The Co-Prosperity Sphere is a community-based organization and exhibition space on Chicago's south side. For a few weeks, until February 16th, it's showing work by painter and printmaker Watie White.
It was a little difficult to find information about what I was looking at while I was at the opening last week, but from what I can gather, the work on display consists of giant banners made from the artist's woodcuts, which are part of a proposed or actual mural. Each print is a portrait of a real person, with a phrase from that person printed in white letters over their face:
I actually met Watie at the Vermont Studio Center in 2000, and we both used the presses at the Chicago Printmaker's Collaborative for a time in the early 2000's, too, so I know his work pretty well. He has developed this very strong, direct style of woodcut, producing prints which are always interesting to look at for their high degree of technical skill and the stylistic trait of cutting lots of snaking lines into the faces. It's great to see such a venerable and beautiful medium being put to the service of public art, too.
Also on display was a room of smaller text and image pieces. The images are taken from the covers of pulp fiction magazines, so there's lots of strong-jawed men and swooning women caught in moments of drama. Over each image Watie painted sentences from his own personal journals, some of them going back to his teens:
The jarring juxtaposition between the image and the words produces a feeling of pathos which only heightens the toughness of some of the memories. Again, as someone who is involved in projects based on personal narrative, I appreciate the level of honesty about the self-revelation in these pictures.
If you live in Chicago, there's still time to see the show, at 3219 South Morgan Street, Chicago.