CHICAGO — Chicago artist Barbara Rossi’s enigmatic drawings and meticulous
Plexiglas paintings will be featured at the DePaul Art Museum May 12 through
Aug. 21. “Barbara Rossi: Poor Traits” is organized by Natalie Bell at the
New Museum in New York and marks the most significant presentation of the
artist’s work in 25 years. A companion exhibition, “Eye Owe You!” will
highlight Rossi’s photographs and artistic process.
“Barbara’s stunning abstract paintings and drawings from the late
1960s and early 1970s look as fresh today as when she made them,”
said Julie Rodrigues Widholm, director and chief curator of the DePaul Art
exhibition aligns very well with the DePaul Art Museum’s commitment to
featuring Chicago-based artists, especially those who have been under-recognized,” said Widholm.
Rossi was born in
1940 in Chicago and raised Catholic; she spent many years working as an artist
while part of a convent. Rossi was a member of the Chicago Imagists, an
influential group defined by their common interest in non-Western and popular imagery
and a dedicated pursuit of vivid and distorted figurative work. Within this
eclectic troupe, Rossi’s disorienting compositions distinguish themselves by
their precision and subtlety, explained Widholm. “I am very excited to present such
important work by an older female artist to a new generation of museum visitors
who may not be familiar with her work,” said Widholm.
According to the
curators, the drawings presented in this exhibition are examples from when
Rossi began to articulate an independent visual language. Her process became open
and introspective, and the results are mischievous, psychedelic portraits. The
baroque characters in Rossi’s reverse Plexiglas paintings appear as bodies
depicted from the inside out. In these paintings, Rossi applied precise lines
and uniform fields of color to the back of the panel in a technique that does
not allow for revision or overpainting, but enhances their luminous
DePaul Art Museum
has organized a companion exhibition, “Eye Owe You!” in close collaboration
with Rossi as a way to illuminate her working process. The exhibition features
122 of Rossi’s photographs that have never been exhibited before. This personal
archive of visual culture has informed her work for 40 years and also captures
an important bygone era in Chicago’s visual urban landscape. Rossi earned her
MFA from the School of the Art Institute, where she has taught drawing and
painting since 1971.
“Many of Barbara’s students fondly remember her photo
‘show and tell’ sessions that prompted them to examine what, how, and why
certain things piqued their visual interest,” said Widholm.
The images from 1971 to 1975 included in the exhibition are from
Rossi’s vast collection of 35mm slides and align with the dates of the
paintings in “Poor Traits.”
Arranged by the artist in a specific sequence to correlate one image to the
next, they document hand-painted outdoor signs and window displays in Chicago and
cities around the world. A limited edition artist’s book of these images will
be published by DePaul Art Museum.
Rossi has exhibited internationally, and her works are
in the collections of the DePaul Art Museum, Art Institute of Chicago; the
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Wisconsin; the Milwaukee Museum of
Contemporary Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the David and Alfred
Smart Museum, the University of Chicago; and the Smithsonian Museum of American
Art, Washington, D.C.
The DePaul Art Museum is located at 935 W. Fullerton,
just east of the CTA’s Fullerton ‘L’ stop. The museum hours are Wednesdays and
Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays
and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. For
more on the DePaul Art Museum’s upcoming exhibitions and events, call
773-325-7506 or visit http://museums.depaul.edu/.