Saturday, April 22, 2017

Yale Factor: "4 Decades" at the Zhou B Art Center

In the mid 1980s, I was studying Illustration at Northern Illinois University. To my recollection, the program offered two professors with which to work… Jay Paul Bell and Yale Factor. Both were amazing father figures who had high expectations of their students and—as with most children—the students never wanted to disappoint them.

As well as being talented Illustrators, both Jay Paul Bell and Yale Factor were—and continue to be—fine artists. For most of his career, Bell has been producing beautiful large-scale paintings of rural landscape… not too strange considering NIU’s cornfield location. But Factor has moved through numerous subjects of passion—from beautiful graphite renditions of faces, to obsessively complex painted landscape, and personalized still life compositions that play with the viewer’s sense of reality. The work of Yale Factor presents a compulsively detailed exploration of the subject. And for the past five weeks, the evolution of Factor's career has been on display in a retrospective titled “4 Decades” at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. 

Yale Factor "Ruminations of a curious mind"

I visited the exhibition last night. It was beautifully staged with a central alter of paintings, which I believe were produced in the 80s. They offered ridiculously detailed, old-world renditions of the acquisition of knowledge… Opened books presenting scientific illustrations accompanied by various lab specimens, or wrinkled roadmaps defining a journey intertwined with unique personalized objects. The paintings are intriguingly unique. 

Yale Factor

But as I explored the room, I found—on an exterior wall—an intimate study of a gasping piranha. I was intrigued with this image: A beautifully rendered powerful animal, struggling to breath…mouth open exposing its razor sharp teeth—body wrenched… searching for the water from which it was taken. The incident takes place against a soft-focus surreal achromatic background—perhaps an oil stained beach or haze induced sky. Conceivably a comment on the current global climate crisis? 

The exhibition closed last night during a “Third Friday” event but the opportunity to view Factor’s work remains. He has a studio/gallery within the Zhou B Art Center, located at 1029 W. 35th Street in Chicago, Illinois 60609. Contact him at:, or by phone at: 815.762.5243

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