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At The Cultural Center | George C. Clark's Portraits Real And Imaginary

The Chicago Cultural Center celebrates the work of a long-time local artist with a solo exhibition titled PORTRAITS REAL AND IMAGINARY BY GEORGE C. CLARK.

The exhibition will be on display from December 16, 2016 to February 10, 2017 in the Renaissance Court Gallery at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington Street.

"I have always been fascinated by drawing and painting people from life," says George C. Clark.

This exhibition presents several decades of portraits, some of which are straight reportage, some of which depict models or actors creating personas other than their own, and still others shaped by Clark's imagination or fantasies, works executed as traditional oil or acrylic paintings, big crayon drawings on toned paper, pencil drawings, ink drawings, and ink and watercolor paintings.

There will be portraits of artists, because artists draw each other when the model doesn't show up, and of artists making art.

There will be unusual self-portraits, and images of people in the performing arts: dancers, actors and musicians.

There will be drawings of Academy Award winner Michael Shannon as some of the characters he portrayed on Chicago stages as a young actor.

There will be puppeteers with their puppets, and portraits of puppets and marionettes the artist found in various folk art and toy museums.

There will be characters from history and literature and legend, some portrayed by models, some based on old photos or films or art, and some made up from the artist's imagination.

BIO: After graduating with honors from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, George C. Clark began a long career in commercial art in ad agencies in the Mad Men days of the 1960s, a career interrupted by being drafted in 1968.

He spent 13 months in combat at a 130-man heavy artillery base up near the Cambodian border in Vietnam.

"I lucked into the only combat job the Army had that I would have been any good at," says Clark, "and I wound up a sergeant-grade crew chief in the battery's fire direction center. I learned the war was unwinnable the first month I was there."

You can find out about his wartime experiences on his Vietnam memoir blog at

Back in the real world he continued his career doing graphics and TV storyboards for national advertising accounts, designing and illustrating child-oriented hobbycraft kits for a major manufacturer (sometimes drawing Disney and Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters under license), and for 12 years in the 1990s creating cartoon puzzles, mazes, and paper sculpture projects that ran on the "Spots" page of the Chicago Tribune Sunday color comics.

ARTIST'S STATEMENT: I first came across the term "imaginary portraits" ages ago when I bought a little book published in Munich in 1957 titled (in German) Imaginary Portraits by Hans Fronius.

It contained 46 bold drawings in charcoal or brush-applied black ink on white paper of various people from history, starting with Saul from the Old Testament and ending with Franz Kafka.

Images of more recent subjects were based loosely on photographs, older ones influenced by old art, and others are made up of whole cloth. Who knows what Pontius Pilate, the Empress Theodora, or Montezuma and Cortes really looked like?

Fronius (1903-1988) stuck to real (?) people, but another artist whose work I really like expanded the same concept. Along with his observed landscapes and contemporary portraits and figure paintings, Lovis Corinth (1858-1925) painted scenes and people from mythology, legend, the Bible, history and literature from the Odyssey to Emile Zola.

Unlike the deadly serious history paintings by the French academics, Corinth's paintings are thoroughly modern works depicting models and actors dressing up (or undressing) and having fun making art in an artist's studio in early 20th Century Berlin.

Early in my career I discovered the great value of working with people who approach modeling as a performing art and bring dramatic attitudes and expression to the studio. All art is artifice, but done well it can evoke a genuine emotional response in the viewer.

I like to get narrative emotional or psychological or sexual content in my art, but I don't want to be drawing people who are really angry or sad or frightened or threatening or
embarrassed or in any other way out of control, so I rely on the acting talents of my models.

I have been fortunate to have worked with some really great models over the years who are in "real" life professional actors, dancers, musicians, puppeteers, mimes or other types of performing artists.

I encourage drama in poses and sometimes my models go beyond posing for a portrait to channeling Joan of Arc, or Salome, or Casanova, or someone in film noir or history or mythology or literature, at least in my imagination.

And when that happens, I go for the drama - I'm no longer drawing my model/collaborators in my Chicago studio. I'm drawing Casanova and the fugitive nun M.M. in that secret casino in 18th Century Venice, and I'm really enjoying my work.


Gallery viewing hours are Mon - Fri from 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.. The gallery is closed on Sundays.

All are welcome to a free Artist's Reception on Thursday, December 22 from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.


See also:
* Clark's website.

* Clark's travel art blog.

* Clark's figure drawing blog.


Comments welcome.


Posted on November 22, 2016

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