“We want to surprise you and delight you every time you come into the library,” Karen Kleckner Keefe, the Hinsdale Public Library’s executive director, told me last year during its 125th anniversary commemorations.
To the books, information and programming it offers, I would say the public art at the public library surprises and delights as well. The art exhibits it has hosted in its Quiet Reading Room have been eclectic, meaning they have been varied and of high quality, and the art it has acquired as part of its permanent collection has been eclectic, too.
In early June, I attended a special lecture there entitled “The Making of the Cleve Carney Print Portfolio.” A friend explained that the library had just acquired five limited edition prints as part of its permanent collection, and these prints were the works of five prominent contemporary Chicago artists.
Justin Witte, director and curator of the Cleve Carney Art Gallery, explained the printing process, whether it be lithography or etching in this case, is complex and time consuming, and the artist is hands-on involved with each and every print.
He also introduced the Cleve Carney Art Gallery as part of the College of DuPage’s McAninch Arts Center. Carney was a Glen Ellyn philanthropist and prolific collector of Chicago contemporary artists. Carney developed a personal relationship with many Chicago artists over the years before his passing in 2013, when he left a portion of his collection to the gallery.
The gallery was able to convince five of those artists to donate a work to a print portfolio, which would then be sold as a collection to raise funds for the gallery.
I was very attracted to a piece that looked like framed gingham fabric. The artist, Michelle Grabner, is a professor at the School of the Art Institute and was a curator at the Whitney Biennial in 2014. When I looked closer at Grabner’s work, I saw that it was a meticulously rendered lithograph with only five colors. The work was painstaking; it moved and breathed.
Hanging nearby is Chicago artist Judy Ledgerwood’s print “In Regards to Cleve Carney,” featuring four black circular forms surrounding a glossy bright yellow oval. The image could represent many things from a flower to a paw print. Witte said that Ledgerwood likes to relate her work to music, to jazz sometimes.
Looking at the black and the white of the piece with the bright yellow burst in the middle, I could certainly relate the image to a sound or series of sounds. It also makes a stunning graphic statement.
Phyllis Bramson, a stalwart in the Chicago painting community, donated a complex, mixed media piece entitled “The Little Maids,” a seven-color lithograph. Her work is layered and mysterious, revealing Eastern influences. It is hanging right by the doorway.
Two of the artists are sculptors. One is Richard Rezac, known for his very precise pieces, which rely on scale, balance and line to communicate. His contribution to the print portfolio is a soft ground etching with aquatint; it is a very architectural and geometric rendering. We see graphite lines meant to look like a pencil sketch.
Tony Tasset is the other Chicago sculptor. He clearly has a sense of humor. His piece is a giant nose looking out over a hand.
“But, don’t let him fool you. He’s a very fine craftsman,” Witte said.
Tasset’s piece uses cross hatching, and is just delightful.
Witte shared that an exhibition of 26 original Frida Kahlo is coming next year to the Clive Carney Art Gallery. The 26 pieces represents the largest presentation of the artist’s work in 40 years, Witte said, and this will be a significant exhibition not just for the gallery but for the western suburbs and Chicago.
For more information about the Cleve Carney Print Portfolio — and there are a few sets left — or about the gallery and its exhibitions, go to www.clevecarneygallery.org.
Sara Clarkson is a freelance columnist.