Palette and Chisel Gallery

1012 N. Dearborn, Chicago

September  2-26, 2022




El Greco, View of Toledo,   1599-1600 (detail)

 Remember the “Chicago and Vicinity” shows the Art Institute used to put up every year?  Just like their annual “American Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture” they were discontinued in the 1980’s. As art critic Robert Hughes then noted, that was the decade when the judgments of art critics and connoisseurs were replaced by the monetary value assigned by a booming art market. Money talked - bullshit walked.

As quantifiable and  objective as market value may be, however, it marginalizes many kinds of art which continue to be practiced, taught, and collected. Museums have ignored contemporary religious or sacred art for at least a hundred years. Since mid-century, they have also been ignoring just about every other kind of celebratory expression - unless it celebrates a preferred gender or racial identity. And whether it’s an architectural showpiece or a dingy alley, cityscapes do indeed celebrate something quite important to humanity: urban life.  

 What I’ve found remarkable was just how varied that celebration could be. I was not seeking variety - it just ended up that way - in location as well as elements of style. Yet what all of them share is a feeling of love rather than anger,  grievance, alienation, or despair. The city is their home.

 Passionate cityscapes have appeared throughout European art history —- remember El Greco’s View of Toledo that came to Chicago last year ? But what does love have to do with contemporary art theory? It does not distinguish love from sentimentality while it prioritizes semiotic investigation over what is felt in the heart. 

 This show might not have happened without the Palette and Chisel Academy which graciously offered their gallery space and mounted their own exhibit on the same theme. Hopefully this will be the first of several exhibitions of observational celebratory expression by local artists. Portrait, landscape, still-life, and figure are yet to come. 

 For over 125 years the Palette and Chisel Academy has played the long game of Western Civilization rather the short game of artworld fashion. Their 50th Anniversary Exhibition was held in the galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1945.  Seventy-seven  years later, 1012 N. Dearborn is hosting a show similar to the vicinity exhibitions that used to appear at 111 S. Michigan.  And so the artworld of Chicago has come full circle.
... Chris Miller, curator

(since this exhibition catalog appears on a blog - comments are possible -  indeed  encouraged --- but only if they offer more thoughtful content than "nice job" or "you suck" )

(The adjacent "Palette and Chisel Addendum" exhibition is shown here )

Marion Kryczka (1948-2022), untitled (Chicago  cityscape), oil on canvas, 39 x 29




 Andy Paczos, "Looking south from the Van Buren st bridge". Oil on linen. 48x32"




 Art Chartow, Coal Yard, South Branch Chicago River, oil on panel 24h x 48w,

(courtesy of Gallery Victor Armendariz)




 David Rettker,  Conjunction, 18 x 24, Acrylic in wood


Albert Vidal, Marina City, 51 X 51, mixed media on canvas

(courtesy of Gallery Victor Armendariz)

Mary J. Arthur, "View from Union League Club toward Lake Michigan" Oil on Canvas 12 x 16

Roland Kulla, Eight Track 1, 36X48

(courtesy of Gallery Victor Armendariz)

Kevin Swallow, Empty on the Inside, oil on canvas, 30"x40"



Sandra Holubow, Nature's Playground, Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30u

William Steele

Dmitry Samarov,  Lituanica #9, 21 x 25, oil on canvas

Brian Wells, Big Blue Dumpster, oil on Canvas, 30 x 36

Emmett Kerrigan : Racine NW Oil on Canvas 50" X 42" 

(on loan from Kyle and Emmet Miller)

Mary Phelan - Urban Grid, Oil on linen, 32 x 16

Mary Phelan, The Corner, oil on linen, 24 x 15


Looking back a hundred years, the 26th Annual Artists of Chicago and Vicinity Show (1922) had very few cityscapes judging by the titles in the online catalog. There were urban settings but nowhere near Chicago - indeed, it looked like the artists, or their patrons, were trying to get as far away from the bustling, smoke filled city as possible - preferably a quaint village in France or Tunisia. (By the way, 20 of the 154 artists in that show were members, or former members, of the Palette and Chisel)

