Julius Caesar invites you to the opening of an exhibition of new paintings by Ethan Gill.
Distinctly imagined, Ethan Gill’s paintings contain all the synthesis and interpretation that come along with images invented and configured in the mind. Gill’s compositions are flat, figurative, and schematic; like the historical works that inspire their mode of depiction, his paintings are made to be read. Suns and moons tell time, corpses are laid out in graphic display, and symmetrical bodies collide over nameable (if not named) landscapes.
And football, too. On first flush, almost a joke: our reaction, a reminder of artists’ high-school solidarity in opposition, those juvenile origins of art’s presumed anti politic; fuck the jocks, the bros, proudly bad at sports (though basketball is acceptable); and where else does critical nonconformity go if not to art school? Art and sports have their mingled histories, however, and Gill’s footballers have much in common with our canon’s bronze boxers, crippled soldiers, and mangled messiahs.
What better place to locate one of western culture’s oldest stories, the enviable tragedy of the doomed masculine hero? Where else are bodies made into civic assets, and injuries made into headlines, talked about, even grieved on a national level?
The agony of Gill’s anonymous men, big competitive bodies engaging in physical struggles of performance, is everywhere in the paint. Their suffering is mythic too. Gill paints the romance and absurdity of a game as a system with victims, the bruiser legacy, but also the intimacies of that system: the compression of an athletic moment, the freeze of images in motion, and the sudden snapping, popping, release of a lifetime’s pressure to perform.
Mean on Sunday marks Ethan Gill’s first solo exhibition in Chicago. Gill studied at Northern Illinois University and completed his MFA in Painting and Drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014. He has recently shown at Lloyd Dobler Gallery, LVL3, Peanut Gallery, Circuit 12 Contemporary in Dallas, and The University of Illinois Springfield.
Essay by Steve Ruiz