Chicago, photos, colored pencil on Mylar, 22" x 30", 2017

Dennis Kowalski was born and raised across the street from Midway airport in Chicago, where fields, including a glacial boulder came up to the side of the house. This precipitated many of his ideas consisting of the juxtaposition of the most advanced technology and a semblance of prairie and still farmed nature.
     Kowalski studied art primarily at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and taught art at the University of Illinois at Chicago for thirty-one years. After retiring in 2002 he moved to Iowa City.
     Kowalski's work is in the collections of the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and numerous other public and private collections. His work has been reviewed in Art Forum, Frieze, Art in America, and other publications. Kowalski has had twenty solo exhibitions in Chicago and New York, and a number of group exhibitions across the world. Besides a National Endowment Grant, he has had several artists grants from the Illinois Arts Council.

The drawings usually incorporate the standard 4x6 snapshots of things that interest him visually and sociologically, mostly urban from which he manipulates the position of the photos and then extends out from the photos with drawing, taking the established tourist type high affluence areas of our cities, distorting them and changing their context. On occasion, he will do the same with nature and the less privileged areas of our cities. The surface of these works is then homogenized with a dead flat spray varnish, ironically making some people think that they are generated on a computer. Kowalski liking the irony, as there is a great deal of hand work, which avoids the descriptive, flatness of the computer image. These images of accepted visual reality are then combined to create an alternate reality. While the images look somewhat familiar, they are not. His intention is to make something extraordinary out of the ordinary. Kowalski has been using and altering photos for about twenty years.
     The sculptures using a variety of media allow for and require different approaches then do the drawings. Commonly explored are architectural and nature themes with a variety of cultural references, often using altered found objects with some of the sculptures using cardboard, Styrofoam and other pre-made forms as molds. Generally, the commonplace is combined with more widely recognized and universal cultural images, materials and concerns. Always looking for opportunities to do installations, Kowalski finds drawing an available method for the continued advancement of his ideas.

This page was first displayed
on November 17, 2017

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