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Tony Fitzpatrick: Max and Gaby's Alphabet


Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick is a sometimes poet, boxer, and DJ, but he is primarily a printmaker best known for delivering the gritty character of old Chicago-a workingman's hometown, filled with visions of gray factories, prostitutes, and intoxicated dreams. Fitpatrick's latest effort, Max and Gaby's Alphabet, enlivens a bit of the grit with a good dusting of imagination, in a project designed to celebrate the way children think. (left: Tony Fitzpatrick, "A" from Max and Gaby's Alphabet)

Tony Fitzpatrick: Max and Gaby's Alphabet runs through March 30, 2003 at the Greenville County Museum of Art. It's an exhibition of twenty-six color etchings, each representing one letter of the alphabet. Fitzpatrick conceived the project in 1998 when his son Max was five and learning his letters. In two years of production, Max and his little sister Gaby were full players in the project: each of the images in Fitzpatrick's Alphabet began with the artist suggesting a letter and then challenging one or both of his children to draw something from their imagination that began with that letter.

The children contributed both conventional thoughts and off-the-wall ideas. "F" is for fish and "B" is for bat, but "U" is for unusual, "H" is for horsepower, and "G" celebrates the Green Hornet. Each illustration also works. Lynn Walker, who assembled the exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, has called Fitzpatrick's etchings technically astonishing. "The highly focused, labor-intensive process of etching is not commonly used by contemporary artists," Walker offered, "yet it suits Fitzpatrick's talents and vision perfectly."

Filmmaker Jonathan Demme, a friend of Fitzpatrick's, wrote an essay for the fully illustrated catalog that accompanies the exhibition. He called it "a wild and funny, spookily heartfelt celebration, a playground of the mind for kids of any age to cavort through."

And cavort you may, with or without children in tow.


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