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A History, Commentary and Criticism of Grace Kelly’s Acting and Modeling Career, 1946-1956.

Philadelphia-born Grace Kelly (1929-1982) had a short but dazzling film career in Hollywood. Called the “Greatest Screen Presence in Film,”1 passionate and dramatically talented Grace Kelly was Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite actress when she starred in three of his classic films of the 1950’s: Dial M For Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955).  After Grace was discovered in 1951 by Gary Cooper who said that she was “different from all these actresses we’ve been seeing so much of”2—and subsequently cast in High Noon (1951) as Cooper’s movie wife—Grace Kelly’s incomparable charm and allure swiftly impressed Hollywood and the world. From September 1951 to March 1956 Grace Kelly’s star blazed in eleven major motion pictures for five different Hollywood studios.

Grace on the set of Rear Window

On the set of Rear Window (1954). In the 1930’s costume designer Edith Head leaned liberal in her costume designs. But in the 1950’s her designs became more conservative.

Grace Kelly in a chiffon-draped gown by Edith Head for To Catch a Thief (1955). Edith Head and Grace Kelly became lifelong friends so much so that Edith Head, who was a very busy and successful costume designer in Hollywood, visited Grace in Monaco after she became princess.

Grace and Dorothy Towne High Noon

Grace Kelly and her stand-in Dorothy Towne on the set of High Noon. Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, Gary Cooper, Co-starred with Grace Kelly in High Noon. Gary Cooper took credit for discovering Grace for the movies. He said about Grace: she was “different from all these actresses we’ve been seeing so much of.”

Grace and Edith Head To Catch A Thief

Grace Kelly in wardrobe by Edith Head for The Bridges of Toko-Ri. Filming began in January 1954 where Grace played a small but pivotal role as Nancy Brubaker, wife of Lt. Harry Brubaker (William Holden). By this time Grace was becoming as well-known as Audrey Hepburn for her fashion sense, and Edith Head found it a joy to work with her.

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Edith Head’s famous eau de nil suit and matching hat for Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954).

Following High Noon for United Artists, her performance for M-G-M on John Ford’s Mogambo (1953) led to Grace’s first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Grace began work in July 1953 on Dial M For Murder for Warner Brothers where she met Alfred Hitchcock who became a cinematic mentor. Soon after, The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954) at Paramount Pictures began Grace’s ground-breaking multi-film collaboration with Academy-Award winning costume designer Edith Head. Grace refused other lucrative film offers to work again with Hitchcock, this time at Paramount Pictures, on Rear Window co-starring Jimmy Stewart.

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For Rear Window released in the summer of 1954 Grace Kelly received equal billings with co-star Jimmy Stewart and director Alfred Hitchcock.

In this landmark film which came out in summer 1954, one of Hitchcock’s dramatic emphases for Grace Kelly’s film persona was to display her natural elegance and sex appeal—he was amused by her public image as an “Ice Queen”3—by having her costumed in an array of fabulous Edith-Head-designed lingerie, dresses, and pants. Growing up in Philadelphia Grace Kelly as an adolescent and teenager had modeled in local fashion shows but, by the middle 1950’s in her mid-twenties, she became an international fashion and style icon. 

Grace Kelly portrait from the film “Rear Window” photographed by Virgil Apger, 1954.

Grace Kelly was a style icon for the era of the 1950’s.

Following these first phenomenal film credits, what happened for Grace Kelly next was perhaps surprising but not unexpected, and a clear and certain capstone to, and beacon for, her professional acting career that was barely five years old. Never just a pretty face, Grace Kelly insisted in her studio contract that she be allowed regular breaks to be able to act in live theater.4 Grace admired the art of the live stage and welcomed demanding theater and film roles that challenged and exhibited her acting range and abilities. This was part of her motivation to go after the hardly glamorous but dramatically impressive role of Georgie Elgin in George Seaton’s The Country Girl (1954) for Paramount Pictures.

Grace Kelly studying the script during filming of George Seaton’s The Country Girl. The 1954 film received 7 Academy Award nominations and won two. One of them was for Grace who won the Oscar for Best Actress.

With co-stars Bing Crosby and William Holden, the film featured Grace playing the long-suffering wife of an alcoholic actor struggling to resume his career (played by Crosby). At its release, the film was a hit and nominated for seven Academy Awards. On Wednesday, March 30, 1955, at the telecast of the 27th annual Academy Awards held at RKO Pantages Theatre,5 The Country Girl won two Oscars, including one for Grace Kelly for Best Actress. At just 25 years old Grace Kelly—of the ambitious and hugely competitive Philadelphia Kellys—had reached the highest echelons of the cinematic arts by way of her profession’s gold-plated statuette.

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Grace Kelly backstage after the 27th annual Academy Awards on March 25, 1955 when she won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in The Country Girl.

27th Annual Academy Awards Bette Davis presenter, Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly

The 27th Annual Academy Awards, Bette Davis presenter, Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly, with their Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars. 

Always looking ahead, Grace’s film career had already turned international. She did Mogambo for a host of reasons not least of which was being able to see Africa with “all expenses paid.”6 In early 1954 she had flown to South America to make Green Fire (1954) for M-G-M with Stewart Granger and then in May 1954 she was at the French Riviera to make her third film with Alfred Hitchcock: To Catch a Thief (1955) co-starring Cary Grant for Paramount Pictures.

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Grace Kelly sitting in Cary Grant’s chair while director Alfred Hitchcock serves her a beverage on the set of To Catch A Thief. The cast and crew had such a respect for the young film star that a hush would come over the set at her first appearance.

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La Victorine studios 1954 Hitch directs GK on To Catch a Thief grace kelly

Grace liked the Riviera enough to travel there one year later, in April 1955, this time for the 8th annual Cannes Film Festival. To what degree Grace could imagine in advance how that particular journey to that most beautiful part of the world would impact her film career as well as future life as wife and mother was beyond her. It was during that early spring 1955 Mediterranean trip that Grace Kelly was first introduced to Prince Rainier III of Monaco.

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26-year-old Grace Kelly and 31-year-old Prince Rainier III at their first meeting at the palace in Monaco, May 6, 1955. They would be engaged to be married by the end of the year. Photograph by Edward Quinn.

Grace Kelly stood five foot seven inches tall and weighed 118 pounds. Her dress size was two.7 She was born on November 12, 1929 into the Kelly family of Philadelphia. Grace Patricia Kelly was the third of four children and one of that Irish-German family’s three girls. Elder sister Peggy and younger sister Lizanne were athletic and shared their mother Margaret’s model looks. Margaret was also the family disciplinarian who the Kelly children liked to call “the Prussian General.”8 

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Grace Kelly modeling a fashionable dress for her mother in the mid 1950’s. Look at Grace’s reflection in the mirror.

As a child Grace was dreamy and shy while her siblings were outgoing and athletic. Yet Grace too inherited a keen awareness of her body using her arms and legs to be dramatically expressive in an actress’s rather than athlete’s way.9 By the time she was 18 years old Grace’s beautiful rectangle-shaped face with soft pear-shape dimensions displayed thick blond hair, almond-shaped blue eyes, a small high-bridge nose and ruby lips evident in many later glamour photographs. 

Grace Kelly in red by Howell Conant, 1955.

Grace Kelly by Howell Conant, 1955. Conant was Grace Kelly’s friend and favorite photographer.

Grace Kelly.

Grace Kelly MGM portrait

Each member of the Philadelphia Kelly family was an exuberant competitor in areas of American life such as athletics, business, politics, or high society.  As an adult one of Grace’s major strengths in addition to her incredible beauty was her ability to focus on whatever goal she decided to pursue whether professionally or personally until that goal was achieved. When Grace won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1955 it was also a brick in the Kelly wall of ambition for success.  Before she was a teenager Grace performed in plays so that in her teenage years a desire to be an actress grew. Since Grace was situated within a protective and affluent family as well as educated in Philadelphia Catholic and private schools she sought theater work in New York City instead of Hollywood which Grace, even after she achieved film success, considered a pitiless machine of cinematic production.10

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The Kelly siblings in Philadelphia. Grace and Peggy flank Jack with Lizanne on his shoulders, c. 1946.

GK 1951

Grace Kelly moved to Southern California to be in motion pictures. She appeared in her first film called Fourteen Hours for 20th Century-Fox in 1951 when she was 22 years old.

