Posted by Andrew Hayward August 06, 2012

On Friday, Chicago's Rotofugi designer toy store and gallery opened a pair of simultaneous shows: Amanda Visell's Tough Enough, which features 15 paintings of varying sizes on board or wood, and Michelle Valigura's Bandimals, which spotlights 10 ceramic sculptures. Both Visell and Valigura were in attendance for the debut night of the accompanying shows, which run through September 2 at the 2780 N Lincoln Ave. location, and we ducked in at the start to check out what was on display and pass along these photos.

Set against the sparse white backdrop of the gallery walls, even Visell's smallest physical pieces -- some as small as 2.75" x 3" -- commanded attention, with varied subjects including a painting of the McDonaldland police burger Officer Big Mac accompanied by the phrase "I'm full of special sauce," as well as a ferocious shark quipping, "I should have written that book." But the standout piece of Tough Enough is "Mr. T is a Unicorn," a 36" x 24" acrylic painting on wood panel that depicts the famed actor/caricature flexing his muscles while wearing chains depicting the titular fictional beast, while the borders and background also feature representations of the animal. While many of Visell's pieces have already been sold, it's one of a handful still available through Rotofugi's website.

Meanwhile, the 10 ceramic sculptures that make up Valigura's Bandimals show tremendous whimsy and continuity between pieces, with each depicting an animal either playing a musical instrument or bearing visual hallmarks of music and rhythm. For example, the beautiful turquoise-hued peacock wields a triangle and the smiling chicken wields accordion; in contrast, however, the ram's back is made up of xylophone keys, an owl is dressed up as a bandleader, and the large elephant has note charts inscribed on its square back. Many of Valigura's pieces for the show are still available via the gallery page.

Despite the differences in primary medium, the exhibits share some similar design elements and complement each other well, but still certainly provide enough of a contrast to make these complementary shows feel highly distinct, and equally deserving of the spotlight. Rotofugi is open seven days a week from 11am-7pm, and the exhibit runs for nearly four more weeks, so if you're local to the Chicago area, be sure to drop in to take in the sights.


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