Picture River North March 1976. Abandoned, unkempt and desolate, the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery set its roots in what would become the one of the most historic and important districts in the Chicago art movement. Founders, Robert Zolla and Roberta Lieberman, created a contemporary destination for famous names such as Andy Warhol, Donald Judd and Frank Stella to show their work and an opportunity for new artists to launch their careers.
Roberta Lieberman was survived by her son, William Lieberman, who now owns the gallery. He works to uphold her vision and grow her business with a constant flow of young and established artists.
Showing new artists has been a tradition of Zolla/Lieberman for more than 40 years. The third exhibition they presented was a young graduate student Deborah Butterfield. Her large horse sculptures constructed from branches and a brass cast created a hype and demand for intriguing art in River North.
To be an artist or a collector at Zolla/Lieberman is to be invited into a dialogue on a grand scale. Lieberman takes an interest in every new collector that walks into his gallery. He begins by inviting the collector to a dinner either at the gallery or in his home with a select group of artists and curators.
“After they meet the artist, if they are engaged and they liked the dialogue and are interested visually and emotionally,” says Lieberman. “I can usually gauge how potential collectors are going to relate to the work.”
These personal connections are vitally important to Lieberman’s values. The understanding between artists and collectors is as much a factor as the artwork itself. “The socializing and the sitting down at a table with collectors and young and mid-career artists is a tradition we have always had at the gallery,” says Lieberman.
The upcoming exhibition features abstract artist David Lozano and fantasy painter Katherine Ace.
Lozano experiments with a wide range of medias to tell his narratives. His most recent exhibit at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery was a bold venture of layering images, which he titled, “Bareback Baroque.”
His process of creating this graphic series of work highly distinguishes him as an artist. He first photographed different rooms in his home, then selected an image and enlarged it. He then physically poured paint, glycerin, enamel or resin on top of the graphic. Lastly, he created a copy on a larger scale.
One of the most striking features of this work is Lozano’s use of color. “Color serves as a metaphor for personal tensions and alludes to Pop and psychedelic aesthetics,” says Lozano. “It is used in my work as an innate way to celebrate light and culture.”
Lieberman gleams as he describes Lozano’s creative process and emotional investment in his work. “He wanted to document his personal life by bringing in his living situation and abstraction,” says Lieberman.
David Lozano’s upcoming exhibit, “Disparate Idioms and Desires” opens at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery at 5 p.m. on Friday, January 10. For a sneak peak of his works that will be shown, please view the photo slideshow.
Katherine Ace is a new addition to the gallery. Lieberman, admiring her stylistic interpretation of fiction, decided to take a chance on her.
Ace’s oil paintings draw from famous texts that she personally connects to. The upcoming exhibition, entitled “Tales,” is thematically based on Grimm’s fairy tales.
Her pieces are no ordinary story. She incorporates her personal life and her own characters into the narrative.
She says, “Each piece reveals a kingdom and each kingdom represents a person. When the kingdom is broken, there is something deeply wrong with that person.”
Her work, known for its fantasy and imagination, also exposes Ace’s own personal torment. She is unafraid to expose her wounds through her dense, psychological portrayal of human struggles.
“Tales” invites you to a dream state and haunts you with what you find there. Her figures do not evade your glance, but instead force you to look inside. The text has taken a visual form and Ace is the storyteller.
Her previous exhibit was modeled after John Keats’ Cupid and Psyche myth. She reinvents the still life with a table set in disarray atop of newspapers.
Water glasses are tipped over, symbolizing chaos and pain. Keats’ influence is so powerful in these pieces that she literally imports his text into the work.
While her use of romantic poets such as Keats, Homer and the Grimm brothers is prominent, she seeks inspiration from a range of texts. Ace once even experimented with fortune cookies as her muse.
Lieberman says the pairing of Lozano and Ace in the upcoming exhibit is likely to create a stimulating dialogue among visitors. Zolla/Lieberman Gallery makes art the conversation in River North, and will continue to do so for another four decades.
The Katherine Ace and David Lozano exhibits will be showing from January 10 to February 8 at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery at 325 West Huron in Chicago. For more information, visit www.zollaliebermangallery.com. View pieces from the upcoming exhibit in the photo gallery.