Thursday, January 08, 2015

In Praise of Oisin Kelly

Oisin Kelly (1915-1981) has become something of a hero of mine
He put so much life into his sculptures -- and not just his own.

That distinguishes him from both the conceptualists and the self-expressionists,
 the two dominant varieties of contemporary art.

Apparently, he did not specialize as an animalier --
but look at that hawk he did!
He has captured its wild spirit.

Here's the piece that made him famous -  "The Children of Lir" in the national Garden of Remembrance in Dublin.

That mythic story  only tangentially relates to the centuries long struggle for Irish independence. The four children of Lir were magically transformed into swans by an evil step-mother - and it took 900 years before they were transformed back into humans.

Apparently, some people protested that the story was too pagan for a Christian country.  While I might note that the children all died as soon as they became human again, allowing mortality to catch up with them.  But I'd also have to note that many countries are predominantly Christian, while only Ireland has the tales of the Tuatha Dé Danann

With this piece, done at the age of 51,
Kelly was finally recognized as a sculptor,
Up to that point, he had worked as a school teacher.

He only made a few more monuments in the remaining 15 years of life.
 Above is a wonderfully expressive portrait of a pioneering labor union organizer.

He looks like a great man - but also like something of a goon and  blow-hard.

 So it's a conjunction of reality and idealism ---
making it feel both believable and important.

What could  be  more important than the depiction of a mythic bard?

Here's a monument to the  ordinary -- two working men gazing up into the sky with wonder.

God knows who commissioned it -- or why.

 But I sure wish my blue-collar suburb, Forest Park Illinois,   had this kind of public statuary.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt has been Chicago's premier public sculptor since the days of Albin Polasek - and maybe even back to Laredo Taft.

The piece I see most often is "We Will", pictured above,  located  on Randolph St., just outside the Cultural Center.  And I hate it.  It exemplifies urban clutter.

But last month, I found this on display at the Smart Museum, and really liked it - as a defiant, joyful self expression - asserting something like "Here comes a creative person"

It was done about 50 years earlier - and fits a coffee table instead of a city street.

Egon Weiner

Egon Weiner

And I've had Richard Hunt on my mind ever since I saw him in a video paying tribute to one of his teachers at the Art Institute, Egon Weiner, who had an exhibit earlier this year.

It does appear that Weiner's flame-like sense of form has lived on in the work of his student

But still -- I wasn't really expecting the incredible proliferation of ecstatic shapes that are now found in the retrospective at the Cultural Center.

Jo's Apotheosis, 2014

Was this wildly playful confection really made this year by an 80 year old man ?


I'd like to see this piece on permanent display somewhere.

Flightform, 1958

A few things might be said about these works:

*they are figurative in gesture, if not anatomical detail

*they are brash and assertive - but also feel vulnerable

*they are each  a "song of myself" - like a virtuosic, extended solo in dance or music.

Caryatids, 1974

Rake, 1986


Linear Construction, 1956


Study for "Play", 1967


Hybrid Form, 1977

Hybrid Muse, 1985

Jupiter, 1990

Family Tree

Changed Game

alternative model for "We Will"



Friday, November 28, 2014

Contemporary Citizens - 15th & West


"Contemporary Citizens" -- also called "12 Chicago" --   was a one-night show that seemed to be more for artists than collectors, like the "Meeting of Styles" that periodically gathers together the graffiti community. It took place on the near west side, in a warehouse   owned by artist/collector/art-mover Ronald Montanez, and it drew  artists from the nearby neighborhoods to the south and east.

Sergio Gomez and Mario Gonzalez Jr.

Several pieces were collaborations between Sergio Gomez, an artist, curator, and gallerist associated with the Zhao B Center-- and Mario Gonzales Jr, also known as Zore, a well traveled graffiti master, whom I once wrote about here


Lately, Zore's  paintings have gotten almost too dark to read.  On the other hand, Sergio Gomez usually gives his upbeat, figurative paintings an intense, inner glow. Maybe too intense.

Which makes for a very enjoyable collaboration between these two extremes.
 Ish Muhammad Nieves

Here's another artist who has taken graffiti from the urban landscape to the gallery wall.


Like many artists, and almost all poets, he has another career (power plant engineer). But that does not seem to have detracted from a single minded devotion to visuality.

I don't know whether he's Muslim, but this piece is definitely in the great tradition of Islamic art as it presents the wonders of existence without specific reference to anything that exists.
Olga Knopf (Rybchenko)

This fiery landscape  demonstrates how much a traditional Russian studio artist has  in common with the Latin street artists in the same show.

Olga Knopf runs a large art restoration business with her husband, who, coincidentally, is the son of this noted Russian painter  who spent his final years at the Palette and Chisel in Chicago.

Hopefully, the wall full of pieces in this exhibit announces her return to making paintings.

Sally Ko
This one feels like an orchid, doesn't it ? 
 "here is something beautiful" rather than "here is my struggle"
 A nice complement to the rest of the show.
 Sally Ko
 Reminds me of ice on a window during an arctic vortex.
 Very comforting and relaxing.
Sally Ko
 Chuck Walker

I met this artist's muse last month at the Palette and Chisel - and she lets me know whenever his work goes on display.  Because I like it -- and have written about it here

His figures are statuesque - a quality which disappeared from American painting at mid century.

Though his figures do often emerge from a dark, dingy, and somewhat depressing world.

He seems so comfortable with depicting figures in space, I had assumed  that he had spent a lot of time drawing from life -  but Chuck set me straight on this matter: he mostly draws from imagination.
Chuck Walker
This is the closest I've seen him come to an Impressionist's celebration of light and the world seen.
  Mostly, his world is inner not outer.
 This is a girl of his dreams, and probably she vanishes as soon as he reaches for that bare midriff.
 Chuck Walker
 Chuck Walker
 Chuck brought many large canvases to this show, and there wasn't enough room to hang them all.  So this one sat on the floor outside the display area.
The clouds feel full of opportunity but the dark splotch in the water seems to threaten despair. But I'm not sure how it would feel when hung up on a wall
 Wesley Kimler

Kimler seems to be living in a brutal, horrific world that's about to get even worse.
He could be making street art in Baghdad.
So he can be credited for honesty - but disparaged for hopelessness.