Press Release

Antoine Catala, Christine Gray, Valerie Hegarty, Jessica Labatte, Nichole van Beek, Erika Somogyi

Antler Necklace is a group exhibition organized by New York writer and curator Amber Vilas. The exhibition explores the intersection of nature with culture and a synthetic representation of the natural world. The show’s title is meant to light-heartedly prod at popular consumable hybrids of modern material culture with natural images. The exhibition brings together six artists hailing from New York, Chicago, and Richmond, Va. whose artwork adds to a discussion of a mediated experience of nature through society and a produced cultural object.

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Curator’s Statement

“Nature, then, in this its simplest acceptation, is a collective name for all facts, actual and possible, …a collective name for everything which is.”
–John Stuart Mill

Antler Necklace explores the intersection of nature with culture and a synthetic representation of the natural world. The show’s title is meant to light-heartedly prod at popular consumable hybrids of modern material culture with natural images. The exhibition brings together six artists hailing from New York, Chicago, and Richmond, Va. whose artwork adds to a discussion of a mediated experience of nature through society and a produced cultural object.

America has a cultural iconography tied to the idea of a sublime connection to an all-encompassing untamed wildness. Romantic painters of the early nineteenth century produced images of steep cliffs, vast forests, and horizon lines untouched by remnants of an industrialized modern world. This wildness that they depicted has long since been tamed and repackaged in the form of natural signifiers such as charm necklaces with antler and leaf pendants, faux wood wallpaper, Fiji water bottles with a vignette of a tropical beach, and fake rocks for hiding house keys.

In our “post-post” society we have become detached from feelings of awe and wonder generated  by immersion in the natural world and as a response have hybridized natural images into our everyday lives. Yet, connection is still possible. Although we may be surrounded by concrete and roads, one billboard of an island getaway can serve as a window through which an intuitive and pure connection with the self can be achieved. The trend of representing artwork and consumable objects referencing the natural world through synthetic means has two sources: a loss of connection to nature in an increasingly industrialized modern world and the search for a sublime experience through artwork representing nature.

The art world has continued to offer examples of works that present a beautiful image, just as romantic painters presented a wild, “pure” nature that the viewer could visually enter to have a sublime experience. At the same time, the art world today uses many mixed cultural and natural references. If nature holds to qualities of transcendence and an innate gravity towards the sublime, then the synthetic, although it can be made to be aesthetically pleasing, will always be soulless and create a barrier of connection to the sublime not present in beauty or nature. This exhibition explores the creative and destructive capabilities inherent in the relationship between the synthetic and the sublime.


Amber Vilas

Amber Vilas is a New York-based curator and writer. She currently holds the position of a gallery assistant at Rachel Uffner Gallery in New York and contributes content to Originally from New Mexico, she moved to Chicago in 2002 to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While in Chicago, she became interested in alternative gallery structures. In 2006, she opened Three Seasons Gallery with co-director Colin Lyons, a gallery space within a shared artist’s studio set to operate for only six months (spanning three seasons). In 2007, she opened Giftshop Project Space, a tiny commercial gallery run out of a 6 ft x 5ft x 6ft closet space located within gescheidle gallery. Her curatorial projects have received mention in various publications including,, Time Out Chicago, and NewCity Chicago.


Antoine Catala

French born, New York-based artist Antoine Catala first began experimenting with digital artifacts in 2003, through a technique that intentionally causes compression errors in digital video, which often plague satellite television, streaming internet videos and other digital environments. In his 2008 video installation, Couple in a Garden, a young couple stands in front of a wall covered in foliage, as the camera pans and zooms digital compression errors create streaks of distortions and color. The dissonance of the video’s music, composed by Olivier Alary, further heightens the disconnect between the figures and their environment.

Catala’s artwork has been shown in numerous national and international venues including, 179 Canal, New York; Tony Wight Gallery, Chicago; Mountain Fold, New York; Gallerie Cortex Athletico, Bordeaux, France; Café Gallery Projects, London; Karyn Lovegrove Gallery, Los Angeles; Galeria de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City, and in museums such as Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France; Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, Pa.; and PICA, Portland. In addition to making artwork, Catala has curated exhibitions at Taxter and Spengemann, New York; Galerie Christine Mayer, Munich; and Burger King, Ltd., London. He received his BA in Fine Art from London Guildhall University in 2001 and currently lives and works in Brooklyn.


Christine Gray

Christine Gray lives and works in Richmond, Va. where she is a painting professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University. Gray is currently residing in Omaha, Nebr. as an artist in residence at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. In her 2007 painting, Two Vases, a bouquet of paper flowers is suspended by tightly rendered circles of pipe cleaner that sit on a more loosely painted wooden support. Her paintings of still life constructions focus on the idea of synthetic representations of nature through craft materials, as well as what can constitute a still life in its most distilled form.

