REVIEW: Newcity,




The sea, with its legends of mermaids and serpents, phantom ships and lost continents, has inspired man’s creativity for millennia. From Japan’s Katsushika Hokusai to Germany’s Caspar David Friedrich, the raw power of towering waves and the quiet foreboding of impenetrable fog captivate equally across cultures.  But one need not look to the distant past or far-off shores to find tales of mystery and imagination; our own Great Lakes, a seamen’s graveyard for centuries, will suffice.

Enter artist Peter Skvara, whose new works are tales of misfortune on the high sea embodied in the form of hard-edged geometric abstraction. The six paintings in “Approaches” take their compositions from the colorful language of maritime signal flags: brilliant banners emblazoned with litanies of colored Xs, crosses, dots and stripes that, when strung together in a ship’s rigging, communicate vital information to other vessels.

Spray painted on loose woven polyester mesh—an oblique reference to a fisherman’s net?—the pictures have translucent surfaces that reveal the stretchers beneath.  Like peering under the surface of shallow water, or maybe beholding a ghost, they have a subtle, captivating effect. Titles such as “You are Running the Risk of Going Aground / I am Going Ahead” or“I Am Drifting / Will You Give Me My Position” evoke a sense of frantic desperation that stands in stark contrast to the order and clarity of the crisp edges and primary hues.

Of course, it is possible to know too much about an exhibition. Artist statements and press releases often provide useful context, but they are just as likely to restrict the range of a viewer’s interpretation. In the case of “Approaches,” a little knowledge of signal flags can rapidly turn a series of evanescent abstractions into a collection of unimaginative readymades. Fortunately, aside from an incongruous floor installation that succeeds mainly in making it difficult to get near a few pictures, the delicate material forms of the paintings transcend the literalness of their origins. The wind is at Skvara’s back. (Alan Pocaro)

Through September 5 at Andrew Rafacz Gallery, 835 West Washington


Tilted Vibes | MCA Prime Time

MCA Prime Time is an after-hours series that taps into the creative pulse of Chicago with an eclectic mix of live music, performance art, film screenings, and interactive programs that transforms the museum in spectacular ways. Occurring three times a year, the series is an electrifying social experience that provides a platform for artists and key cultural groups in the city.

For the inaugural event, the MCA collaborates with Chicago-based Land and Sea Dept., the concept and project development studio behind such famed restaurants as Longman & Eagle, Parson’s Chicken & Fish, and the Cherry Circle Room at the newly reopened Chicago Athletic Association. The collective brings their combined expertise in art, design, music, food, and drink to the MCA for a truly one-of-a-kind event.

Titled Vibes, the event explores themes of collaboration, inspiration, and community with performances and art activations throughout the museum. Elliot Bergman, of indie-pop duo Wild Belle, opens the event with a performance on the plaza, welcoming guests as they arrive at the museum. Electropop star Dan Deacon brings his blissfully frenetic dance music and unpredictable theatrics to a music performance powered by infectious pop beats, audience participation, and general comic mayhem. Chicago artists Drew Ryan (DOMESTIC ANIMAL) and Derek Weber (AFTERGLOWINGS), team up throughout the night with music performance and liquid light. Hit + Run, the world’s originators of live-event screen printing, help visitors create their own, custom-made artworks, while Jeremiah Chiu’s (Plural) Smartphone Symphony, an interactive art piece inviting participants to play tones via their smartphone, allows participants to construct their own user-generated symphonies. In addition, Land & Sea Dept. curate the LSD Mini-Mart, showcasing the work of local makers across various disciplines, including Sonnenzimmer, the Arts of Life, LVL3, The Pitchfork Review, WesternXeditions, Drag City, and many more.

Alongside the interactive art elements, bars and restaurants from the Land and Sea Dept. family pop-up in the museum for the evening. Parson’s Chicken and Fish set up their custom red-and-white umbrellas and picnic tables, as Chef Hunter Moore and bar manager Charlie Schott serve up Parson’s signature dishes and slushies. Tiki bar Lost Lake and adjoining American-Chinese take-out counter Thank You set up shop as well, featuring Paul McGee’s signature cocktails and bites from Chefs Jennifer Jackson and Justin Tootla. Longman & Eagle’s Off-Site Bar is on-site, complete with bar manager Phil Olson’s drinks and Executive Chef Matt Kernery’s culinary offerings.

The Path of Storm and Flood | The Mission


Makenzi Fricker, THE MISSION

(312) 243-1200


CHICAGO, IL, 8/26/15-- THE MISSION is please to present The Path of Storm and Flood, a site-specificinstallation by Peter Skvara that advocates for a metaphysical interpretation of archaeology.  An opening reception will be held on Friday, September 11 from 6 to 8pm. The show continues through Saturday, October 24, 2015.


Our linear conceptions of time are a lie. Peter Skvara’s site specific installation, The Path of Storm and Flood,  challenges the myth of an objective archaeological record which is established by excavating layers of soil known as “strata” and carbon dating exhumed objects. It is by these methods that a historical record of material culture, and therefore of culture in general, is created.  Skvara posits that soil stratigraphy is an unreliable narrator, unintentionally misleading its human audience as to the history of the Earth, as it is affected by climate, geology, and human intervention. These factors alter the global distribution of soil depth and disrupt the archaeologist’s neutral measurement of passing time. 


