Corbett vs. Dempsey

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© Corbett vs. Dempsey
Corbett vs. Dempsey
1120 N. Ashland Ave.
3rd Fl. (above Dusty Groove)
60622 Chicago
Venue Type: Gallery
Open hours
Tue-Sat 10-5 and by appointment
Gallery type
Corbett vs. Dempsey is an art gallery specializing in contemporary and mid-20th century American art, with an emphasis on Chicago painting and works on paper from 1940 to 1970.

We represent a diverse group of artists and artist estates, with historical works drawn from various American modernist traditions, including figural expressionism, American scene, social realism, surrealism, magic realism, the Chicago imagist groups, and myriad middle-American approaches to abstraction. Corbett vs. Dempsey also works with contemporary artists who connect, in one way or another, with these lineages. We pledge no specific stylistic allegiences, but instead choose to support and pursue that art which moves us. We love the American modernist traditions and their kin, but are also enthusiastic about Fluxus and the expanded arts scenes of the '60s in the U.S., Europe, Japan, South America and elsewhere, and will carry art and artifacts of this movement when available. And we are always on the lookout for unusual objects, be they artistic, industrial, musical or "other." As a special area of concern, we're fascinated by those intersections between the visual arts and music - places where the arts cross paths, as they do often in modernist painting and jazz, for instance.

The late-modernist moment was a difficult period in American art history, during which the previously vibrant regional character of artmaking in this country - epitomized by the regionalists and social realists of the WPA, drawn as they were from across the U.S. - was all but eclipsed by the international predominance of New York's abstract expressionist movement. In recent years, a range of revisionist scholars from Bram Dijkstra to Ann Eden Gibson have begun to reconsider the importance of artists working outside New York during these years, expanding the canon of classic American artworks (see, for instance, rising interest in the Bay Area figural expressionist painters) and altering the perception that artists who hadn't moved to New York by the '50s had failed to make the cut. Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Milwaukee - these cities all had serious, active, self-identified artistic communities in the '40s, '50s and '60s. Problem is, they didn't have effective means to publicize themselves, and in the absence of influential critics and gallerists, the visibility of their work was always limited. In Chicago, in the late 1960s, a handful of activist artists took this task on themselves, as suggested by the title of the 1969 MCA show: "Don Baum Sez 'Chicago Needs Famous Artists.'" The significance of Chicago's imagist artists was successfully asserted by the early '80s, helping to end New York's monopoly on the art world's attention.

Artists working in Chicago before then, however, faced quite dire circumstances: few commercially viable galleries, scant opportunities to show in museums, a modern art collectorship with its attention trained on New York and Europe, only a smattering of critics and even fewer effective boosters. Nevertheless, as in those other cities, an artistic community not only persisted in Chicago, but it thrived, in no small measure due to the presence of the School of the Art Institute and the lingering Bauhaus milieu of the Institute of Design. Chicago's great indiginous jazz musicians, like Von Freeman and Fred Anderson, had to weather the indignity of decades without an appropriate audience, and so too have some of the signal names in Chicago art history - painters like Briggs Dyer and Robert Amft - languished far too long in relative obscurity. Corbett vs. Dempsey aims to change this by bringing these artists, as well as many others, into the kind of light their historical circumstances may once have denied them.

The orientations and aesthetics of Corbett vs. Dempsey reflect the passions of its two principals, John Corbett and Jim Dempsey. John Corbett is a writer and producer best known for his musical involvements, most notably his work producing jazz and improvised music events and CDs. He was artistic director of Berlin JazzFest 2002, has been co-curator of the Empty Bottle Jazz Series since 1996, and is the producer of the Unheard Music Series ( Since 1988, Corbett has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he is Adjunct Associate Professor. He has served as chair of the Sound and Exhibition Studies departments, and in recent years he has curated a wide range of visual art exhibitions, including a retrospective of artist Tristan Meinecke and an exhibition of German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann's early '60s paintings. Jim Dempsey is a well-known figure in Chicago film circles, as he's the house manager and a film programmer at the Gene Siskel Film Center. A painter himself, Dempsey is an alum of SAIC.

Corbett vs. Dempsey maintains a gallery space on the third floor of the Dusty Groove building, 1120 N. Ashland. Gallery hours are Friday and Saturday 11-4, and by appointment. Please call or email us and we'll be happy to make arrangements to meet and look at some art.

Only a small amount of our inventory is documented online. Please inquire about anything you'd like to see more of.

All the work is for sale, unless otherwise noted. Prices available upon request.


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