Gallery Y: Chris Cosnowski, “Enlightened?”
Gallery X: Chris Uphues, “Happy Sunshine Rainbow Company”
February 21 – April 5, 2014
Opening Reception: Friday, February 21, 2014, 6-9pm
Linda Warren Projects is pleased to present two solo exhibitions: “Enlightened?” by Chris Cosnowski in Gallery Y, and “Happy Sunshine Rainbow Company” by Chris Uphues in Gallery X. For both artists, the light-hearted, childlike elements of vernacular pop culture are at the core of their practices, though Cosnowski and Uphues mine very different meanings. For Cosnowski, toys are representations of some of our most basic, philosophical characteristics, and for Uphues, the layering of pop imagery speaks to the way in which tchotchkes, stickers and dime store ephemera amass in our consciousnesses and make up who we are.
Chicago-based artist Chris Cosnowski is known for his impeccable, photo-realist paintings of mass-produced, plastic toys, trophies and figurines. His making process has always imbued an undercurrent of irony, with such traditional, painstaking painting employed to create these images of such banal objects. Elevating the vernacular and the toss-away, Cosnowski isolates his subjects against plain grounds, creating icons that enkindle a viewer’s intellect as much as their nostalgia. Whether the subjects of Cosnowski’s paintings are standing alone as symbols or paired to create particular conversation, the works are each designated one of the artist’s whip-smart titles, emphasizing the humor and wit that pervades his oeuvre.
In “Enlightened?,” Cosnowski’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, the artist introduces new iconography into his visual language: the Spirograph. This tool, symmetrical and precise, is significant in its ability to create aesthetic perfection, and this “ideal, celestial aura” is what has engaged the artist. In works like Blinded By the Light, the transparent Spirograph glows atop a luminous background, rising like a sun over an awestruck, miniature spaceman. In Enlightenment, the Spirograph is paired with a white horse figurine, in the artist’s words, to “symbolize the hopeful, almost innocent, purity of the notion that reason will ride in to save humanity.” In addition to his paintings, Cosnowski will also be debuting his first series of sculptures: 3-D printed recreations of Spirographs and busts of historical thinkers. These sculptural works are simultaneously artistic odes to form and influence, as well as mere toys and paperweights in the artist’s signature merging of high and low culture.
While Cosnowski’s works address what our toys tell us about our place in the world, New York-based artist Chris Uphues’ passion for knickknacks and pop imagery appeals in a very personal and visceral way, like “rummaging in the junk drawer of the soul.” In addition to his fine art painting practice, Uphues is also well versed in design, street art and ‘zines, with a singular style that translates across genres, and inspires and feeds back into his multifarious practice. The artist sources influence from stickers, charms, keychains and a variety of imagery he calls “incidental graphics”: the smiley faces, hearts, hippie flowers and slot machine cherries that pervade our shared visual language. More often than not, these images populate Uphues’ works in swarms, creating all-over patterns of puffy mushrooms, doe-eyed hearts and melting smiley faces that democratizes the pop references, past and present.
“Happy Sunshine Rainbow Company,” the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, features whole worlds and environments composed of Uphues’ incidental graphics. In pieces like Forest Yellow, the artist creates a starkly contrasting landscape, the sky a sickly shade of yellow while the tree line is densely populated by doodles, flowers and faces. Bouquet is a conglomeration of flowers, buzzing bees, smiling PC computers, and dripping polka dot mushrooms; here, the cute and the weird are combined into a single floating world that is both surreal and familiar.
Chris Cosnowski is a Chicago-based artist and educator who has exhibited widely throughout the country. Recent exhibitions include “SUPER-ficial,” a retrospective of the artist’s work mounted at the South Shore Arts Center in Munster, IN; and “American Metal,” a solo exhibition at Lyonswier Gallery in New York. He has also exhibited in such venues as Dolby-Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco, Gescheidle Gallery in Chicago, the Evanston Art Center and the Chicago Cultural Center, amongst many others. The artist received his MFA in Painting and Drawing from Northwestern University, and is currently a faculty member at the American Academy of Art in Chicago.
Chris Uphues is a New York-based artist whose work has been featured in such venues as Secret Project Robot Gallery in Brooklyn, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Whitney Museum, New York; the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago; the Illinois State Museum; and the Chicago Cultural Center, amongst many others. Uphues is also the recipient of the Artists Fellowship Award from Illinois Arts Council and the Print Magazine Design Award. The artist received his BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.