When I first met Bruno Surdo, he was a professor of illustration and animation at The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago. Back then, his reputation for flawlessly rendering the human form was common knowledge. Not until roughly 2014 did I have an opportunity to experience his massively complex figurative canvases which referenced his personal impressions of contemporary society. That exhibition was presented at the Ann Nathan gallery in Chicago. Since the closing of the iconic Ann Nathan Gallery in 2016, Bruno Surdo has been represented by Nathan’s colleague Victor Armendariz, owner of Gallery VICTOR.
Bruno Surdo, "A Selfie, A Pink Unicorn, Paparazzi! What does it take to get noticed?" oil on canvas, detail
Bruno Surdo, "A Selfie, A Pink Unicorn, Paparazzi! What does it take to get noticed?" oil on canvas 79 x 108"
This past Saturday afternoon, as part of the Chicago Exhibition Weekend 2023, Gallery VICTOR presented an artist talk with Bruno Surdo—highlighting the artist, his process, and marking the conclusion of Surdo’s current exhibition. The exhibition offered both the massive compositions of interacting figures—imagery that Surdo has become known for—as well as a few amazingly intimate portraits, seemingly sketches for inclusion into larger canvases. It’s these brilliant studies that I gravitate toward.
“Reflection” offers the viewer a quiet moment to get lost in beautifully painted patterns of texture and surface. This single-figured portrait captures the interest of the observer by repeatedly offering new and exciting details to explore. With the subtle highlights falling upon the subject’s sensual lips and eyelashes, to the detailed complexity of her hair, “Reflection” ensnares the viewer into a corner of the mind where time becomes irrelevant. Even the background creates brilliant secondary interest with a uniquely random pattern, which Surdo explained, was inspired by the observation of aluminum foil.
As Surdo discussed his inspirations and process, he shared that the preliminary drawings for each painting are key to the final work. He defined stacks of renderings for a single canvas—and that the drawings are resolved on the canvas before beginning to paint. He also pointed out that, if an area of a painting wasn’t working, he had no problem wiping it away and beginning again. As he put it... “The Journey is what makes it truly exciting.”
Although the exhibition has concluded, works by Bruno Surdo are still available through Gallery VICTOR located at 300 West Superior Street, Chicago IL 60654. Gallery VICTOR is open Tuesday through Saturday 11am to 5pm. Learn more at www.galleryvictor.com
BRUNO SURDO (b. 1963, Chicago)
Bruno A. Surdo is a true native of Chicago. He studied drawing and art history and pursues the mastery of the human form with inspiration from the Renaissance masters. His provocative works center around the human condition and are known for their allegorical imagery. Bruno has had numerous shows and commissions, and his work is held in many prestigious art collections around the world. He lectures often and is a teacher who believes in nurturing others. The artistic forms he has created are images that communicate a personal commentary on the issue or question in mind. These shapes are then arranged in a pictorial space using the human form. Surdo strives to communicate a message to the viewer - to engage the person in a conversation between what he puts forth and what he or she can then interpret. The interchange of response and curiosity are goals the artist set when composing his ideas. Surdo believes art is a continual form of expression and he feels committed to search for a language that brings his thoughts and feelings to the surface.