Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Marion Kryczka at the Chicago Cultural Center

Marion Kryczka: Recent Paintings – Chicago Cultural Center, through July 3

(text in color was edited out of Newcity version)

Marion Kryczka’s well made, highly ordered, masculine vision of reality may fit the blue collar streets of Chicago, but he’s been peripheral to the contemporary artworld, unrepresented by galleries and remaining an adjunct associate professor at the School of the Art Institute for 30 years. Kryczka’s work also 1acks either the photo finish and sentimentality, or the anger and ugly distortions that other corners of the artworld might appreciate, and he’s not even goofy, damaged, or unsophisticated enough to qualify as an outsider.

As critic, G. Jurek Polanski, wrote about the 1999 exhibit in the Fine Arts Building, “The variety of pieces tell a story, one in which each work, while complete in itself, is placed to build a context with its companions and comprehensively reveal the artist's personality.” And the same is true today, although the story is changing, as the artist mellows into his sixties. The still-lifes include the same dead fish, sharp knives, and bottles of alcohol on low-rent kitchen counters that he’s been painting for decades. But the light feels less harsh, the whiskey has been replaced by wine, and fish seem almost happy to be offering their tender, pink, slaughtered flesh. The vanitas theme is still explored with various kinds of skull, but now the shelves are cluttered with more of the stuff that he’s been accumulating in his life.

There are also some genres that weren’t there 12 years ago. Two magnificent winter cityscapes of his north side neighborhood tout Chicago as an energetic, seasoned, comfortable metropolis. Most remarkable are three views of the Donald Judd sculpture park in rural Texas. Judd’s minimalist stainless steel cubes are the cold, hard face of the industrial world. But set into a bright, sunlit gallery, Kryczka has co-opted the reflective surfaces of sculpture to meditate on beautiful impermanence, just as Monet did with Rouen Cathedral.. As with every painting in this exhibit, every brush stroke and patch of color not only defines a recognizable piece of reality, it also participates in the dynamics of a very tight design. And there are no people. It’s just the man behind the paintbrush and the quiet world in which he lives.

Art theory has not respected regionalism for more than 60 years. But if our local encyclopedic museum ever devotes a gallery to Chicago, it’s my guess that Marion Krycyza’s work will be there. Not because it reflects the trends of Chicago art (it doesn’t), but because it reflects so many lives that have been built here..

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