White out

The only snow missing from the current Renaissance Society exhibit, Forecast: Snow, is the cold, wet, and real kind. Knowing Chicago weather, it’s probably not far behind. In the meantime, synthetic white stuff blankets a small forest of genuine pine trees in the Renaissance Society’s galleries on Cobb Hall’s fourth floor. In one corner a bulbous, outsized snowman smiles beatifically from atop a pair of skis; how his boots and bindings are attached is a mystery. Highly magnified snow crystals float overhead (in two-dimensional drawings) and dot the gallery floor (in three-dimensional acrylic and plaster sculptures). What appears to be a vast baked Alaska turns out, on closer inspection, to include a collection of Tic-Tac–sized buildings along one edge—and to be, in fact, a sculpture of the Swiss Alps at St. Moritz, complete with village and ski lifts to the nearest peaks.

These are some of the sights to be found in Japanese artist Yutaka Sone’s show, which transforms the Renaissance Society into a temperate winter wonderland through April 9. As a whole, the exhibit provokes a child’s sense of discovery on waking to find the world transformed the morning after a snowfall. The placement of the trees creates winding paths and hidden spaces. Sone veers between scales, zooming in on individual snowflakes and panning out on a ski lift and entire resort. Single snow crystals are revealed as evanescent natural sculptures; snowmen and snowballs trigger nostalgia; and heaps of snow form the settings for upscale vacationing. Whether visitors approach Sone’s work reflectively—pondering the connections between all these themes—or as pure recreation, odds are they’ll leave with a plastic flake or two clinging to a hem or a cuff, a reminder of a winter idyll.

Laura Demanski, AM’94

collection of snowflakes_thumb.jpg marble ski lift detail_thumb.jpg st moritz installation view_thumb.jpg

Photos (left to right): Faux snowflakes abound in the gallery; detail from a marble ski lift; the peaks of the St. Moritz installation.

Photos courtesy the Renaissance Society.

February 20, 2006