Friday January 29th, 2021


January 29th - March 7th

With work by: Eli Merritt and Roland Santana

Click here to watch the Mutations Virtual Artist Talk

Chicago artists, Eli Merritt & Roland Santana come together for ‘Mutations’. This exhibition seeks to explore the ever-evolving understanding of human interaction and perception of an environment. Their presentation of both two and three-dimensional works mediate a middle ground, inviting the viewer to wander in a place where the lines between mediums are blurred. Marks bounce around the canvases and onto the floor where they conglomerate to form hybrid objects.

Merritt's sculptures propose a world where nature and industrialism collide to create singular forms. Santana's minimalist paintings give a perspective to colors that surround us in contemporary living. This grouping of works by Merritt and Santana provide an opportunity to reflect on material as their instincts guide the way for these necessary object mutations.

Eli Merritt is a sculptor living and working in Chicago, IL. Using wood integrated with found objects, he constructs large, laminated objects that are then transformed into organic, fluid entities. His process involves merging opposing elements to create a single form. Underlying each piece is the desire to imply a meaningful, unified existence to inanimate matter, giving the objects permission to partake in an afterlife. His work questions the relationships between function and dysfunction, regard and disregard, want and waste. Merritt sources both materials and inspiration from junk yards and wood mills, as he looks to the anatomy and design of the large-scale machinery used on site.

Though he has been making and building things since childhood, Merritt's path to becoming a sculptor began after high school when he isolated himself for one year in a studio space in the small town of West Stockbridge, MA. With no phone or internet and little communication with the outside world, he spent his days experimenting with materials and making sculptures. It was this disconnection from the virtual world, along with solitary time and space, that he discovered his love for tactility and working with his hands. The body of work he created during this period led to representation by a gallery in Hudson, New York and, not long after, admission to SAIC's undergraduate program. Art school provided Merritt with an opportunity to refine his skills, push forth new ideas, and collaborate with colleagues and esteemed faculty members.

After graduating, he realized that he wanted to establish a community whereby he could help people achieve their creative goals. In 2019, Merritt opened The Chicago Makerspace, a fully-equipped, community-style workshop and individual studio spaces that serve and support artists and makers of all kinds.

Roland Santana born May 11, 1995 in Virginia. Immigrating from Guatemala and Bolivia, Santana’s parents
exposed him to painting in a non-creative way while working in his father’s construction company in his early teen years. During the recession of 2008, him and his father would remove objects and furniture from foreclosed homes, then clean and paint the walls white, leaving no trace of its inhabitants. This was an emotional process for Santana but also gave him an awakening of value for material and life. Painting almost five houses a day, Santana began to realize the marks and stains, capturing movements of families who would live in the home prior to cleaning. Working with his father he learned the importance of aesthetics and functionality, but he felt there was much more to explore. He decided to pursue a more artistic practice and came to study at Columbia College Chicago in 2014.

Upon moving to Chicago he was surrounded by creatives from all different realms: musicians, filmmakers, photographers, street artists, all were great influences. The community Santana found himself in allowed him to gain knowledge of the different methods of painting, and to find support in the local industry. Through Santana’s paintings, drawings, and mixed media artworks, we are taken on deconstructed journeys. American landscapes, personal life events and celestial imagery are composed through Santana’s ‘micro-collisions’ of marks and mediums. The vast openness of the canvas gives the viewer a chance to see the paintings as a much bigger part of the surrounding space, colors are transforming, transmuting, unlocking the passage of reality to a dream world. The minimal contents of his work makes us question if what Santana makes are paintings at all, it is puzzling and unusual. Roland Santana is a rainbow ranging from electric lime green to melancholic shades of purple and pink. He is luminous and dark simultaneously.

Today Roland Santana has gained the likes of several galleries and collectors and has participated in showcases in spaces such as Baby Blue Gallery, AMFM, Mana Contemporary, Chicago Art Department, Workshop 4200, Heaven Gallery, Chuquimarca Projects and more. In 2020 he was featured on NADA: Chicago Gallery Open through a solo-exhibition with Baby Blue Gallery. He has also worked alongside object and design shop Comercio Popular for his first solo-exhibition in collaboration with Don Julio. Roland Santana currently lives and works in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago.