Saturday, December 1, 2018

Robert Lostutter - Corbett vs. Dempsey

Robert Lostutter, Kyosei 3 (detail), Graphite on Paper, 10 x 10"  2016

I studied painting at Northern Illinois University in the late 1980s. As a graduate student, preparing to transition into the art world, I spent many Saturday afternoons exploring the River North Gallery district. I was intrigued by the variety of work being presented. It seemed as if there were hundreds of galleries, showing every kind of work imaginable. 

I believe that I was first introduced to the beautifully-obsessive watercolor paintings of Robert Lostutter at the Dart Gallery. At that time, Lostutter was creating portraits of stylized men with beautiful feathers emerging from their faces. The figures—sometime singular and sometimes paired—were tightly painted in rich jewel tones. It's my understanding that Lostutter worked with a minuscule brush to obsessively apply the nearly dry pigment to the surface of the paper. The images that he produced were a combination of colorful pageantry and the concealment of identity. I was both captivated and intrigued by his notion of the permanent mask. 

I continued to follow Lostutter’s career and in 2012, Corbett vs. Dempsey presented Garden of Opiates. The exhibition offered both watercolor and graphite pieces that fixated on the floral aspect of the hybrid creatures. In this body of work, orchid petals replaced feathers. Petals are found growing from faces—and regularly from the lower lip. The unique imagery was strangely beautiful, and I found myself eager to see what would come next… Which brings me to today. 

I stopped by Corbett vs. Dempsey to experience the latest exhibition of work by Robert Lostutter. Seeming to be a continuation of the Garden of Opiates, the Kyosei exhibition is a series of beautifully-rendered graphite drawings. 

As I entered the third-floor gallery, I was welcomed by an army of freakishly beautiful creatures—some preoccupied with their own thoughts and others staring back, passively disinterested. Powerfully confident, the array of extraordinary creatures, seemed to hold a common secret. Like visiting the lion house at the zoo—where the creatures endure a life behind bars—these beasts are bound only by their frames. Lostutter begins a conversation that will conclude only in the viewer’s mind—questioning what these creatures might be thinking as they glare back at us. 

I found myself walking back-and-forth along the long wall of contemporary masterpieces—reminiscent of an animal pacing in a cage. I lingered between images—carefully studying  the brilliance of Lostutter’s obsessive technique. This exhibition is a brilliant next step in the career of a contemporary master. 

Robert Lostutter, Kyosei 20, Graphite on Paper, 10 x 10"  2018

Robert Lostutter: Kyosei continues through December 19, 2018. Corbett vs. Dempsey is located on the third floor of 1120 North Ashland Avenue, in Chicago. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm, and by appointment. The gallery will be moving in the near future—making the Lostutter exhibition the last within this amazing space.