Skvara’s large-scale, multi-wall painting, Timeline (Survey), 2015, mixed media on canvas, is a passive map of the past we have constructed for ourselves, a guidebook of objects located arbitrarily in time and space, articulated with an abstracted composition of unfamiliar objects and familiar textures expressed in paint and collaged photographs.  Timeline (Survey) initiates a dialogue with its companion piece, Feature/Slope, 2015, mixed media on wood,  a sculpture that evokes an active archaeological site still in the process of being mined for information and objects. Presenting a subjective interpretation of history, Feature/Slope alludes to our active role as participants in Earth’s history. The activity evoked by Feature/Slope is in tension with the lack thereof in Timeline (Survey), establishing a relationship of giving and receiving analogous to soil life cycles. Ultimately,  Skvara asserts the falsehood of a history constructed upon assumptions and educated guesses made out of an attempt to rationalize, define, and measure reality.  

PETER SKVARA (American, b. 1985) lives and works in Chicago, IL. He received a BFA from Columbia College Chicago in 2009. Recent exhibitions include Flaneur, Black Tan Exotic, New York, NY; Seven Borders, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville, KY; Resource, Jean Albano Gallery, Chicago, IL; Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL; Wow-Hause, Johalla Projects, Chicago, IL; and BUNK at The Happy Collaborationists Exhibition Space, Chicago, IL.  He will present a solo project, Timelines, at The Mission, Chicago, IL, in September 2015.  He is included in numerous private and public collections. This is his second solo exhibition with gallery.

Approaches | Andrew Rafacz Gallery - Press Release



Emma Robbins

Andrew Rafacz

+ 312 404 9188


ANDREW RAFACZ is pleased to announce Approaches, a solo exhibition of new work by Peter Skvara in Gallery One. 


Chicago, IL, August 1, 2015– ANDREW RAFACZ concludes summer 2015 with Approaches, a solo exhibition of new paintings and installation by Peter Skvara. The exhibition continues through Saturday, September 5, 2015.


Imagine a cry for help transmitted through fog and panic only to go unanswered. With titles like “Your Message is Received But Not Understood” that double as distress signals, Peter Skvara’s exhibition, Approaches, is a haunting experience. Maybe these messages were never received or the receiver couldn’t respond in time. Skvara’s fascination with shipwrecks, specifically in Lake Michigan, is about exploring these maritime disasters as both archeological sites and as settings for cryptic legends. Exploring the mystery of these events is an attempt to comprehend the poignancy of sending one last message into obscurity before death.


All six paintings in this exhibition are based on the nautical language of flag semaphore, the alphabet signaling system using handheld flags to communicate messages at sea, including emergency situations. There are 12 different two-letter combinations of these letters that represent distress. Skvara has reinterpreted these distress signals onto white mesh and titled them with their corresponding message. For example, “I Am Drifting / Will You Give Me My Position.” The white mesh lends a ghostly quality that reinforces the melancholic mystery of pondering these symbols as someone’s last words, broadcast out to the sea, never to be returned. These messages were lost at sea, like the ships and their passengers. 


Beyond the melancholy in Skvara’s work there is a playful, adventuresome streak in his interest (obsession?) with maritime catastrophe and history. He has spent years researching the history and archaeology of the Great Lakes and collecting rare books on the subject, indulging in the duality of fear and beauty that can make nature so gripping. Approaches reveals an infatuation with the fragile romance with nature and adventure. The ship is a perfect symbol of man’s complex need to tame a natural element that is both spellbinding in its beauty and terrifying in its power. It is both the sublime and beauty can that produce pleasure. But only the sublime can also produce fear.


Skvara also embarked on his own archaeological endeavor for this exhibition, collecting pieces of marine detritus from Lake Michigan. These items together, museological in their arrangement on the floor of the gallery, comprise a work entitled Flotsam, Jetsam, Lagan, and Derelict. This assemblage is an attempt to comprehend, categorize and organize the forgotten evidence of a symbolic shipwreck. Like the paintings, these objects were explicit maritime symbols turned evidence of misfortune, or at least the forgotten. Skvara’s methodical arrangement of wreckage and appropriation of nautical messages salvages them both from obscurity and gives them a second life.  (Whitney Stoepel)



PETER SKVARA (American, b. 1985) lives and works in Chicago, IL. He received a BFA from Columbia College Chicago in 2009. Recent exhibitions include Flaneur, Black Tan Exotic, New York, NY; Seven Borders, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville, KY; Resource, Jean Albano Gallery, Chicago, IL; Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL; Wow-Hause, Johalla Projects, Chicago, IL; and BUNK at The Happy Collaborationists Exhibition Space, Chicago, IL.  He will present a solo project, Timelines, at The Mission, Chicago, IL, in September 2015.  He is included in numerous private and public collections. This is his second solo exhibition with gallery.