- Posted October 3, 2014 by
Los Angeles, California
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Chuck Connelly: American Icon Still in the Making
From September 27th, 2014 - January 4th, 2015, the Pittsburgh Biennial at the Andy Warhol Museum is featuring “Chuck Connelly: My America”, his first solo museum show of his remarkable array of works from his early years in New York to the present day. Connelly’s paintings are also being showcased at the Mana Contemporary in Jersey City. “The Pellizzi Family Collections”, is a fascinating exhibition of iconic artists representing the early 80’s New York art era and will be on view from September 14, 2014 – March 13, 2015.
Inventing his own style of expressionist painting, Chuck Connelly’s undeniable talent destined him to be an artist right from the beginning, although growing up in a town like Philadelphia didn’t exactly nurture those types of aspirations. “I wasn’t one of those kids who was into sports or anything, painting was always just my thing. It was pretty clear to me from an early age that I’d go to art school or do nothing.” Connelly explains. So, to art school he went and soon after graduating from Philadelphia’s Tyler School of Art in 1977, he headed off to the big city and launched his rollercoaster career ride. In fact, his first patron was none other than Dr. Atkins, (creator of the Atkins diet), who helped him spend two years in Germany further developing his work before he emerged back in New York as one of the hottest artists on the scene. Not only was he represented by the esteemed Annina Nosei Gallery and hanging with the likes of Julian Schnabel and Jean-Michel Basquiat, film director Martin Scorsese had specifically sought Connelly’s work to appear in his 1989 film “New York Stories.”
“I was sitting at home watching TV one night and out of the blue I got this phone call – ‘hey Scorsese wants some of your paintings’ – I almost couldn’t believe it, it came out nowhere”, recalls Connelly. In fact, the film not only showcased Connelly’s paintings but Nick Nolte played a character based on Connelly himself and while the film began skyrocketing him to fame, he regretfully admits being the one to cut that ride short. His now infamous words quoted in the New York Post calling the film “mundane” and “clichéd” rather than promoting its release was enough for Scorsese to sever the ties for good. “I even wrote him a letter apologizing and trying to explain that I meant “clichéd” in a good way, but I never did hear from him again,” Connelly says.
While it certainly didn’t help his career at the time, it was these kind of “mis-steps” that fuelled Chuck Connelly’s infamy to being like the Axl Rose of the art world. Although his talent never waned, his reputation did and after many disputes with galleries over money and pissing off enough people in the art world, he left New York and returned to Philadelphia. “I left New York thinking I’d be better off as a big fish in the little pond back home, but instead I ended up feeling like a minnow in a cesspool”, Connelly muses. Although he never stopped working on his art, Connelly came back into the public eye as somewhat of a reality TV star in the HBO documentary series, “The Art of Failure: Chuck Connelly Not For Sale”. Heralded by “Variety” as being an unvarnished a portrait of an artist as one is likely to get, the Emmy award winning series chronicled Connelly and his now ex-wife during their tumultuous relationship and perhaps the most difficult years of his life. Once the filming ended in 2007, Connelly was ready to leave the limelight for good.
But those who fall and come back stronger seem to be America’s favorite kind of icons and the return of Chuck Connelly is certainly proving him to be among that category. With new work that ranges from sensitive life like portraits of the “Sandy Hook Children” to his signature cynical cultural commentary in “The Idiot Box”, Connelly’s grab bag of style will never stop surprising us.
Perhaps nobody can sum up his art and his life better than Chuck Connelly himself. “I’ve gone down so many different paths and the point isn’t what path I’m on now, but how I can make all the paths make sense together”.
To find out more about Chuck Connelly, his work and his current shows at the Andy Warhol Museum and the Mana Contemporary, go directly to his website at: