chicago

Howard Fonda

Roots & Culture

Howard Fonda makes earnest declarations about his medium. In the statement accompanying this show, for example, he writes: “I see painting as a philosophical sanctuary and spiritual outpost”; “Painting is poetic and transcendent”; and “Painting is a vehicle of contradiction adept at conveying the hubris of, and understanding of, existence.” Fonda desperately pines to be a Romantic; his tender portraits of bearded nineteenth-century philosophers and his text-based paintings composed of words like endless, timeless, limitless, and nothingness lay bare his infatuation with mystical truths. Yet zeal risks superficiality, and his paintings have at times served only as trite illustrations of moral philosophy.

Until now, Fonda worked quickly with small brushes on modest-size canvases, hopping from one to the next and from subject to subject. In the spring of 2008 the Hyde Park Art Center on

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