The painters in this show embrace Chicago -- all of it --- from urban canyons to bungalows, infrastructure to industrial parks. They confront the metropolis - whether as a dreamlike vision (Kevin Swallow’s covid empty ‘L cars) or as a daily challenge (Dmitry Samarov’s distant view of the Loop from Bridgeport). The pieces are more like psychological self portraits than picturesque retreats. They grab the viewer by the collar as if to assert ‘see..this is how I feel!” - whether it’s the cool masculinity of Marion Kryczka’s functional but outdated parked cars or the overwhelming presence of Brian Wells’ graffiti covered dumpster. They and the city are inseparable. And you might note that only one piece depicts any people. It’s just you, the viewer, and the great Midwestern center.

Probably we have the mid-century eruption of Abstract Expression to thank for that. Even the precise realism of Art Chartow’s view of a rust belt factory feels much more personal and emotional than the earlier factory paintings of Charles Sheeler. Mary Arthur’s view through the Loop is more of an expressive geo-form abstraction than a documentation of urban architecture.

What’s also changed is the art market. Back then, a certain kind of pleasant, natural, journalistic representation was mainstream - so there was a sameness about the pictorial visions and formal energy was optional. Without explicit political messaging, however, a cityscape painting today is quite marginal - there is no standard for representation — it’s every painter for him, her, or them selves. Being an artist has become much more than just presenting something really well. A fierce level of self determination is required - and you can feel that in each of these paintings - just as you can with the early modernists. These artists have been bolder about their careers than those Chicago  artists who pay endless tribute to the Hairy Who? or Marcel Duchamp.

Politics is present - but competitive partisan resentment is not. Strong painting always suggests that life can be what you make of it. Where the subject is a city --- that’s the place it can happen. 
... Chris Miller, art critic




Emily Rapport

Enrique Santana

Meredith Dytch

Wesley Willis (1963-2003)

It's not often that an exhibition catalog shows pieces that the curator wanted but could not  get - but then - this is not an ordinary catalog.  (I probably could have gotten a Wesley Willis, but I wanted to keep to living artists)





Andy Paczos
Some thoughts.
I am an on - site painter. My works are completely done on location , taking often three to four months to complete. The painting in this exhibition was done over a two year period.
Painting on location has many difficulties,( wind , heat , changing seasons ) but the reward is worth it.
When searching for a site I use my instinct and respond to an internal need that says , this needs to be recorded. My paintings are not a snapshot of an instant but have a sense of the duration of time.
I received an MFA from the school of the art institute and have been exhibiting in Chicago and elsewhere for thirty years. 

Art Chartow
b. 1951, New York City, NY
Art Chartow’s current work focuses on the structures and artifacts of heavy industry that have shaped the American landscape. Power stations, factories, steel mills and infrastructure represent strength, industrial might, the ability to vanquish nature. Yet all such structures are, like anything else in this world, ephemeral, transitory, vulnerable to the vagaries of global economics and technological progress. These places are strange, sinister and forbidding; beautiful, fragile, sometimes abandoned and decaying. Such landscapes speak of loss, transience, the passage of time and the brave futility of human endeavor when set against the inevitability of change.

Albert Vidal
b. 1969, Barcelona, Spain
Albert Vidal is an aerial urban landscapes painter based in Barcelona, Spain. He has painted mostly landscapes from around the world for over 20 years and is inspired by artists such as Antonio Lopez Garcia and Anselm Kiefer. The artist thinks about his compositions in a three dimensional way with paint relief that creates dimension and body in the piece. The emptiness which represents a sea or wasteland keep the balance of the composition as well as the ensemble. The artificial space Vidal creates evolves over time and explores the difference between cities, urban planning, and their structures. 

