Chicago artist’s solo exhibition features epic paintings that examine contemporary American society and politics through layers of horrific and humorous detail.
Opening Reception: Friday, April 26, 2019 6-9pm
One After 909 is proud to present Born in the U.S.A., a solo exhibition by Chicago artist Tom Torluemke. As a painter, Torluemke fluidly moves between styles to convey his ideas in the technique best suited to express them. In this exhibition, he adopts a mural-like, utilitarian style to illustrate his reflections on current American politics and society based on his own observations and memories.
At first glance, Mr. Softee (2018) appears to be a nostalgic summertime scene set in a typical Chicago neighborhood like the one from Torluemke’s childhood. Indeed, the entire picture was painted from memory down to the color and model of the cars parked on the street. It is through this meticulous detail that the darkness of the image emerges, from the ominous observer at the foreground to the bully behind the ice-cream truck. In Torluemke’s vision of America, an ice-cream truck represents more than a sweet treat, it symbolizes America’s desire for instant gratification—a behavior we learn from a young age and carry into adulthood.
In this vein, Sickly Decline (2019)—one of three monumental works in the exhibition—is a brutal depiction of badly behaving adults abusing their positions of power, leaving those socially or economically beneath them to clean up their messes. Despite the intense impact of the painting’s imagery, Torluemke’s signature subtleness is present. Two excellent examples of this are the inferred meanings behind the American flag flying at half mast in the background, or a strategically placed pile of fresh excrement beneath a sour deal.
Through the work presented in Born in the U.S.A., Torluemke encourages viewers to see beyond the details into the America that he sees, both its beauty and depravity.
Image: Tom Torluemke, Sickly Decline, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 78.25 x 136.5 inches