Friedman Fine Art is pleased to represent the spectacular works of Chicago artist Jack Nixon. Jack is a contemporary local artist that specializes in graphite drawings of Chicago landmarks and architectural details.
Jack C. Nixon III (born October 1, 1956) is a contemporary American Photo-realist artist whose life’s work is dedicated to drawing and documenting the most beautiful architecture exteriors and interiors built in the United States before 1945. Influenced greatly by the Late Renaissance Italian illustrator and printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi and the French Ecole des Beaux-Arts illustrators, Jack works in graphite (soft-leaded pencils) on paper and publishes the drawings in small fine art print editions of giclee and photogravure. He currently lives and works from his home studio in Wilmette, Illinois.
Jack gravitated towards technical art classes in high school, having graduated from New Trier East in Winnetka, Illinois with art, history, and architectural and engineering drawing being his favorite subjects, winning his first notable drawing recognition from Northern Illinois University in 1973 while still in high school. But, having no love for math, he chose not to be an engineer or architect, choosing instead to study industrial design with Victor Schreckengost at the Cleveland Institute of Art in Cleveland, Ohio in the late 1970’s; switching majors to Graphic Design Communication from a preference for two dimensional composition, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1981.
“Studies in Light and Form: The Chicago Seven and The Michigan Avenue Bridge Sculptures” is the artist’s greatest work to date. A large, 30-35 foot modular art installation of six graphite drawings depicting the many architectural and sculptural splendors appearing on and around the southern foot of Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” (the intersection of the Chicago River and the Michigan Avenue Bridge,) it took four years to complete over a twenty-four year period. The suite is composed of “Study in Light and Form: The Chicago River’s South Side Spires” and “Study in Light and Form: The Wrigley, Tribune, and Medinah Spires” which are two 50 x 66″ master works that are a matching and mirrored pair reflecting a bye-gone era of building design and architectural craftsmanship that may never be seen again in the United States. Flanked by the four Michigan Avenue Bridge Sculpture drawings “Defense”, “Regeneration”, “The Discoverers”, and “The Pioneers, the “Wrigley/Tribune” and the “South Side Spires” the set are painstaking illustrations that document and celebrate the construction frenzy of granite, marble, Indiana limestone, and terra cotta clad, Neoclassic, Gothic Revival, and Art Deco romantic imagination of America’s roaring 1920s.
A contemporary “tour de force” of produced with soft 2B, 3B, and 4B technical pencils, this monumental opus was conceived in 1987 as a special “double triptych” suite of six individual pieces. Each drawing is a separate, stand-alone work that can be enjoyed as such or can be displayed in a variety of combinations. Furthermore, the full suite can be repositioned with the two “South Side Spires” and “Wrigley/Tribune” triptychs facing each other on opposite walls or in rotunda. Standing in between them creates the 360 degree encircling illusion of viewing the bridge sculptures and the many towering buildings from the north and south banks of the Chicago River – simultaneously. As the southern entrance to Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile,” with the winding river forking in the west and Lake Michigan seen immediately to the east, the Michigan Avenue Bridge is the central axis of the most beautifully ornate, most dramatic, and most dynamic cityscape on earth.
This massive masterpiece is the ultimate of the artist’s patient, determined, technical, and creative talents which he will never equal or surpass. Mr. Nixon’s drawing style is a variation of the difficult and tedious technique called trompe l’oeil (tromp loi (French for “to fool the eye”)) which involves extreme detail that creates another illusion where objects appear in three dimension. For “South Side Spires” (the most recent drawing finished in 2012), two weeks of careful study was needed in numerous sketchs to perfect composition: slightly repositioning two of the four Michigan Avenue Bridge Houses and the four main buildings; eliminating two floors in the Mather/ Lincoln Tower and one floor of the Carbon & Carbide Building; eliminating a few lesser buildings altogether; and squeezing the entire scene of 100 collaged photographs twenty percent in Photoshop to tighten the scene to match the proportions of the “Wrigley/Tribune” drawing. The two weeks of careful study and image manipulation was as important as the twelve months of singularly focused illustration. The original drawings are currently on individual loan to a number of Midwestern museums of contemporary art.
The artist is currently working on the Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station (seen in deep winter) as a 50 x 66″ drawing which has been an interest and a study of his since 1993.
