THE INDEPENDENT VOICE OF THE VISUAL ARTS
“As a painter, I am not creative—I am observant.”
Andy Paczos has taken plein air painting to an extreme. He executes his painting entirely on site—no later touch up in the studio. This approach takes his technique one step further than what the Impressionists did.
Like in the Impressionists’ work, light plays a major role in Paczos’ painting. He uses light to capture the industrial grittiness of the city. But his paintings are not at all nostalgic or sentimental. Consider Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, 9th floor. This painting shows the gray drabness of concrete construction. But at the same time, he accentuates the geometry of the space, revealing an architectural elegance that is easily missed.
Andy Paczos, Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, 9th floor, 2015. Oil on Linen. Image courtesy of the Ed Paschke Art Center.
In Logan Center, University of Chicago, 10th floor, his gray palette is contrasted by the brown/red brick of structure outside and the green grass surrounding them. This imparts a liveliness to the painting, while at the same time, giving it a definite “Chicago” feel.
Andy Paczos, Logan Center, University of Chicago, 10th floor, 2016. Oil on Linen. Image courtesy of the Ed Paschke Art Center.
A particularly haunting piece is West Loop, With Renovation of Google Building. This painting makes one think of Caillebotte and Hopper at the same time. The shadow of the artist and his easel in the lower left of the work personalizes the painting—like a graphic signature. People very rarely appear in Paczos’ paintings. He is more concerned with the portrait of the space than of the individual.
Andy Paczos, West Loop, With Renovation of Google Building, 2013. Oil on Linen. Image courtesy of the Ed Paschke Art Center.
What appears to be faithful renderings of a scene sometimes have distortions that frankly are a little jarring. For example, Under the Kennedy Expressway has a subtle curvature in the overhead bridge structure that is not there in real life. Likewise, in Logan Center University of Chicago, 10th floor, the bottom of the window is curved in a way that would be impossible in real life, and the street seen through the window curves as well (Chicago streets don’t curve that way). These distortions give the fleeting impression that the original image was photographed using a wide-angle lens, but the distortions are not consistent. They are just a quirk of Paczos’ drawing technique.
One of the best pieces in the show is Goose Island Looking South. It captures the crumbling desolation of that industrial area at the same time that it evokes its melancholy beauty. That mood is also captured in Parking Lot, Mars Global Headquarters and West Loop, With Renovation of Google Building.
Andy Paczos, Goose Island Looking South, 2011. Oil on Linen. Image courtesy of the Ed Paschke Art Center.
There are three paintings that, for me, are out of place in this show. Claw Foot Bathtub, Salvage One; Urinal; and Ceramic Logs, Salvage One lack the energy and subtlety of the rest of the work. I would have preferred to see some of his subway paintings instead of these three “sketches.”
This show has received a fair amount of attention in the local Chicago press. Paczos’ paintings are accessible and appeal to a wide range of viewers. And you don’t need to be an art historian to appreciate what he is doing. Yet, there is a depth of understanding toward what he is depicting that is quite rare among realist painters. There is no sentimentality in this work. Rather it is a reflection of the love-hate relationship all we city dwellers have for our environment.
This review is part of an ongoing series dealing with artists using traditional techniques and themes but in an innovative way.
Michel Ségard is the editor-in-chief of the New Art Examiner.
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