June 23 - August 18, 2023
Corbett vs. Dempsey is proud to present Nine Decades, a memorial survey of painting and sculpture by Thomas H. Kapsalis.
A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), where he went on to teach for more than 50 years, Thomas H. Kapsalis (1925-2022) was one of the most beloved figures in the history of Chicago art. The combined Kapsalis class rosters are a panorama of Chicago artists, including a who’s who of the Hairy Who. In his work, Kapsalis remained committed to a modernist concept, albeit one inflected by his unique combination of formalism and humor. A decorated WWII veteran and prisoner of war from the Battle of the Bulge, Kapsalis responded to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam by removing color from his work. Nine Decades presents a survey of the artist’s career encapsulated in nine works, each drawn from a different decade of his painting and sculpting, starting with a small, black-and-white totemic abstraction from 1949, and ranging through brilliant, biomorphic canvases of the ‘50s and ‘60s, including “Danger Ahead” (1959), an abstract work with a face in it (hence: danger, a head). His 1971 painting “Three Cubes” comes from the black, white, and gray Vietnam period; the works on view from the 1980s, ‘90s, ‘00s, and ‘10s, demonstrate the artist’s persistent engagement with geometric abstraction and periodic revisitation of organic, sinuous forms. A work from the present decade demonstrates Kapsalis’ steadfastness in his studio practice, even as he headed into his late nineties. Few artists have the longevity and tenacity to allow such a sampling. Kapsalis was rare in many ways, as an artist, and as an uncommonly inspiring teacher. Parallel to this exhibition, David Salkin Creative will show some of the delightful handmade teaching materials that Kapsalis crafted for his courses at SAIC, including color chart paintings that were also his sly way of reintroducing color into his work as the U.S. began to pull out of Vietnam.