Critic’s Pick: Abigail DeVille at Iceberg Projects /

Abigail DeVille, XXXXXXX, 2013, reclaimed lumber, accumulated debris, plastic tarps, tar paper, dirt, sand from Lake Michigan, skeleton, dimensions variable.

Abigail DeVille

7714 N Sheridan Road
April 13–June 1, 2013

If “X” marks the spot, and three Xs mean “poison, do not drink,” the seven Xs that make up the title of Abigail DeVille’s exhibition suggest a marking of double the poison, plus one drop for location. The socioeconomics of place are at the heart of DeVille’s site-specific detritus installations, which act as land art for the twenty-first century. In this installation at the intimate gallery on the far north side of Rogers Park, DeVille collects the remains from a disemboweled foreclosed home, and reinstalls them inside four white walls. Salvaged items include discarded wooden beams, a velvet-covered chair with broken legs, a loose, hanging doorknob lacking a door, and a collage of ripped-up black garbage bags. Installed in the shape of a circular maze, her work is like an inverse, small-scale Spiral Jetty, made of trash instead of earth and wrapped into a clean white space that induces claustrophobia rather than evoking the magnificence of sprawling nature. Walking through the path paved by broken strips of wood—navigating from margin to center—viewers narrowly avoid loose nails, trudge over sawdust gatherings, and traverse constantly cracking floorboards. A garbage-bag sky is punctured with slits and holes that create stars for this shanty-like enclosure. Apart from a single skeleton embedded in dirt, no traces of humanity, not a single discarded hairbrush or a loose doll head, ever exist in DeVille’s site-specific installations. Instead, these raw materials outline the social failings of cities and their propensity to displace inhabitants. The chaotic, overflowing space of excess is born from urban decay, and will one day end up back in the earth, with our own remains.

—Alicia Eler

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