With what he says is his final museum bow, Fitzpatrick shines a
light on the colorful diversity that composes his city.
by Elisa Shoenberger
Tony Fitzpatrick, "Humboldt Park Prayer to Miles Davis (Kind
of Blue)" (2021) (all photos by the author)
GLEN ELLYN, IL — In the past year, many people
have sought solace in nature. It comes as no surprise that an artist would be
among those who looked to nature for comfort during the difficult days of the
pandemic. Tony Fitzpatrick, a world-renowned Chicago artist, found peace in the
birds and other animals in Chicago’s Humboldt Park during COVID-19. He turned
that tranquility into 29 new collages in his current museum show, Jesus of
Western Avenue, at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art in DuPage County, near
Chicago. The show was initially slated to open in the fall of 2020 but it was
pushed back a full year due to the pandemic. In that time, the planned 60 artworks
in the show grew to 90, including works he made in the past year, as well as
additional loans that the museum received.
Most of the pieces are composed of a central image of an animal
with a halo around its head surrounded by cut-out images and words. A border
collaged from various print materials wraps around the image. The collaged
pieces include, among other things, old matchbox covers and claim tickets. One
section of the show features 25 bird collages clustered together with two
larger collages of birds on adjacent walls. These collages works are the emotional core of the entire show.
But Fitzpatrick’s works are more than just portraits of beautiful
birds. In a Window To The World (WTTW) interview, Cleve Carney Museum of Art
curator Justin Witte said, “His works are very layered collage pieces, and that
layering contains a lot of different elements that replicate the layering you
experience in the city — the different cultures, the sounds, the snippets of
poetry and language.”
These images extend beyond the city, though. Fitzpatrick is also
layering experiences of nature — the variety of plant life, the rich
biodiversity of birds, especially during migration seasons. Here, nature and
city life overlap. Hawks nest and hunt in Chicago’s crowded city center;
coyotes wander the green spaces at night.
For instance, “Humboldt Park Bird of Night and Blood and Sun”
(2020) portrays a black bird with a red crest, surrounded by oval portraits of
saints, everyday people, flowers, stars, crossword puzzle boxes, and lines of a
poem. In the top right corner is a matchbook for the “World Famous Minsky’s,”
referring to Minsky’s Burlesque. Within one picture, Fitzpatrick brings
together nature and culture, the spiritual and the Rabelaisian.
Another work, “Humboldt Park Prayer to Miles
Davis (Kind of Blue)” (2021), features 10 blue birds of different species
seemingly connected by tree branches that emanate from a multicolored circle in
the center. The piece directly pays homage to Miles Davis’s 1959 album Kind of
Blue, but also seems to embody Davis’s work, the blue birds reflecting the
album title and the juxtaposition of different images echoing notes and
melodies in a jazz piece.
Several alligators appear in the show as well.
In 2019 an alligator was found swimming in the lagoon in Humboldt Park, near
the artist’s studio. It’s unlikely that the alligators are in the artworks by
coincidence; more likely, Fitzpatrick is reminding viewers that the division
between human and animal worlds is not as clear cut as we like to think.
But Fitzpatrick works to connect all of these
creatures to the Divine, as the show’s title, Jesus of Western Avenue,
indicates. The halos on the animals suggest that these are divine beings,
worthy of our attention and adoration. He also wrote a poem to correspond to
the collection, “The Apostles of Humboldt Park (I, Apostle),” which can be
accessed via QR code or in the recently published book by the same name.
Among the exhibition’s most powerful pieces is
“Holy Ghost of Western Avenue #3 (He Eats the Sins of Humboldt Park)” (2021),
which depicts a vulture with a black body and red head. On his body are several
constellations, such as Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia, and Lynx. With this gesture,
the artist takes this humble, often derided creature, and brings the stars onto
his very feathers. It brings to mind William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence”:
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower.”
Many other animals, both real and imaginary,
populate the exhibition, but those that feature the birds most clearly and
effectively bring forth these multilayered connections. It is worth visiting
the show just to see them.
It’s also the artist’s last museum show and
that is another reason to see it. In the WTTW interview, Fitzpatrick explained,
“I think it’s time for people who look like me to get out of the way and create
some institutional wall space for people who’ve not had a light shined on
them.” With his final
museum bow, he’s shining a light on the colorful diversity that composes his
EXPOSICIÓN EL GUSTO FRANCÉS EN FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE DE MADRID, PRÓXIMAMENTE
Un proyecto transversal como es «El gusto francés», que abarca un período histórico tan extenso, no puede ser comprendido sin su contexto histórico. En este sentido, la muestra aborda también aspectos que hacen visible dicha evolución, como las relaciones diplomáticas, la historia del coleccionismo o la construcción de las identidades nacionales.
A través de numerosas pinturas (45), dibujos (16), esculturas (8), piezas de artes suntuarias y decorativas (31) y objetos de uso cotidiano, la exposición pretende adentrarse en la evolución del gusto francés en nuestro país, hasta el momento solo estudiado de forma puntual.
Este proyecto es el resultado de una profunda labor de investigación, que ha permitido sacar a la luz obras que hasta ahora se daban por desaparecidas, realizar nuevas atribuciones y restaurar un buen número de las piezas presentadas. La exposición cuenta con el apoyo de importantes instituciones españolas como la Biblioteca Nacional de España, el Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, el Museo Nacional del Prado, el Museo Nacional Thyssen Bornemisza, el Museo del Romanticismo, el Museo de Artes Decorativas o Patrimonio Nacional, así como de destacadas colecciones particulares, cuyas obras se presentan por primera vez en una muestra.
Comisaria: Amaya Alzaga