Mary J. Arthur

BA, Marywood University, BFA Kansas City Art Institute, MFA Graduate School of Figurative Art at the New York Academy of Art -currently lives and works as an Independent Visual Artist and Educator. She was a long time Artist in Residence at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis, as well as a multiple year recipient of an Individual Artist Award in the Visual Arts with the Maryland State Arts Council. Mary has received numerous awards and fellowships in the visual arts and education including: the Prince of Wales Fellowship in Normandy, France; two-time recipient of the Alfred & Trafford Klots Fellowship in Brittany, France; a National Arts Club Award, New York City; and an Excellence in Teaching Award sponsored by the Mid-America Arts Alliance. Mary taught life drawing, anatomy, portraiture and painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art, St. John’s College and Anne Arundel Community College, additional at National Louis University in Chicago - Introduction to Art and Mixed Media. Her 30+ year career as an artist and educator has centered on the figure, still life and landscape painting. She’s taught many plein-air painting workshops across the country including Maine, Cape Cod, Finger Lakes New York, Chesapeake Bay Maryland and the Truro Center for the Arts in Truro, MA. Published in New American Paintings as well as The Artist’s Magazine, Mary exhibits nationally and internationally.

Artist Statement: I describe myself to others as a representational painter enticed by direct observation and the nuances of freely measuring my subject matter. Consistent, genuine intrigue has been my anchor for viewing and painting people, places and objects around me. In my heart of hearts, I am a landscape painter. I am trained classically as well as in contemporary approaches and practices. Over the years I find myself comfortably absorbed in this quantifying of any given subject matter, that is to say using some measuring and perspectival knowledge but freely using a more empirical sensibility. I believe that this way of looking and drawing/painting has become a contemplative practice for me. I am at once still and present in finding comparisons of related points in the three-dimensional space, whether still life, figure or land/cityscape. My color sensibility is an earthy 18th century European palette while my drawing 21st century, building on a very loose gestural, almost abstract approach. The act of painting or the occasional poem written - allows me to engage in the possibilities of revealing ideas and interests; it is physical, emotional, cerebral and invariably expresses the everyday segments of my life no matter where I have lived, worked or traveled.

Roland Kulla

b. 1947, St. Louis, MO 

1976​ University of Chicago, MA - Social Service Administration 

1970​Bellarmine University, BA - Summa Cum Laude, Louisville, KY​ 

Selected Exhibitions 2018​Wrap It Up, Gallery Victor Armendariz, Chicago, IL    2017​    ZIA Gallery, Winnetka, IL Industrialism in the 21st Century, Nicole Longnecker Gallery, Houston, TX BAC 5th Annual Competition, Bridgeport Art Center, Chicago, IL    2016​    New York City Transit, George Billis Gallery, New York End of the Year Group Exhibition, ZIA Gallery, Winnetka, IL SOFA Chicago, George Billis Gallery, Chicago, IL New York City, George Billis Gallery, New York, NY Rockford Biennial, Rockford Museum of Art, Rockford, IL Hard to Believe, Bridgeport Art Center, Chicago, IL Aspects of Realism, Prairie State College, Chicago Heights, IL    2015​   Chicago River South Branch Bridges, ZIA Gallery, Winnetka, IL    2014​   East River Bridges, George Billis Gallery, New York, New York James Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA ​BAC 2nd Annual Competition, Bridgeport Art Center, Chicago, IL 

 Kevin Swallow 

 ARTIST STATEMENT: Architecture and cityscapes are my inspiration for creating paintings, photographs, and mixed media. I’m attracted to older infrastructure elements and like to document rooftop water tanks, elevated train tracks, steel bridges, and industrial era buildings. My art is influenced by the unlimited sights, sounds, and colors of the city – working to capture the textures and sensations of the urban landscape.