Nixon’s artistic influences have not come from contemporary sources but have come from the classicism of centuries before. Nixon’s many inspirations have come from minutely detailed works that include engraved and illustrated antique maps of the world by Hondius; The German painter and printmaker Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), the eighteenth century Italian engravings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778); the beautiful French engravings of the architectural antiquities Description de l’Egypte publication (1809) of its ancient ruins shortly after Napoleon’s Armée d’Orient withdrawal from the middle east; the mid nineteenth century French École des Beaux-Arts watercolor and guache reconstructions of ancient Roman and Greek temples; John James Audubon’s print folios of birds, flora, and fauna (1838-40); Grant Wood and Andrew Wyeth, including the Brandywine Studio artists Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth. With those representational influences being most prominent, Nixon saw the potential for new, high quality architectural graphics of Chicago’s and America’s historic buildings, monuments, and ornamental decoration that could rival the golden era of etchings and engravings of ancient Rome, Athens, and Egypt. In 1987 he began to produce a series of master original graphite drawings called: “CLASSIC CHICAGO: THE ART OF ARCHITECTURE.”
UNION LEAGUE CLUB OF CHICAGO – “CLASSIC CHICAGO” EXHIBITION RELEASE
It is rare for a curator to come across an artist with Jack Nixon’s talent. With a superb sense of composition and space, while practicing excellent draughtsmanship and rendering, Jack documents and editions grand urban landscapes and vignettes of Chicago with its buildings, monuments, and decorative stone fragments that glorifies the city’s late 19th and early 20th century Neoclassic, Gothic Revival, and Art Deco architectural styles.
Working graphite on paper, self-supplied with hundreds of photographs for reference, he achieves a special vision of Chicago that goes beyond reality. Mr. Nixon’s drawing of bas relief, such as the four sculptures on the corner houses of the Michigan Avenue Bridge become fine trompe l’oeil reliefs [(tromp loi) french for “to fool the eye”]. Deftly exhibiting [Ivan Mestrovich’s] two bronze indian equestrians in Grant Park in bright light isolated from any background authors a new set of graphically substantial icons that match their monumental presence at [the intersection of] Michigan Avenue and Congress Boulevard.
The Wrigley, Tribune, and Medinah Spires drawing casts a pleasing balance of three spectacular buildings in the best possible light and juxtaposition. Mr. Nixon has subtly crafted a strong contrast between man’s hard, linear, vertical edifice with nature’s soft, billowing sky that creates a forceful three-dimensional confrontation with the viewer and these historic structures that by steps weak cliches associated with minor, less adroit illustration.
A master of Realism, displaying a new standard of old-world representation, Mr. Nixon provides us a uniquely contemporary view of architecture as art. It has been a pleasure for the Union League Club to debut Jack Nixon’s work. And I urge everyone who gets the chance, to view them in person. Slides and prints, although accurate, only suggest the powerful impact of the originals.
Dennis Loy, Curator
ARTROPOLIS / ART CHICAGO 2008 – The Invitational Exhibition of Emerging Artists
“Wow! This work is absolutely amazing. This is the best artist in the exhibition.” Paul Morris, VP Merchandise Mart Art Events and past owner and founding director, New York Armory Show.
Group Shows: Ft. Wayne Art Museum, Ft. Wayne, IN; Rockford Museum of Art, Rockford, IL; Swope Art Museum, Terra Haute, IN; Hot Springs Center For The Arts, Hot Springs, AR; Columbia College, Columbia, MO; Harper College, Palatine, IL
One Man Shows: Alden B. Dow Museum of Art, Midland, MI; Union League Club Of Chicago; University Club of Chicago; Mid America Bank
Amoco Company, BMO Harris Bank & Trust, Chicago Board of Trade, Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Wrigley Company, Tribune Company, Royal Bank of Scotland, InterContinental Hotels, Equity Office, The Habitat Company, Northwestern Skin Cancer Institute, Bates and Carey Law
H.E. Wooden Sr. Memorial Prize
Manifest Gallery 9th International Drawing Annual
Oak Park Art League Honorable Mention
Juried Best of Show: State Street Art Fair, Wells Street, Gold Coast, Lakeview, Water Tower, Chicago; Oakbrook Invitational; Hinsdale; La Grange; Highland Park; Evanston; Old Orchard, Skokie.
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