Chicago

Paul LaMantia

Hyde Park Art Center

Paul LaMantia is probably the most ignored and underrated artist working in the Chicago Imagist tradition. The reason for this may be his use of violent sexual imagery combined with figures that appear to be part human, part insect or reptile, and part machine. His paintings are intimidating and monstrous in both size and subject matter, and the degree to which many people seem to have gone out of their way to avoid confronting LaMantia’s art is an indication of how effective it is.

To say that LaMantia is a misunderstood artist would be incorrect. He is perhaps understood all too well—at least in the brief time viewers allow themselves to experience his work before quickly moving away. This is in part due to the psychic taboos surrounding his horrific depictions of mindless, predatory carnality. Many of LaMantia’s figures are feminine or hermaphroditic; it’s easy to see why, among

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