It was Aristotle Onassis who suggested to Prince Rainier that he marry a beautiful American movie star to bring the glitterati back to Monaco. Onassis’s list at the time did not include Grace Kelly.11

Grace 1955

Invited to the 1955 Cannes Film Festival after she had won the Academy Award for Best Actress for The Country Girl one month before, Grace was curious enough about the prince to be introduced to him in Monaco on Friday, May 6, 1955. What is memorable from the photographs of their meeting at the palace is that the Prince looks chic and handsome and Grace is at her most beautiful in a black silk floral print dress with her blond hair pulled back into a German-style bun. That evening she returned to Cannes for the festival’s screening of The Country Girl helping to conclude a day that Grace herself called “pretty wild.”12 But Grace’s career in Hollywood wasn’t over—nor her life half begun. She was back in Paris before the festival’s winners were announced (she had won nothing there),13 and soon returned to Hollywood to make what turned out to be her final two Hollywood movies – The Swan and High Society.

Grace Kelly High Society 1956

Grace Kelly in High Society (1956).

Grace Kelly wears her new engagement ring from Prince Rainier on the set of High Society. One of her female co-stars observed it was the size of a “skating rink.”

Grace Kelly make up test High Society 1956

Grace Kelly in a make-up test for the honeymoon scene in High Society.

The Swan Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly, The Swan.

Grace Kelly MGM publicity photo The Swan

Grace Kelly in a MGM publicity photograph for The Swan. Grace was at the height of her career when she left the movies never to return for Monaco.

Grace Kelly in Ball Gown To Catch A Thief

Grace Kelly dressed for the ball in the penultimate scene of her penultimate film, To Catch A Thief.

Grace Kelly in 1956.

Grace Kelly at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz during filming of High Society (1956).

TEXT NOTES:

  1. It was actually my brother Kevin, now deceased, who when he was working in the Chicago Film Office wrote to me this apt description of Grace Kelly (and Rear Window as the greatest film ever).
  2. Quoted in Roberts, Paul G., Style Icons Vol 4 Sirens, Fashion Industry Broadcast, p. 74.
  3. Dherbier, Yann-Brice and Verlhac, Pierre-Henry, Grace Kelly A Life in Pictures, Pavilion, 2006, p. 11.
  4. Edith-Head-designed apparel for Rear Window – Haugland, H. Kristina, Grace Kelly: Icon of style to Royal bride (Philadelphia Museum of Art), Yale University Press, 2006, p. 956; so she could act in live theater – TBA
  5. Date and place of 1955 Oscars- see https://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/1955 – retrieved April 26, 2017.
  6. did Mogambo for an all-expense paid visit to Kenya – TBA
  7. height and dress size- http://www.bodymeasurements.org/grace-kelly/ – retrieved April 28, 2017.
  8. Dherbier and Verlhac, p. 9.
  9. Conant, Howell, Grace: An intimate portrait of Princess Grace by her friend and favorite photographer, Random House, 1992, p.18.
  10. Preferred theater to film-TBA
  11. Leigh, Wendy, True Grace: The Life and Times of an American Princess, New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2007, p.100.
  12. ibid., p. 112.
  13. Dherbier and Verlhac, p. 12.

Grace Kelly, Andy Warhol, 1984.

EXPO Chicago 2015, 17-20 September. Fourth International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art. (42 Photos).

Featured Image is Ewerdt Hilgemann’s Habakuk (Homage to Max Ernst), 2014, stainless steel, Borzo Gallery and The Mayor Gallery. In/Situ Outside 2015.

Photographs by John P. Walsh. 

Expo Chicago/2015 is the 4th annual exhibition of international contemporary and modern art held in Chicago at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall on September 17 – 20, 2015. This year’s exhibition featured 140 art galleries representing 16 countries and nearly 50 major international cities including New York City, Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing, Rome, Berlin, London, Paris, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago.

This post’s 41 photographs are of that event.

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A. George Miller (American, 1905-1984), Untitled (City Nocturne), ca. 1950s, 16 x 24 in. Richard Norton Gallery, Chicago. A. George Miller attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago starting in 1923. and was one of three official photographers for the 1933-34 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago.

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Lucian Freud (German-born British painter, 1922-2011), Head & Shoulders of a Girl (detail), 1990 etching, edition of 50, Browse & Darby, London.

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Hung Liu (Chinese-born American, b. 1948), Untitled (Dandelion), 2015, mixed media, 60 x 60 in., Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York. Hung Liu’s paintings are steeped in Chinese culture.

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Sergio Carmargo (Brazil, 1930-1990), Untitled #504, 1970 and Anish Kapoor (India, b. 1954), Untitled, 2014, Fiberglass and paint (“Yellow Void”), 160 x 160 x 56 cm. Lisson Gallery London Milan New York.

