. The opening reception for Entanglements  will be held on Friday, March 13, from 7pm to 9pm and will be on display through April 2. The Oak Park Art League is located at 720 Chicago Ave in Oak Park. Hours: Tuesday thru Friday 1-5 pm and Saturday 1-4 pm. Admission is free.
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Thomas Wawzenek