Ed Valentine and Tom Van Eynde at Linda Warren Gallery

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“Great art can communicate before it is understood”, T.S. Elliot.

Valentine's Untitled Spray Portrait with Painted Eye, Red Purple Drip, a staple, a Rip and a BB Hole; oil, acrylic, enamel and pastel on canvas, 2011

It is with great pleasure that we kick off the fall art season with the opening of Ed Valentine’s first solo exhibition at the gallery, “Untitled.”  Though seemingly ironic or even absurd to spend time analyzing the show’s title – “Untitled,” it perhaps is more logical to pursue this line of thought than anything else, as a way to further an understanding of Valentine’s philosophy toward art and his own painting practice.  For many years now, Valentine titles his paintings like the following – “Untitled Portrait with Nine Stripes and Purple Drip” or “Untitled Spray Portrait with Painted Eye, Two Color Drips, a Rip and a BB Hole” or “Untitled Portrait with Stripes and Red Hair” – need I go on?  Valentine’s work is about painting – the nuts and bolts, the deep and varied, the tricky and complex, the real and illusory qualities that keep this artistic practice alive and relevant and oh ho … engaging and beloved!  The paintings’ titles stem from something fundamental about Valentine’s paintings  – he wants them to speak for themselves – to halt and provoke inquiry.  They are not to be persuaded into validity or restricted or diminished by forced meanings or conclusions.  They are made intelligently to deliberately, subtly and powerfully engage the viewer and allow something of their own to open up.  He works hard and purposefully to make complex paintings that pretend to be simple.  He paints faces because it is something that we all understand and can relate to.  It is an entry point from which to start visually reading his work that he insists be read in a visual, non-linear, non-sequential way – that is not limited by words, but goes way beyond words and language to a form of poetry that both embodies and resonates with truth and beauty and all that lays in between.

Odd, hauntingly alluring, unabashedly imperfect, unmistakably and refreshingly droll human characters appear in three distinct bodies of work on display in the show: the looser larger-scale spray portraits with some that have bb holes shot through them or a stray staple stuck inside some paint, and the smaller much more pristine portraits that may appear to be ridden with mistakes and accidents but are exceptionally deliberate and controlled.  In each body of work Valentine engages different and various forms of compositional and mark making strategies.  Representation, abstraction, realism, expressionism, drips, drops, messes, a photorealistic upside down eye-ball or a glorious, years in the making bourbon nose, find their way into his work, each and all essential ingredients in his formula to contain his view of life in its truest form.

Valentine's Untitled Portrait with Blue Blue Drip and Red Purple Nose; oil on canvas, 2011

“My work is about beauty. It’s about life as a beautiful but imperfect thing.  A thing that comes with scabs and scars.  A thing that comes with broken bones, rips, drips and holes. We trust things that aren’t perfect, things that come with scabs and scars.  We all have them.  We’ve earned them.  Life cannot hide behind a scar.  My work, my life, all life comes with scabs and scars and yet …still… it is beautiful!  I paint because I love to paint.  I draw because I love to draw.  I do them both because they make me smarter and I love getting smarter.  I love beauty.  I love skill and I love objective, empirical knowledge.  I figure things out when I’m painting and that makes me smarter,” Ed Valentine.

Continuing the theme of portraiture Tom Van Eynde presents his newest body of work in the Project Space.  On display are five large-scale photographs in which he re-envisions Northern European and Flemish art, in particular, that of the 15th– 17th centuries. They speak to a time when having a portrait made was considered a status symbol and not a lucky thrown away moment, captured in a 5×7 image, or a screen capture on a cell phone.  They cause us to remember in our mind’s eye the paintings of Jan van Eyck & Frans Hals. Unlike those paintings, these are not images that take weeks or months to develop, these images are recorded in an instant – the beauty of the photographic image, deceptively simple & elegant, These images are large, purposeful images. The models are staring out at the viewer with the timelessness of their nobility. There is a sense of power and sophistication. The use of the simple fashion device of the Cavalier collar & Ruffs is a touchstone that blurs the reality between time and medium. We would never wear these collars today, yet they too seem strangely modern. The identity of the sitter is magnified against the isolation of the austere background. Their individual characteristics of humor, vanity, seriousness, and beauty, etc. are captured in the truth of the medium  – caught in that magical moment between artist & model.

Van Eynde's Dan, archival inkjet print in Plexiglas; 2011

Ed Valentine was born in Columbus, Ohio, 1951.  After attending The Columbus College of Art and Design (and left before receiving a degree) he moved to NYC in 1979 where he exhibited in such places as The Palladium, The Knitting Factory, The Fashion Institute of Technology, Bess Cutler Gallery and The Phyllis Kind Gallery.  He also had two sold out shows at the Avenue B Gallery in the now infamous East Village. In 1986 he was asked to participate in an international coloring book project for UNICEF titled “Happy Happy.” Other participants in the project were Ed Paschke, Roger Brown, Gladys Nilsson, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein, and Sol Lewitt.  Through this project he was asked by the New York punk band The Ramones to do artwork on their tenth album titled “Ramones Mania.”  In 1991 Valentine moved back to Ohio to raise his son, relocating in the small town of Delaware located just north of Columbus. Shortly thereafter Valentine received a Bachelors degree from The Columbus College of Art and Design and a Masters degree from The Ohio State University. He is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Art at O.S.U. Lima. He has shown throughout the United States, Europe, The United Arab Emirates and Japan and has appeared in numerous catalogs and publications including reviews in Cover Arts New York, The East Village Eye, 108 East Village Review, The L. A. Times, Art Week Los Angeles, The San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Bay Guardian, The San Francisco Examiner and The Columbus Dispatch.

Tom Van Eynde is also a well-known commercial photographer. His skills are sought and appreciated by artists, galleries and museums throughout Chicago to photograph their work and installations. Many of the portraits that appear in this new oeuvre come from his many associations through this part of his life. His fine art photography has been exhibited at the Oriental Institute, the University of Chicago and the Chicago Cultural Center as well as galleries around the country.  His work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago. This marks Tom Van Eynde’s fourth time showing at the gallery.

Linda Warren Gallery is located at 1052 W Fulton Market, Chicago. Opening Reception: Friday, September 9th, 6-9pm; Show runs thru Saturday, October 22nd, 2011