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Hunter Reynolds, Survival AIDS-ACT UP Chicago – A Revolution, 2015. Photo weaving, 8′ x 30′ Courtesy of artist & P.P.O.W. NY and Iceberg Projects Chicago.

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Hunter Reynolds in collaboration with Elijah Burgher and Steve Reinke in Survival AIDS Mummification Performance presented in partnership with PPOW and ICEBERG Projects for Survival AIDS Chicago Act Up a Revolution.

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Expo Chicago/2015.

Macon Reed 2015

Macon Reed, Incantation, 2015, Digital Photographic Print, 41 x 61 in.

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Kate Werble Gallery, NY.

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Chantal Joffe (UK, b. 1969), Green Strapless Dress, 2013, oil on board, 72.5 x 48.5 in., Galerie Forsblom, Finland. In a 2009 interview, Joffe said, “I really love painting women. Their bodies, their clothes – it all interests me.”

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Vik Muniz (Brazil, b. 1961), Album: Over There, 2014. digital c-print, edition of 6, 71 x 105 in., Rena Bransten Projects, San Francisco.

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Suzanne Martyl (American, 1917-2013), Asclepias, oil on masonite, 14 x 11 in., Richard Norton Gallery, Chicago. Suzanne Martyl or Martyl Langsdorf – or Martyl. The artist said that she “always found it fascinating to look and look and look, and spend all kinds of time until something would just ring a bell, and I would know how to rearrange nature to make a good composition.”

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Books include British photographer Darren Almond; Chicago Social Practice installation artist Theaster Gates; English artist Damien Hirst; and German photographer Andreas Gursky.

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VMU Gallery 101 / Art Fund curated by Rimas Čiurlionis, and coordinated by photographer Alex Zakletsky, presents a video installation of artists from the conflict zone in Ukraine including the work of Bella Logachova, Andriy Yermolenko and Ivan Semesyuk.

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Victoria Gitman (b. 1972, Buenos Aires; lives in Hallandale, FL), Untitled, 2015. Garth Greenan Gallery, New York. Sensuous and conceptually sophisticated oil paintings that are look natural.

Paul Wackers 2015Paul Wackers, Look At What I Did Now, 2015, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 48 x 40 in.,  Morgan Lehman Gallery, New York. Expo Chicago 2015.

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Andy Warhol, Love in the spring, 1955, watercolor and pencil on paper, McCormick Gallery, Chicago and Vallarino Gallery, New York.

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Central Academy of Fine Arts School of Design, Beijing, China.

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Marc Sijan ( American, b. 1946), Kneeling, resin and oil paint, Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico (detail).

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Elizabeth Catlett (American, 1915-2012), Reclining Woman, bronze, 1959. Behind, left to right: Charles Howard (American, 1899–1978), Friedel Dzubas (German-born American, 1915-1944) and Michael Goldberg (American, 1907-2007). McCormick Gallery, Chicago & Vincent Vallarino Fine Art, New York City. Black and white ensemble of abstract and figurative Modernist painting and sculpture.

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Chilean artist Carlos Costa with one of his “Wind Studies,” 2015, a conceptual project based on structuring basic natural elements. Local Arte Contempoeáneo, Santiago.

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Josh Garber, Ourselves, 2015, welded bronze, detail, complete artwork: 30 x 15 x 14 in., Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, Chicago.

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Expo Chicago/2015.

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Rimas Čiurlionis, special exhibitions.

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Cernuda Arte, Coral Gables, Florida, specializes in Cuban art.

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In/Situ Outside. Ewerdt Hilgemann’s “Habakuk (Homage to Max Ernst), 2014, stainless steel, Borzo Gallery and The Mayor Gallery.

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Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York.

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Marc Sijan ( American, b. 1946), Kneeling, resin and oil paint, Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sijan’s super-realistic sculptures are, by the artist’s own words, “homages to humanity’s fascination with its own forms — a fascination which has compelled artists throughout the millennia to mirror life in virtually every medium.”

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At Forum Gallery New York: Gaston Lachaise, Woman Walking, 1919, cast in 1968, polished bronze, 19 1/2 x 10 x 7 1/2 inches, Edition 6/6.

Expo Chicago 2014.

Gregory Scott, Van Gogh’s Bedroom, 2015, pigment print, oil on panel, HD video, Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago.

