A Studio Visit with Ellen Holtzblatt

October 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

Ellen Holtzblatt is a Chicago-based artist who creates paintings, woodcut prints and artist books. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally at venues including the Museum of Biblical Art in New York, Inselgalerie in Berlin, Harold Washington Library and the Chicago Cultural Center. Her work is also conserved in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection and The Center for Book Arts in New York. Many of her paintings utilize religious texts and old photographs to reveal a paradoxical access to and disconnection from the past. In preparation for Holtzblatt’s exhibit From Birth to Memoryopening at Josef Glimer Gallery on November 21, assistant director Nicole Rhoden sat down with the artist in her Rogers Park studio to discuss how her practice is shaped by spirituality, familial dynamics and the mystery that lies between personal and collective memory.

Chicago artist Ellen Holtzblatt in her studio

Nicole Rhoden: Can you talk a little about what you’re trying to summon or access by creating these images?

Ellen Holtzblatt: I’m trying to summon my dead relatives. They’re like a séance! [laughs] I’m just joking. I think, not just with these images, but every time I’m painting, I’m working from a pretty internal place. So it’s mostly about making connections. When I’m painting, that’s when I feel the most connected to myself emotionally, with who I am as a person, and in general—just feel connected to living. When I go through periods when I’m not painting, I feel very disconnected. There’s a discordant quality to my life.

NR: All of the paintings I’ve seen do have a similar feeling of connecting with ancestors.

EH: When I first started my other series, Yizkor, my father died on my birthday. He had been sick for a while. There were a few years that had sort of a surreal quality, because you’re supposed to celebrate your birthday. I’ve heard that people who are dying, if there’s an event coming up, often will die on that day—on an anniversary, or on a birthday, something that has some emotional meaning. Of course I would think of him on the day he died, but now it’s especially built into my calendar. I can’t celebrate my birthday without also remembering the day of his passing. They’re eternally connected.

After he died, I said Kaddish [a ritual prayer] every day for a year—that’s a Jewish tradition. There are many purposes for it, but one of the purposes is when you’re mourning, like the anniversary of someone’s death. It depends on who it is and your relationship to them; in the case of a parent, you say it for eleven months. Then there’s another prayer you say four times a year to remember people from your life who have died—it’s called Yizkor. I remember the first Yizkor we had after I finished saying Kaddish. It’s actually more about life than it is about death.

Then I started also painting images of my mother when she was younger, after going through old photographs and taking some photos from her house. She kind of wondered [why I was painting her] because I had titled the series Yizkor and she’s a living person [laughs]. But it started becoming not just about people who had died, but also about the spirit that was—the spirit of a person.

At different points in our lives, we are these different parts of ourselves. It’s kind of a strange thing. I have memories from when I was younger, where I can’t imagine why I behaved in certain ways. I’m trying to access that, to remember, “Where was I at that point?” I think everybody at different points in their lives has that. We evolve, but as we’re evolving, we really don’t lose those parts of ourselves. We are still that person, but we also become different people. « Read the rest of this entry »

New Paintings by Mira Hermoni-Levine

August 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

We’re happy to report that owner and director Josef Glimer has returned safely from his trip to Israel. During his travels he was able to spend time with one of our longest-exhibiting artists, Mira Hermoni-Levine. Hermoni-Levine summons the mystery surrounding her Holocaust-tainted childhood through the thoughtful layering and subtraction of thick earth tones. Josef brought back three of her newest paintings, each realizing a striking balance of nostalgia, anxiety, hope and decay. Read her full artist bio here.

Mira Hermoni-Levine, Two Figures and a Chair, 2013, 35.5 x 43.5," oil on linen at Josef Glimer Gallery

Mira Hermoni-Levine, Two Figures and a Chair, 2013, 35.5 x 43.5,” oil on linen.

Mira Hermoni-Levine, Seven Figures, 2013, 43.5 x 45.5," oil on linen at Josef Glimer Gallery

Mira Hermoni-Levine, Seven Figures, 2013, 43.5 x 45.5,” oil on linen.

Mira Hermoni-Levine, Girl with White Bow, 2013, 39.5 x 31.5," oil on linen at Josef Glimer Gallery

Mira Hermoni-Levine, Girl with White Bow, 2013, 39.5 x 31.5,” oil on linen.

