Lives and works in Chicago.
One of the original Imagist artists, Philip Hanson has been a signal Chicago painter since he first came on the scene in the late ’60s. In 1968, in the spirit of the “Hairy Who” exhibitions of the preceding two years, the Hyde Park Art Center mounted a show by a group calling itself “The False Image,” which included Roger Brown, Eleanor Dube, Christina Ramberg and Hanson. Hanson had started painting in college, though he didn’t focus on art until after he received a BA at University of Chicago and spent a year studying architecture at UIC. At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (where Hanson got his BFA in 1969 and has taught since 1973), Hanson was influenced – like most of the young Imagists – by painter Ray Yoshida, whose interest in popular visual culture (cartoons, especially) and folk art was wildly inspirational.
Hanson’s paintings are often vibrantly colored and intricately patterned. Where his contemporaries have tended towards forthrightly sarcastic or slapstick imagery, Hanson’s visual world tends to be oblique, subtle, multilayered, and sometimes romantic. His early works included a series of candy boxes, decorated with plastic flowers and bearing terse epigrams like “Eternal Passion,” “Dear” and “Dreamy,” as well as investigations of unusually decorated marginal architectural spaces (entranceways, mezzanines), elaborately detailed flowers, and billowing and translucent women’s clothes (including his important “Dappled Pleasure Dress” pieces). Primarily a painter, in the early years he also made etchings, mezzotints and aquatints, hand-coloring the finished prints. During the early ’70s, Hanson created a series of shell-, leaf-, and flower-shaped cloth constructions, built of sewn bits of canvas that were then painted. In subsequent years, Hanson has turned to men’s garments (jackets and codpieces) in his paintings, while another series explored the transformation of one object into another (a bridge into a flower or a conch into a tent, for instance). Over the last decade he has amassed an incredible body of paintings that integrate text, most often poetry, in a union with image that Hanson thinks of as being operatic.
Hanson’s work was featured in a solo retrospective at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield (1985). His recent work was shown at 1926 Exhibition Studies Space (2003). He has been included in group shows at MCA (1969 and 1972); the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia (1969); the Sao Paulo Biennale (1973); the Chicago Public Library Cultural Center (1977); Shane Campbell Gallery, Oak Park (2012); Karma International, Zurich (2013); and the Whitney Biennial (2014), among many others. His work is in the permanent collections of the MCA, AIC, the National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC, and the Museum des 20 Jahrhunderts, Vienna.