2007, December 13, Timeout Chicago, By Alicia Eler
Columbia College Chicago City Gallery, through Feb 3. A man wearing a penitentiary-orange jumpsuit lurks around a corner, another sits defeated in an office, and yet another roams the Thompson Center in the Loop.
Belgium-born, Chicago-based photographer Pieter Ombregt’s performative self-portraits reflect a sense of utter isolation. In one image, a man stands on a water-bound chunk of snow, alone with his thoughts and gazing out at the crisp, blue horizon. In another photograph, bulbous pipes and metal walkways surround him. Light drips in from a back window, casting a crisscross pattern of shadows. Barefoot and clothed in only his orange jumpsuit, it appears that Ombregt’s character could survive for days—even weeks—without any human contact.
In the most compositionally tight photograph here, we find Ombregt standing on top of a slightly elevated cement plane. Behind him, a horizontal black wall merges with a vertical wall of bricks, creating a small rectangular window of blue sky and fluffy white clouds in the upper left-hand corner. It’s the only glimpse of color in this cold, lifeless space. Weaker images show us places we are familiar with— like the Chicago Cultural Center—making the whole “isolation in urban spaces” concept a little too obvious.
However, the majority of Ombregt’s photographs work, capturing what appears to be the last man on Earth, silently—and solemnly— existing. Though Ombregt, 27, died earlier this year in a cycling race, his photographs remain and speak to an ongoing sense of loneliness in today’s fast-paced world.