Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tony Fitzpatrick and Michael Pajon at Jonathan Ferrara


Tony Fitzpatrick is a very big Chicago Irish guy who makes very small and precise etchings. When he talks, or writes, he conjures up symbolic images like the ones that appear more ambiguously in his prints, but loquaciously discussed with the broadside impact of the heavyweight boxer he once was. The Assassination of Crazy Horse is his tribute to the legendary Sioux warrior, seen here as a horse rearing up and exhaling vapor, body studded with steam gauges, mane like an Indian war bonnet--a visual koan of charged symbols left to viewer interpretation. Fitzpatrick says, “What I most admire about Crazy Horse is that he helped kill Custer, stone cold murderous psychopath. I’d like to have been there when he was introduced to the Oglala nation... When he looked around and realized he was truly f----d.” Chain Gang Dreams of Kryptonite is a pop cultural emanation of the soul of a nation, a vision of forged steel links and molecular chains, secret hobo hand signs, railroads and oil wells rising like mechanical towers of Babel, symbols of the near-slavery that followed the official slavery as “Chinese, Mexicans and freed Africans, Confederate veterans and indentured Irish immigrants... built the Transcontinental Railroad.” Fitzpatrick's America is a place of strange wonders, a beautiful, mysterious and haunted land made fertile by the blood of those who built it.

Michael Pajon's collages are symbolic and steeped in Americana, but his vision reflects a magic realist whimsy that rummages through the everyday detritus of the past to find transcendent precursors of the present. In works like Lies Unfurled Like Cheap Ribbons, above, Victorian dreams of Manifest Destiny are leavened with quirky personal details in a series of gorgeous two dimensional curiosity cabinets, worlds within worlds that are mysterious yet fully realized works by a recent transplant who is very likely the most talented young collage artist working in this city today. A small but great show.~Bookhardt

Nickel History: In the Service of Ghosts: Etchings by Tony Fitzpatrick; They Buried Their Children and Sharpened Their Tools: Collages by Micheal Pajon, Through April 13, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471;