Dominick Di Meo: Torsoscape

Opening: Friday, May 3, 2024 6 – 8 pm
Friday, May 3 – Jun 22, 2024

2156 West Fulton St.
Chicago, IL 60612

May 3 – June 22, 2024

Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 6-8 PM


Dominick Di Meo



What is a torsoscape?

The torsoscape is an invention of Dominick Di Meo, one of the original artists associated with Chicago’s postwar figurative expressionists, a group often referred to as the Monster Roster. In the 1950s, Di Meo was making complex landscape works in which the ground is composed of an aggregation of images, low reliefs, and sometimes actual objects. Atop the horizon in these paintings and drawings, Di Meo would set a head. In a flash, the landscape is transformed into a torso, the combination constituting a torsoscape. Seen as part of this machinic assembly, with the head locking the landscape in as a body, the multiplicities of the torso are reconfigured as a system, suggesting an organic relationship between their bits and pieces and an interdependent relationship between the head and its body. This relates back to the artist’s interest in disembodied limbs, a fixation born in part out of his childhood experience of polio and his period spent in a polio ward, as well as a novel extrapolation on certain works by Jean Dubuffet, who was an important influence. Di Meo would continue using the torsoscape as a compositional structure in his work for half a century, bringing the idea with him from Chicago to New York, where he settled in 1969, and utilizing it as a means for many iterations and variations.

Torsoscape is the first exhibition dedicated to this facet of Di Meo’s oeuvre. Featuring over a dozen works from 1960 to 1974, the show explores several different ways that the artist utilized the structure, from an early work executed with papier-mâché and animal bones on a wooden door to later paintings in which the head is made of a disc or ball of acrylic polymer. The torsos in two large canvases from the mid 1960s consist of a tangle of spray-stenciled objects – scissors, spoons, and forks, which are always stand-ins for arms and hands in Di Meo’s visual vocabulary – as well as doilies, twisted strands of wire, letterforms, and butterflies. Eclipse (1964) depicts the head as a line drawing in profile, gazing at a drawn crescent moon with a slight corona, its non-eclipsed double slipping off-screen to the right, a narrow band of stenciled torsoscape propping up the head’s chin.
Dominick Di Meo (b. 1925) was the subject of a recent two-person show (with Ella Rose Flood) at Simone Subal Gallery, New York. His work was included in several recent museum exhibitions, including Private Eye: The Imagist Impulse in Chicago Art, Newfields, Indianapolis, Indiana, 2021; 3-D Doings: The Imagist Object in Chicago Art, 1964-1980, Tang Teaching Museum, Saratoga Springs, New York, 2019; and Monster Roster: Existentialist Art in Postwar Chicago, Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, 2016. This is Di Meo’s sixth solo exhibition with Corbett vs. Dempsey, including a collaborative show with Thomas Dane Gallery, London, in 2013, and a solo booth presentation at Art Basel, Switzerland, in 2019.



Image:  Dominick Di Meo, Untitled, 1964, oil and synthetic on canvas, 72 x 50 inches.