Thursday, March 15, 2007

Adventures in Entropy

In tandem with the Thomas Chimes' exhibit at the PMA, "Adventures in 'Pataphysics," the Locks Gallery (on 6th Street in Old City Philadelphia, Between Walnut and Locust Streets) is currently showing more recent work called "The Entropy Paintings." (The photo above of Chimes and one of his portraits of Alfred Jarry is from a Philadelphia Inquirer review of the PMA show.)

I haven't seen the larger exhibit at the PMA, but the smaller exhibit at the Locks Gallery has whetted my appetite. The paintings at the Locks are almost all 3 by 3 inch works, some grouped together in sets of two, three, and four. The works are almost entirely white, with only enough grey or off white to provide enough contrast to provide an image, however ghostly.

Looking at Chimes' entropy paintings is like trying to decipher a language you've seen before but never fully understand. He dots his works with mathematical symbols and similar-looking marks that make you want to break the code. Even the written words on several works are readable, but with great difficulty. Chimes clearly wants to pull you in and make you look closer, but at the same time doesn't want to make it easy to read him. In fact, just as you begin to read him, you realize even more that it's impossible. The recurring images in the works, such as the profile of Alfred Jarry, French absurdist author who "created" 'pataphysics and Chimes' inspiration, almost mock you with their simplicity in the middle of chaos, or, rather, entropy.

Walking around the Locks Gallery at lunchtime, all alone, with the clicking of a keyboard in the office nearby the only other sound, I felt like a character in a Thomas Pynchon novel, surrounded by symbols at once familiar and foreign, compelled to understand until coming to the understanding that faith in such communication is futile. Once you come to that conclusion, you can allow yourself to enjoy the "pleasures of the text" as literary critics love to say, but here the pleasures of Thomas Chimes' world of meaning in meaninglessness.

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