Chuck Middlekauff’s pop sensibility adorns Park City Fine Art
When Park City Fine Art Owner Colby Larsen thinks about pop art, two artists Andy Warhol and Chuck Middlekauff — immediately come to mind.
The late Warhol brought pop art to the consciousness of the masses in the 1960s and 1970s with his colorful portraits of Marilyn Monroe and the Campbell’s Soup label, and Middlekauff, who is very much alive and living in Texas, has utilized some of Warhol’s images into his own Western and Americana works, according to Larsen.
"Chuck has long been fascinated with all of these fading roadside attractions," Larsen said. "He is internationally known for his close-up paintings of dusty cowboys, and rusty neon signs, Coke machines, roadside diners, motels, billboards, and other nostalgic icons."
Park City Fine Art will give art lovers a taste of Middlekauff’s works when it opens an exhibit of Middlekauff’s works on Friday, Feb. 27.
"The art will be up all day, but we’ll host a reception from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m.," Larsen said. "We’ll have refreshments and it will be like a party."
Larsen has worked with Middlekauff on and off for 11 years.
"Many people consider him the Western Andy Warhol. He’s taken a lot of the nostalgic scenes of the past from American heritage — Hollywood and Route 66 — and captures them before they fade away," Larsen said. "I mean, he’s traveled Route 41 to try and find some stuff and all he found was Applebee’s and Walmart, so we’re losing these types of places.
"For me personally, when I see structures like the McPolin Barn or barns in general, I really love them," Larsen explained. "For a long time, I didn’t realize why, but found they speak to me on a subconscious level about our American heritage, our roots and the American dream. I feel the exact same way as I do when I see Chuck’s work."
Larsen said showing an exhibit of Middlkauff’s work ties into the rise of pop art popularity these past few months.
"We’ve been talking about Andy Warhol because right now, there has been the biggest spike in Warhol art in years," Larsen said. "Just this last week, there was a rash of Warhol auctions and the numbers were astronomical for pieces that have never sold for that much before."
For example, Sotheby’s auctioned off a 24-inch flower painting, that was damaged, for $1.55 million and Warhol’s 36-by-28 inch Marilyn Monroe reversal work sold for $5.03 million, Larsen said.
Also, Christies auctioned Warhol’s 22-inch self portrait for $5.61 million and his 40-inch green John Lennon portrait for $1.565 million, according to Larsen.
"In general it’s interesting why it moves people and why people collect it," Larsen mused. "You can say that about any type of art, but I’ve never been able to figure out why. Art is something that moves people from the inside and pop art takes icons and something that’s commercialized and puts an artist stamp on it.
"I believe Chuck Middlekauff is standing on past pop artists’ shoulders," he said. "He’s influenced by them and creating works that are what we call pastiche, which is taking art from other artists and pays tribute by putting it into their own works. He puts his own spin onto it. So there is a marriage between two or three great artists that make one great piece of art."
Middlekauff’s work, "Broadside of the Barn," is a good example.
"Chuck utilizes Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe portrait and adds his Western and Americana spin on it," Larsen said. "I love that piece."
Another unique aspect of the work is the Middlekauff’s mixed media.
"He loves painting with watercolor and there is something with the brushstrokes he does," Larsen said. "He paints on watercolor paper and then mixes acrylic into the work. Then he’ll slap on an object, like a Coca-Cola cup on to it, and then mount the paper onto a canvas, which gives it a unique texture. He’s found a way to seal the watercolor paper so we don’t have to put them behind glass."
Park City Fine Art will show between 17 and 22 of Middlekauff’s works, according to Larsen.
"We’re excited for this because he’ll usually send us a collection of work and we’ll sell it out, because there is such a demand on his pieces," Larsen said.
Park City Fine Art, 577 Main St., will present "Route 66 Plus: Roadside Impressions by Chuck Middlekauff," which will open on Friday, Feb. 27, with a reception from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://www.parkcityfineart.com.
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