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VISUAL ARTS — The Sign Project 

click to enlarge That can\'t be good.
  • That can\'t be good.

Every day, we look at plenty of things that we don’t really see.

It’s a mind-bender of an idea, but it is precisely the inspiration for Jim Kolva’s November exhibit; and it’s hardly as art school-y as it sounds. The 18 pieces in his show, called “The Sign Project,” all have one thing in common: they’re all photos of street signs in their natural habitats — busy intersections, bustling town squares, on roadsides and near historical monuments.

In Kolva’s recent travels through Russia and the Baltics this past spring, he was struck by some of the “mundane street signs” there. They were probably no different than the yellow cautionary signs that dot America’s urban landscape, but they caught Kolva’s foreign eye.

Kolva — who owns Kolva-Sullivan Gallery and works by day as an urban planner — says the juxtaposition of how urban landscapes intermingle with historical art piqued his interest. “I’m kind of using buildings as the backgrounds,” he says. “I just started looking at the signs and focusing on them as my key point of interest.”

In one photo, a church juts into a blue sky — crosses and saints looming. And in the foreground, in clear focus, a bright yellow sign reads “Wypadki” — “accidents” in Polish — and shows a small stick figure being propelled into the air by a moving car. A triangle sign hangs above it boasting a single black exclamation point.

The project seems to be an examination of the conflicting symbols we see each day, and perhaps, asks us to pay a little closer attention to what’s around us.

“You see things every day but sometimes it takes the vision or the idea of another person to put it into a different light,” Kolva says. “That’s kind of what this is about: about seeing a sign and seeing it in a different way than you would normally see it.”

“The Sign Project” featuring photos by Jim Kolva • On display from Fri, Nov. 2 through Fri, Nov. 30 • Artist reception: Fri, Nov. 2 from 5-9 pm • Open Wednesday-Friday, noon to 5:30 pm or by appointment • Kolva-Sullivan Gallery • 115 S. Adams St. • 448-5517

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