Cooler by the Lake
Tibor de Nagy Gallery
December 11, 2021 - January 27, 2022
|Cooler by the Lake is set in Ann Toebbe’s Southside Chicago neighborhood, Hyde Park and the title refers to how local news stations report on the weather. As with Toebbe’s previous bodies of work, the paintings in this exhibition stem from a very personal place. Toebbe has lived in Hyde Park for sixteen years with her husband, working and raising her two daughters and stepson. Toebbe’s paintings explore the people and the places, the culture and the climate that are woven into her daily routine as a working artist and mother — home, garden, and studio; grocery store, bakery, park, and local school. Her compositionally dense vignettes capture the sensory impressions and memory layers accumulated in hours and days spent in Hyde Park, especially when her children were younger, and the realization that this is the neighborhood her children know as home and where Toebbe and her husband will grow old.
The painting Northside Southside (pictured above) anchors the series with a romantic projection of Toebbe’s condominium community, East View Park, a cluster of 1920s brownstones just a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan. The artist’s studio, situated in a garden-apartment studio, looms over the picturesque lakefront park near their home, Promontory Point, marking a thematic divide: Northside, slate gray-green and churned up by the wind, and Southside, blue, undulating, and calm. Northside and Southside wryly symbolize both Toebbe’s state of mind and the deep-lying geographical, cultural, and racial divisions of Chicago’s neighborhoods.
The historical and cultural undercurrents that define Hyde Park play through Toebbe’s paintings in patterns and subtle details. Obama’s House offers a simple street view of the former president’s long-empty but closely-guarded residence on the border of Hyde Park’s upscale enclave, Kenwood; seen from the dividing street, Hyde Park Boulevard, the famous home is intentionally hidden by a clump of overgrown evergreens, a symbol of pride and a bittersweet reminder of his presidency. Toebbe’s work explores details that hide as much as they reveal – the old men in the corner of the cafe, the feral critters inhabiting the backyard alley, the crowded reading rug of a kindergarten classroom.