BIO: Kevin Swallow lives and works in Chicago. Originally from Crestwood, Illinois, he has been creating art since 1995. He works in various media: painting, photography, mixed media and digital. From paintings and photographs of cityscapes, to mixed media and screen prints — his work captures the sense of place and textures of the urban landscape. He travels frequently and draws inspiration from the places he has visited in the U.S., Europe, and Canada. Kevin graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1993 with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Communications and has studied painting, drawing and screen printing at Lillstreet Art Center. He has recently exhibited at Eat Paint Studio, Firecat Projects, and Highland Park Art Center. Kevin's work is in various private collections in Illinois; New York; Washington, D.C.; Minnesota; Seattle, WA; Denver, Colorado; Tennessee; Portsmouth, VA; Phoenix, AZ; Barcelona, Spain; and Berlin, Germany. His cityscape images are also in various hotels and luxury apartment buildings: Chicago Hilton and Suites, Mile North Hotel, Hyatt Place, Sheraton Hotel and Suites, The Jones, and Xavier. His art has been featured in publications such as: Chicago Sun-Times, Hyperallergic, New City, DNAInfo, NeotericART, and Praeterita. From 2006-2022, his art studio was located in the Cornelia Arts Building in Chicago's Roscoe Village neighborhood. In March of 2022, he moved into a new studio space in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. 

Dmitry Samarov 


Dmitry Samarov paints and writes in Chicago 


 Sandra Holubow


 Sandra Holubow is an "Urban Imagist" inspired by the sights, sounds, and dynamism of cities. In her painting "Nature's Playground," her concern is how urbanization impacts Nature. Holubow dramatizes warm afternoon sunlight falling on man-made structures and contrasts it against trees. The background buildings define and limit the playfulness of dancing trees as they reach for the sky. Holubow highlights how frequently we destroy our parks as we replace our architecture with the "new," the current. Our disposable society too often squanders our most precious resource--Nature. 

Brian Wells

My work has always focused on the mystery to be found in the commonplace, everyday world. Working as both a print maker and painter, my subject matter has included construction workers, urban landscapes, horse racing, ants and monkeys interacting as workers and bosses, and abstraction based on the natural world. I have worked with a variety of mediums: small hand printed, multi-colored woodcuts; abstract constructions; drawings on paper; large-scale oil and acrylic paintings.

In 2011, I began working in oil again, painting vignettes from my house and yard in Chicago. The materials in these domestic scenes include thrift store, estate sale, outsider art, found objects, my own work, and are rotated on a changing basis. These pieces encapsulate the random coming together of the unknown, causing the viewer to question and delight in the unexpected. My latest work focuses on local storefronts, both shuttered and currently in business, along with doorways and construction dumpsters. These mundane subjects take on a mysterious life of their own for me, enveloping a sense of time and place that never remains still 

Mary H. Phelan

Mary Phelan is an urbanscape painter working in oil on linen. Her subjects are often thecommonplace and overlooked settings in city neighborhoods that express intriguing interchanges of public and private space.

Phelan’s previous art career included chairing the Life Drawing and Foundations Departments at the American Academy of Art, Chicago. She has also done magazine and book illustration and commissioned works for universities, hospitals, and libraries-- many of which are portraits.

Her work is represented in the collections of the Dubuque Museum of Art (Iowa), the University of Illinois (Urbana), Robert Morris University (Chicago), the University of Illinois (Chicago), and the Library of Congress (Washington D.C.), among other institutions. Also see: The Urban Tree Book (Random House).

Gallery Victor Armendariz 


  is located in Chicago's River North Art and Design District. With a focus on contemporary painting, Gallery Victor deftly combines sculpture and studio furniture in a curated environment. Victor Brings over 25 years of experience working with artists, collectors and institutions. There is a wide variety of artworks represented ranging from figurative and landscape to abstract and surreal to functional art.


Photos from the opening 

Del Hall, photographer

Sandra Holobow

William Steele

Andy Paczos

Brian Wells


Popular posts from this blog

Cityscape - Addendum