New Sculptures for our 35th Anniversary Special Exhibition

May 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

We’re just about  ready for our 35th Anniversary Special Exhibition, opening next Friday! This week local artist Thom Kapheim delivered the new bronze sculptures from his Baseball series. Reminiscent of Alberto Giacometti, the pieces examine how the rules and movement of a game can drive form. “I have created a visual dialogue based on tension and imminent action frozen in bronze,” explains Kapheim. 

The series is inspired by the artist’s time at his grandson’s baseball games. Yet stripped from their surroundings, the figures transcend any specific sport. In fact, they exist in a universe where play may not be quite play at all, but the basis for their societal structure. They ponder and pitch, dash and slide as their primary communication, government and survival.

The artist casts the sculptures in bronze from foam and wood maquettes, allowing him to thoughtfully mold each figure’s stance and texture. The result is all at once controlled, elegant and haphazardly primordial. We look forward to sharing them in person at our opening reception!

Foreground: Thom Kapheim, The Read, 2014, 30 x 16 x 13,” bronze. Background: Thom Kapheim, Practice Pitching, 2014, 16 x 22 x 25,” bronze at Josef Glimer Gallery.

Foreground: Thom Kapheim, The Read, 2014, 30 x 16 x 13,” Bronze. Background: Thom Kapheim, Practice Pitching, 2014, 16 x 22 x 25,” Bronze.

Foreground: Detail of Thom Kapheim's Monolith, 2014, 15 x 14 x 21,” bronze at Josef Glimer Gallery.

Foreground: Detail of Thom Kapheim’s Monolith, 2014, 15 x 14 x 21,” Bronze.

A Cosmic Ballet: Thoughts on Thom Kapheim’s Baseball Series

May 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

As part of our 35th Anniversary Special Exhibition opening on June 6, Josef Glimer Gallery will premiere new bronze sculptures by Thom Kapheimwho has exhibited with us for nearly 30 years. Through his Baseball series, Kapheim sets out to “examine how the kinetics of a game can drive form.” Kapheim’s mixed-media Baseball maquettes were recently on display at David Adler Music and Arts Centerand author, lecturer and former Gusfield-Glimer Gallery partner Jefferey Gusfield provided this vivid account:

Thom Kapheim’s baseball sculptures are otherworldly, like a cosmic ballet. I don’t mean the kind of otherworldly portrayed in his drawings, pastels, and paintings, which have always had themes of fantasy; these works are otherworldly in a sense of a completely different dimension. Oddly, the genesis of these 14 works couldn’t have been worldlier; according to Kapheim, the rather intense inspiration for this cycle of his art was simply his fourteen year-old grandson, Marek, finding his arm as a pitcher. Suddenly baseball was life and theater, and Kapheim is no stranger to either. Having known Thom for over 40 years, I was astounded and delighted at these adventures in movement. And as in Thom’s work in every form, they are wonderful pieces of theater as well.

Maquette by Thom Kapheim

Kapheim’s Baseball exhibition was debuted at the David Adler Music and Arts Center in Libertyville on a night not fit for man or beast. But I’d seen a photograph of this large sculpture on the Internet, and it had affected me so much that I was willing to slide and trudge in blowing snow. And I’m so glad I did, because in a warm exhibition space in the middle of a blizzard, these works were completely isolated from any environmental reminder of spring. They were forced to stand on their own, both philosophically, and figuratively. And they did. « Read the rest of this entry »

Coming Soon: New Paintings by Levan Stepanyan

May 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Levan Stepanyan, one of our most prolific painters, inserts subtle intrigue into everyday moments. Each of his angular figures seems caught in private introspection, providing especially striking contrast in group contexts. Stepanyan has just sent us these new pieces from Israel, and they’ll be on display by the beginning of next week!

Chess Players, 2014, 37 x 26," oil on canvas by Georgian-Israeli artist Levan Stepanyan.Golfers, 2014, 37.5 x 33.5," oil on canvas by Georgian-Israeli artist Levan Stepanyan

[Image 1: Chess Players, 2014, 37 x 26,” oil on canvas. Image 2: Golfers, 2014, 37.5 x 33.5,” oil on canvas.]

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