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Part of the Expo Chicago/2015 experience is temporary public art installations on the Chicago lakefront and throughout the city. Starting with Expo Chicago/2014, “In/Situ” works showcase large-scale installation art and site-specific works. Giuseppe Penone’s Idee di Pietra-Olmo (“Idea of Stone-Elm), 2008, Marian Goodman Gallery is a 30-foot tall bronze tree incorporating a boulder conveying the effects of human interaction in the natural world.

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David Allan Peters, Untitled #24, 2015, acrylic on wood panel, Ameringer McEnery Yohe, New York.

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Berthe Morisot (detail), femme et enfant au bois, pencil on paper laid on card stamped ‘B.M’ and numbered, Browse & Darby London.

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Camilo Restrepo (1975, Medellín, Colombia). Bowling for Medillin I, 2014, Morgan Lehman Gallery, New York. Since 1999 the artist lives and works in Paris, France.

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Dealers, Expo Chicago/2015.

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Jan Matulka (American, 1890-1972), Seated Nude with Eyes Closed, oil on canvas, c. 1922, 48 x 34 1/2 in., Richard Norton Gallery, Chicago.

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Augustus John, Portrait of a Young Woman, 1923, charcoal on paper, Browse & Darby, London.

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Dayron Gonzalez, Momento de Gloria, 2015, oil on canvas, Cernuda Arte, Coral Gables, Florida.

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Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, a contemporary art gallery in Culver City, California.

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Foreground: Matthias Bitzer, Revolving Future, 2014, Metal, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York.

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In Situ: Sung Jang, Mobi, 2015, injection molded plastic, Volume Gallery, Chicago.

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Expo Chicago/2015.

 

 

 

EXPO Chicago 2013, 19-22 September. International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art. (16 Photos).

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1-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Michele Pred, TARGETED, 2012, Vintage hat bag, birth control pills, 24 x 1 x 6 inches. Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York. Pred incorporates aspects of contemporary culture and politics in her art. 

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2-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Robert Natkin (American, 1930-2010), UNTITLED, 1957, McCormick Gallery Chicago & Vallarino Fine Art New York.


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3-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Hung Liu (American, Chinese b.1948), DA FA CHE II, 2013, mixed media, 82 x 82 in., Nancy Hoffman Gallery, NY.


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4-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- William T. Kennedy, WARHOL HOLDING MARILYN ACETATE 1, executed 1964, 2010. When Warhol was not yet famous but at the center in a shift in the culture of the art world.


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5-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Elizabeth Catlett (American, 1915-2012), STAR GAZER, 1997, black marble, 14.5 x 32 x 11 in., signed. Jonathan Boos LLC. Catlett known for depictions African-American and Latin American working-class women forms simple shapes in wood, stone, bronze or clay.


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6-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- at Die Galerie, Frankfurt am Main.


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7-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Aimé Mpane (Congo, born 1968), IC CONT SERIES, 2011-2013, acrylic and mixed media on wood panel, 12.5 x 12 x 2 in., Haines Gallery, San Francisco.


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8-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- at Haines Gallery, San Francisco.


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9-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- at Die Galerie, Frankfurt am Main.


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10-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Larry Rivers (American, 1923-2002), SMALL DRUGSTORE, 13.5.x.15.25 inches, oil on canvas mounted on board, 1959. Techniques of color-field painting, gestural abstraction, and calligraphy together in an objective and abstract picture.


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11-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Bruce Dorow, BLACK SHAPE SPACE, oil on canvas, 2012-2013. R.S. Johnson Fine Art, Chicago.


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12-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Patrick Strzelec, American sculptor. Garth Greenan Gallery, Chicago.


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13-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Jacob Lawrence (American, 1917-2000), THE LOVERS, gouache on paper, 21.5 x 30 in., signed & dated lower right. Jonathan Boos, LLC, New York.


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14-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- at Jonathan Boos, LLC, New York.


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15-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Long–Bin Chen (Taiwan, born 1964), EDVARD GRIEG, 28x29x15 inches. New York-based Long-Bin Chen transforms paper products into sculpture. Books are constructed so that parts fit together seamlessly.


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16-EXPO CHICAGO 2013- Siebren Versteeg (American, b. 1971), GOOD TIMES_1081_2003_05_09, 2012, Algorithmically generated archive inkjet output to paper, tape. 92 x 56 inches, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago. New York-based artist educated at the SAIC and UIC mines digital content presented as painterly abstractions or monitor displays.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic  or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.