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Gladys Nilsson: Recent Works

January 21 - February 26, 2006


(above: Gladys Nilsson, Bye Blue Trees, 2004, watercolor & gouache, 22 x 15 inches)


Recent works by Gladys Nilsson are on exhibition through February 26, 2006 in the Brainard and R.R. Donnelley Galleries of the Tarble Arts Center, Eastern Illinois University. Nilsson is a Chicago artist whose work has attained international recognition. The exhibition includes a selection of recent watercolor and gouache paintings, and five snap-shot collages -- "altered realities from travel," as the artist characterized them. (right: Gladys Nilsson, The Forest, 2004, watercolor & gouache, 22 x 30 inches)

"Whimsical" is the term probably most often used to describe Nilsson's watercolor paintings and the artist enjoys a good pun, visual or verbal. Her figures have gangly, limp-noodle-like arms and legs. They are gawky yet graceful. And Nilsson's subjects are ordinary but at the same time serve to effectively represent basic human feelings and interactions. Her compositions always involve humor or irony, and the artist frequently makes fun of herself. As put by the Tory Folliard Gallery about Nilsson, "each work of art celebrates the artist's unending curiosity for human behavior: rituals of courtship, gastronomic delights, and narcissistic passions."

In the 1960s Nilsson was a founding member of the "Hairy Who," a group of artists who also came to be known as the Chicago Imagists and the Monster Roster. Although acknowledging the significance of being identified as a member of the Chicago Imagists, Nilsson has said that she prefers to think of herself as an individual, not as part of a group or movement. Since the '60s Nilsson has gone on to exhibit in over 200 solo exhibitions and 400 group shows, including at the Smithsonian Institution (Washington D.C.), Whitney Museum of American Art (New York City), Los Angeles County Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), Institute of Contemporary Arts Center (New Orleans), James Mayor Gallery (London, England), and San Francisco Museum of Art.

For younger audiences Nilsson might better be known as the artist who did the drawing found on the inside of the CD cover for Wilco's release "A Ghost Is Born" and for her interview which is included in The Wilco Book.

In the interview Nilsson talks about where her ideas for her figures came from: "My 'figures' just evolved over time from what I was interested in at the time. Some sort of animal/human, bird/human, plant life/human involvement. I really don't know where or what sources they/it sprang from, but the idea of changing, or nowadays, morphing, has always intrigued me. This runs rampant in the history of art and it is a given that any one of the many images I have/had seen over the years does/did indeed creep/crept into my personal iconography. Hmm, I would suppose that a few urban/peasant stories fed into the mix, the werewolf, vampires. Those were all films I loved growing up, and were reinforced by the '60s soap opera 'Dark Shadows,' which I watched and really loved! I do what I see." (right: Gladys Nilsson, Total Ease, 2004, watercolor & gouache on paper, 7 x 10 nches)

The artist's work has also appeared in Art News, Artforum, and numerous other periodicals, in the books Gladys Nilsson, Art in Chicago, 1945­1995, and Fantastic Images; Chicago Art Since 1945, and many exhibition catalogues, including Who Chicago, The Chicago Imagist Print, and Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt: works on paper. She teaches at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. She has exhibited in over 200 solo exhibitions and 400 group shows.

Many institutions include works by Nilsson in their collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, National Museum of American Art/Smithsonian Institution, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum Modem Kunst (Vienna, Austria), and the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

The work for the Tarble exhibition is on loan courtesy of the artist in cooperation with Jean Albano Gallery, Chicago. Last year Nilsson served as juror for the Tarble's 15th Drawing/Watercolor Biennial.


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