Gray received her MFA from the University of California Santa Barbara in 2007. Since then she has participated in exhibitions at Mark Moore Gallery, Santa Monica Ca.; Reynolds Gallery, Richmond, Va.; Page Bond Gallery, Richmond, Va.; and Project 4 Gallery, Washington, D.C. Upcoming exhibitions include solo projects at RARE Gallery, New York, and Okay Mountain, Austin, Tex. Her artwork has been reviewed in publications including Art Papers, the Washington Post, the Santa Barbara Independent, the Austin Chronicle, and Artl!es.


Valerie Hegarty

New York-based artist Valerie Hegarty’s piece Branch with Frame, 2008 appears as a living artifact. It is not clear whether the twisted branches of a tree have been carved or transformed into a gold-leafed frame, or whether the reverse is true: an antiqued frame within a state of entropy has grown over the years into roots. She breaks the rigid rectangular format of the frame into its more organic counterpart, as if nature has rearranged the piece to be a more accurate reflection of itself.

Hegarty’s previous solo exhibitions include Seascape (2006) and Landscaping (2005) at Guild & Greyshkul, New York; View From Thanatopsis, at Museum 52, London; and the 12×12 Room at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Her work has been exhibited in group shows at venues in New York including, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Artists Space, White Columns, and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center. Upcoming exhibitions include New York Minute curated by Kathy Grayson at the Depart Foundation, Rome, and Portugal Arte 09, Lisbon. Hegarty received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2002, and is currently represented by Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York, and Museum 52, London.


Jessica Labatte

Jessica Labatte’s photographs address aesthetics, value, and meaning making within contemporary everyday environments. The Chicago-based artist’s work examines the genre of the still life through the precise placement of the discarded, excessive material objects of late capitalism. In Untitled (Pomegranate Photogram), 2008, natural objects are paired with items of synthetic production. A photogram print leans against a wall with a pomegranate and pile of rocks pulling the eye to the foreground of the artwork. The combination of specific objects chosen to have ambiguous relationships with each other encourages the viewer to participate in the meaning making process of the artwork.

Labatte is a recent MFA graduate of the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Her work has been exhibited at numerous venues including Scott Projects, Chicago; Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, Chicago; and Plane Space, New York. Upcoming projects include a show exhibition at Golden Gallery, Chicago.


Nichole van Beek

Nichole van Beek is a New York-based artist who creates sculptures, installations, and paintings that bring together natural elements with pop culture references. Her artwork on display in Antler Necklace consists of a mixed-media installation of fanciful tools. Their construction materials include driftwood, used tape rolls, yarn, and handlebar grip-tape. They are displayed on the wall in a faux-archaeological-museum categorization of work. This clinical view of the sculptural artifacts adds to the humor of their hodgepodge construction.

Van Beek has been shown at galleries including, On Stellar Rays, New York; Geoffrey Young Gallery; Great Barrington, Mass.; Jeff Bailey Gallery, New York; Guild and Greyshkul, New York; Museum 52, New York; Gallery 1927, Los Angeles; and White Flag Projects. St. Louis, Mo. Her work has been exhibited in museums in California including the UCR/California Museum of Photography, Riverside; UCSB University Art Museum, Santa Barbara; and Cal-Poly Art Museum, San Luis Obispo. She received her MFA from the University of California Santa Barbara in 2007 and her BFA from the Cooper Union, New York, in 1998.


Erika Somogyi

New York-based artist Erika Somogyi’s paintings and drawings contain a rainbow and creamsicle color pallet that combine bursts of light with dense foliage. Her watercolor and collage piece Primitive Vision, 2007 layers the images of a burning forest with the silhouette of a parent and child walking into a bright light. The piece is about both birth and death, depicting the creation of the world while simultaneously portraying its destruction.

Somogyi received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1999. Her previous solo exhibitions include Violet Dawn Love Song at Monya Rowe Gallery, New York and Natures Rituals and Mistaken Identities in the Project Room at Rocket Projects, Miami, Fla. Her artwork has also been shown at galleries including, Mountain Fold Gallery, New York; 404 Gallery, Napoli, Italy; Space 1026, Philadelphia, Pa.; V1 Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark; Current Space, Baltimore, Md.; and Jack Hanley Gallery, San Francisco, Calif. A wearable piece of art created by Somogyi was recently included in Fall Collection a runway show performance at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Queens, as part of the NY Art Book Fair.