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Your Pal, Cliff at the Smart Museum

Seeing sketchbooks, letters, and unfinished projects, you might be forgiven for thinking you’re in an artist’s living room. In fact, the Smart Museum of Art‘s new exhibit Your Pal, Cliff shows just how difficult it can be to separate the private and public lives of Horace Clifford (H. C.) Westermann (1922–1981). The exhibit, which premiered on April 2, displays one of the most significant public collections of artwork and archival material of an artist whose marriage, wartime experiences, and mental wanderings coalesced into engaging and influential artwork. The Smart Museum’s website explains:

Drawing largely on material that has never been exhibited before, Your Pal, Cliff brings to light for the first time the full scope of the H. C. Westermann Study Collection. The collection—established at the Smart Museum through donations by the estate of the artist’s wife, Joanna Beall Westermann, and enhanced by gifts from the artist’s family and others—includes correspondence, sketchbooks, print blocks, gift objects, photographic documentation, tools, and unfinished projects in addition to rich holdings of finished sculptures, drawings, and prints.

The exhibit was curated by Rachel Furnari and Michael Tymkiw, both PhD candidates in art history at the University of Chicago and Smart Museum curatorial interns, in consultation with Richard A. Born, Smart Museum Senior Curator.  It will continue through September 6. For more information, visit the exhibit webpage.

Update: Rave reviews have been coming in for Your Pal, Cliff. Newcity Art writes that it is “intensely personal…Easily the most romantic art exhibit in a long while, it would begin to feel a little voyeuristic were it not so persistently endearing.”

“The delights of this show are numerous,” writes the Chicago Sun-Times. “As deliciously accessible and sometimes almost cartoon-like as Westermann’s work is — it’s loaded with ships, robots, baseball bats , devils and bawdy jokes — the more time you spend with it, the more cryptic it seems. It is that mix of elusiveness and boyish charm in Westermann that renders this show particularly satisfying.”

Time-Out Chicago is charmed by the way Westermann works “to break down the divisions between ‘art’ and ‘craft.’”  Also mentioned are the curators of the exhibit: “Curators Rachel Furnari and Michael Tymkiw make exceptional use of Westermann’s preparatory drawings, wooden blocks, color studies and canceled proofs to illuminate his printmaking process.”

See what the buzz is about at the Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Avenue—admission is always free.

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