Ann Toebbe, Swing State


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In September and October 2019, The Gallery at Heimbold Visual Arts Center proudly presented Swing State, a solo exhibition by artist Ann Toebbe.

Ann Toebbe draws from memories and personal archives to map out intricate interior spaces that act as portraits of family and friends. The process of recreating these domestic interiors is meticulous: Toebbe loosely sketches the space, outlines the architecture then layers details in multiple mediums. Inspired by the use of perspective in Indian miniatures, Toebbe uses gouache and pencil on wood panels to construct her interiors playing with the question: How much of our lives, past and present, have we imbued in the spaces we live in? 

In Swing State, Toebbe takes a personal look at this question from capturing her relatives’ midwestern homes to her mother’s collection of German Hummels. Swing states are in constant flux, which is a feeling Toebbe relates to as she enters the middle of her life. Where do we go from here and where have we been? 

Family Room (Artist) is a condensed portrait of Toebbe’s Chicago family room specifically referencing the flat compositional divisions in Indian Miniature painting. At the top of the painting, the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan sit on top of an almost-bird’s eye view of Toebbe’s family room. Many objects, like the television, are flat, which gives the work multiple perspectives. The bottom third depicts Toebbe’s urban garden. Although the spaces are separate, the use of patterns blends them together. Family Room feels like a memory just as much as a detailed archive.

In the sculpture Margie’s Hummels, Toebbe explores her mother’s fascination with kitsch and its relationship to her cultural roots. Although kitschy-ness is often associated with clutter, Toebbe has taken the Hummels out of that context. The flat glass sculptures are displayed alter-like in oversized versions of the wooden cabinet and plinths in Toebbe’s childhood bedroom. The Hummels look like they’ve been pulled from one of Toebbe’s paintings because of their simplicity and flatness. In the catalog essay Dana Bassett states, “If we are lucky, we are told, we make it to retirement, the glorious trophy at the end of the slog. But what about that slog?” This is a moment of slog in Toebbe’s life; a deceptively still moment saturated with movement.

Ann Toebbe (b. 1974, Cincinnati, Ohio) received her BFA in sculpture from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1997. She earned an MFA in painting from Yale University in 2004 and a DAAD Scholarship to the Universität der Kunst, Berlin in 2004-05. She has been the recipient of numerous grants including a Jacob K. Javits Foundation Grant, Pollock Krasner Foundation Grants in 2005 and 2015, a Sustainable Arts Foundation Grant in 2015, and a Chicago Dcase and IL Council for The Arts Grant in 2017. She was a 2017 AiR at Pilchuck School of Glass and fellow at the Vermont Studio Center in 2018. Recent exhibitions include Friends and Rentals at Tibor de Nagy Gallery and Home Work at Zevitas Marcus Gallery. An edition is forthcoming with Spudnik Press, Chicago (2020) and group exhibitions at The Nassau County Museum of Art (Nov. 2019) and Children’s Art Museum in lower Manhattan (Dec. 2019.) She is represented by Tibor de Nagy in NYC, Steven Zevitas in Boston and Zevitas Marcus in LA. Toebbe lives in Chicago.