Art Letter


With the Art fairs that just ended you'd think there wasn't much going on in Chicago this weekend. Well, there's not many things, but there are 2 big things.

Tony Fitzpatrick hasn't shown in Chicago for quite some time, which doesn't mean he's been laying low. He's just finished the last drawing/collage for the 3rd volume of The Wonder - Portraits of a Remembered City which opens tonight (Thursday - 6 to 8 PM, upstairs) at the Chicago Cultural Center which reflects on the Chicago Fitzpatrick remembers with and through his father, a rougher, more visceral city that grew up to what we have today. If we can't remember the antecedents we can at least feel them in Tony's art which typically combines a central figure of his creation with a slew of artifacts from years gone by.

It is the combination of real and fictive that facilitates the works' impact.  No one since
Nelson Algren has Chicago pulsing through his veins like Fitzpatrick.  He sees beneath the sometimes pretty skin the rest of us see and sees a richer beauty and uglier truth.  Tony Fitzpatrick is our guide to our home, introducing us to what we know is there but prefer to gloss over or lack the trained eye or trained mind to perceive.

Tony is a friend and shaman. It is not that his ideas or perceptions are mystical. It is that they resonate with the basicness of human truth.  I know no other artist as good at making his career a success as Tony. Look at the difference in tonight's reception and ever other one you've attended: a nice announcement card - standard. And then all the rest:  A poster, 3 books, free beer, free food.
2 pages of editorial in the Sun-Times and the network of friends and supporters who will show up in force. Then extrapolate from that experience - especially if you are an artist - to your own career.  There's a lot to learn.

Walsh Gallery is opening a good exhibit of paintings by Li Lin Lee - a Chicago painter whose work I've been following for about 20 years. Indonesian, raised in Chicago, these are fairly philosophical meditative exercises which for me question the relationship of the self to society and the self alone. I respect the work by am equally intrigued by the occasional similarity to Yinka Shonibare's paintings (not sculpture) and how culturally different I assume their stimuli to be. And I'm fascinated by the poetry of Lee's brother, Li-Young Lee.  All these parallels and dichotomies enrich the work for me, and its strong already.

Looptopia is back - this Friday night, from 5 PM to dawn in Chicago's Loop. Lots of art and "art;" dance, music, theater, and visual art. From the Art Institute to the Goodman Theater.  From Sears to the Chicago Cultural Center.  Art saturates the Loop. Admission is free everywhere.  All night long.

As I am sure you can imagine, I spent quite a bit of time every day at the Mart's art fairs. I particularly enjoyed the NEXT Fair where I found fun, engaging art without the pretentiousness I so frequently find at art fairs.  A lot of dealer and collector friends were at ArtChicago where less cutting edge art ruled.  The Artist project could have been so much better. It was crammed with mediocrity.  Lost potential - so severely screwed up I hear the show has been canceled for next year. And the Antiques Show and Intuit just don't belong.  I'm glad the shows were here. It was good. It could have been great.  I doubt it will ever get there.

Paul Klein