Roland Ginzel, A Retrospective 1941-1984: Paintings, Prints, Drawings, Press Drawings

Roland Ginzel

Roland Ginzel, A Retrospective 1941-1984: Paintings, Prints, Drawings, Press Drawings is an opportunity for Gallery 400 to exhibit the works of an outstanding artist whose long career centered in Illinois, and who retired from the UIC faculty in 1983 after decades of service. Ginzel, an abstract painter using acrylic pigments and oil, is also a consummate draftsman and printmaker; his "pressed paper" pieces extend his compositional vocabulary of floating planes into the medium of hand-made paper collage.

Ginzel, born in Lincoln, Illinois, has been an inspiring force in the Chicago art world for decades. A graduate of the School of the Art Institute, Ginzel returned to the city after graduate school at Iowa State University and a year's study in London. Ginzel's active exhibition record dates back to the 1950s. He first showed at the Art Institute's Chicago and Vicinity exhibition in 1956 and won prizes at this and subsequent C&Vs. During the 1950s and 60s, Ginzel and his wife Ellen Lanyon were central players in such artists' organizations as the Hyde Park Art Center. He was chosen as one of 14 artists featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art's 1976 Abstract Art In Chicago; this show was an attempt to give "equal time" to non-Imagist work and to demonstrate the range and diversity of the Chicago School. Ginzel's works on paper and canvas have been highlighted in major national and international exhibitions, including the 1976 Whitney Biennial. The artist’s paintings, drawings and prints are in major museum, corporate and private collections.

His large colorful canvases explore a progressive range of problems including the juxtaposition of hard-edged color forms with free-floating painterly planes, systematic stenciling and surrealism crossed with abstraction.

The Gallery 400 exhibition presented an evolutionary picture of Ginzel' s oeuvre beginning with the 1950s. His drawings and paintings – highlighting expressionistic draftsmanship – occasionally reveal similarities in palette and subject matter to Leon Golub's humanistic works of the same decade. In the 1960s, Ginzel settled into the abstract idiom that has become his signature. His large colorful canvases explore a progressive range of problems including the juxtaposition of hard-edged color forms with free-floating painterly planes, systematic stenciling and surrealism crossed with abstraction. Recently Ginzel's paintings have waxed lyrical – becoming active fields of color and brushwork.

Ginzel's dedication to abstraction made him "a somewhat isolated figure” for much of his career. Critics have commented on Ginzel's greater affinities with the New York School. The exhibition and catalogue re-evaluated this generalization. Roland Ginzel, A Retrospective was an important part of the recent re-consideration of abstraction in Chicago art. The exhibition was comprised of over forty works including major paintings from all periods and smaller works on paper. Ginzel, an active consultant to the exhibition organizers, lent many previously unexhibited works to Gallery 400. Major corporations, including Kemoer Insurance and the Continental Bank, and private owners also lent works. 

This exhibition was accompanied by a 20-page catalogue illustrated with black and white photographs and 2-4 color plates, an essay by Laurel Bradley and a short "Appreciation" by Dan Ramirez, associate professor of art at UIC. A lecture on Ginzel and his work by Chicago art critic Dennis Adrian also complemented the show.