Pierogi is pleased to present a new series of etchings by Tony Fitzpatrick, Nickel History: The Nation of Heat. The second half of this title is from a song by Joe Pug—the last lines of this song go through Fitzpatrick “like an icicle”:
There’s a straw-hatted man
rowing away from the shore. . .
He says; “It’s a shame they don’t
let you have Slaves anymore. . .
I’m the ugliest man that you’ll ever meet. . .
I come from the Nation of Heat
Fitzpatrick’s earlier series of unique drawing collages include “The Wonder: Portraits of a Remembered City“ (a three-part series dedicated to the city of Chicago); “Chapel of Moths” (narratives influenced by the music and musicians, the food, and the many colorful characters of New Orleans), the “Hobo Drawings” (which convey narratives about the hobo alphabet and hobos) and, most recently, “Drawings for Crazy Horse” (inspired by stories about the life of Crazy Horse). Before he began these drawing collages in the late ’90s, Fitzpatrick was known as a master printer. He continued to make prints occasionally throughout this period but in the past several years began to immerse himself once again in printmaking.
The works in the Nickel History series cover a multitude of Fitzpatrick’s interests, rather than focus on a single subject: from his early childhood escapades, when school nuns quickly labeled him a misfit, to his love of grasshoppers, moths and butterflies, to comic book heroes and mythical Chicago figures. It is a kind of survey of the artist’s life and lifelong interests. For Fitzpatrick each cultural icon becomes a touchstone for personal and national revelations. Several etchings reference comic book icons (“Bazooka Hulk,” “Tracy, of Chicago”) but, in Fitzpatrick’s hands, they take on new meaning.
Comic books were vital for him as a kid, “I spent every dime I had as a kid on Comic books…. This was the world your parents were not privy to, did not understand…. In the Marvel Comics good didn’t always trump evil, it was a more complicated and believable world. Life wasn’t fair, and the guys who were….different…were Heroes. Special powers were imbued in the suffering child–and via this–the mutants, geeks and outcasts became powerful. It was a compelling message for me as a child.” In his version of The Hulk, rather than embodying uncontrollable rage, when he gets pissed “Bazooka Hulk” smells like bubblegum.
Of “The Pink Witch,” Fitzpatrick writes, “[o]ne of the most magical things I remember from a road trip was seeing a tough bush in the high desert covered in pinkish leaves. They seemed out of place on this scraggily tough plant. A moment later, I knew why…when the pink moths all took flight.”
This will be Fitzpatrick’s fourth solo exhibition at Pierogi and the first of his etchings there. His work has been published in numerous volumes and is in the permanent collections of the MoMA (NYC), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), The National Museum of American Art (Wash., DC), among others, and was included in the MoMA exhibition, “Compass In Hand: Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection.”