Tucked into a new location, just above its old spot under the El Tracks on Franklin, the Byron Roche Gallery features a very Chicago view if ever there was one. Recently relocated, the gallery has always been a favorite, perhaps because the owner and operator, Byron Roche, always makes visitors feel welcome.
Roche likes artwork that has a strong "painterly" feeling, sometimes traditional and sometimes unorthodox, and ranging from abstract to figurative. The art he carries often has a quality of elaborate but fine textures and interesting surfaces which feature high impasto and relief. Rather unusually, a certain percentage of the work involves metallic elements, whether it be in the form of metal leafing on paintings, or constructions which involve metal.
Some artistic highlights of his gallery are figurative works by Leopold Segadin, which conjure up Midwestern city childhoods in a way that makes the familiar seem mysterious. Lisa Erf's enigmatic portraits feature the same face and pose, redrawn nine times, letting the subtle differences in seemingly identical pictures seem positively striking. Sandra Dawson's jewel-like mixed media pieces seem to suggest Indian miniature art with modern content, and Ann Wien's enamel smooth images of insects and birds hint that natural beauty is a kind of abstraction in itself. David Russick's subtly colored images explore the hieroglyphic-like interplay of objects, shapes and textures. Jiwon Son's highly atmospheric "Aggregates" series conjures up the world of oriental serenity in textures that resemble master ceramics, or rare colorful agates and exotic stones.
A final word: When you visit this gallery, ask to see a side passion of Roche's, his "Sweethearts Across the Pacific" collection. This is jewelry made in the South Pacific by Allied Troops for their girlfriends back home, made out of Japanese airplane metal, various beach stones, shells and plastic. It is a kind of sub-category of folk art and reflects the swing feeling of the era, as well as a fanciful poetic side of the homesick troops in World War II.
If you come to see these works for yourself, you may find yourself in the middle of an impromptu concert (Roche also sings and plays guitar quite well), when fine classical music isn't playing through the stereo.
Below are examples of artwork representative of that shown at the Byron Roche Gallery. Click any image to enlarge.