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Thomas Chimes: Adventures in 'Pataphysics
February 27, 2007 - May 6, 2007
Antonin Artaud
Antonin Artaud, 1974
Thomas Chimes, American
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Thomas Chimes: Adventures in 'Pataphysics
February 27, 2007 - May 6, 2007

This retrospective exhibition celebrates the life and work of Thomas Chimes, arguably one of the most important and influential artists to have emerged on the Philadelphia art scene in the past 50 years. It includes approximately 100 paintings and works on paper, many previously unseen, along with extensive biographical and archival material.

Of Greek descent, Chimes was born in Philadelphia in 1921. In 1939, the artist enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he studied with Daniel Garber and Francis Speight, but his studies were quickly interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Chimes served in the United States Army Air Force during the war years, before returning to his studies in New York in 1946. Under the G.I. Bill, the artist studied philosophy at Columbia University, and painting and sculpture at the Art Students League, where his teachers included Reginald Marsh and John Hovannes.

During his three years at the Art Students League, Chimes became acquainted with such contemporaries as Tony Smith, Barnett Newman, William Baziotes, Michael Lekakis, and Theodore Stamos. His own paintings from the 1940s and early 1950s reveal a strong debt to the dominant artistic trends in New York at that time, especially the gestural abstraction of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and other painters associated with Abstract Expressionism. In 1953, however, Chimes made a conscious decision to return to Philadelphia, much to the bewilderment of many of his friends and colleagues in New York. Inspired by the artists and writers whose names have become associated with the city of Philadelphia, most notably Thomas Eakins and Edgar Allan Poe, Chimes began to formulate an intensely personal and highly original iconography that often drew upon childhood memories and dreams.

Study for Ringling Mural
Untitled (Study for Ringling Mural), 1962
Thomas Chimes (American, born 1921)
Oil on canvas
14 x 36 inches
Private Collection
Tracing the stylistic evolution of Chimes's idiosyncratic art, the retrospective will provide a comprehensive—and long overdue—examination of the artist’s remarkable career. The diverse body of work that the artist has produced since the late 1950s—which includes crucifixion paintings, metal boxes, a celebrated series of panel portraits, and the more recent white paintings—reveals his remarkable ability to periodically reinvent himself, and underscores the conceptual nature of his artistic practice. Chimes has found inspiration for his evocative imagery in the writings of Alfred Jarry, Antonin Artaud, James Joyce, and other literary heroes, as well as in the art of Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, Thomas Eakins, and Marcel Duchamp. The works of these artists are strongly represented in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which Chimes first visited in 1931 and today considers his second home.


This exhibition is made possible by the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, a program of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and administered by The University of the Arts. Additional support was provided by The Locks Foundation, the J. F. Costopoulos Foundation, The Robert Montgomery Scott Fund for Exhibitions, Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz and The Robert H. and Janet S. Fleisher Foundation, the Areté Foundation/Betsy and Ed Cohen, Susan and Washburn S. Oberwager, Linda and Paul Richardson, and other members of The 'Pataphysical Society, a group of generous donors.


Michael R. Taylor • The Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art


Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries, first floor