Andy Paczos Captures the Grit and Beauty of Chicago Landscapes

Andy Paczos, West Loop
Andy Paczos, West Loop, With Renovation of Google Building, 2014. Oil on linen. © Dimitre Photography Inc.

The Ed Paschke Art Center presents the exhibition, Andy Paczos: The Eye and the Hand, which showcases the paintings of Andy Paczos. Paczos executes his landscape paintings by remaining on site for the duration of the piece. Through his intense observation and fidelity to detail, he creates a unique balance of showing not only the grit, but also the beauty of urban landscapes. In his paintings, Paczos does not depict people, cars, or signage  a choice that creates a more intense focus on his urban scenes. This choice also adds a timeless feel to his work.

Paczos not only paints urban scenes that we may have seen before, but he also captures scenes that may be unfamiliar to us, such as Finkl Steel Site Before Development. In this work, we see a vacant stretch of land where a thriving steel mill once stood. There is a richness in the details of this desolate setting, such as a pile of stones, strewn nails, an old railroad track that is no longer in use, and power lines in the distance. Paczos creates a balance in this gritty scene by also depicting greenery — trees and bushes — that once co-existed around this steel mill.

In West Loop, With Renovation of Google Building we see the ubiquitous structures that can be seen in many Chicago settings such as a construction crane, rooftop water towers, hi-rise buildings and a bridge in the distance. In this painting as well as his other works, there is balance at play because one structure never overshadows the others. Each structure, even those in the background, seems to be given equal weight in his work.

Andy Paczos, Mars Global Headquarters
Andy Paczos, Mars Global Headquarters Parking Lot, 2017. Oil on linen. © Dimitre Photography Inc.

“What makes Paczos’ work so unique is that he paints landscapes that most people wouldn’t consider beautiful at first glance, but when you look at his work, there is real beauty to his paintings,” said Vesna Stelcer, Director of the Ed Paschke Art Center.

What is also impressive about his work is his use of light in his urban landscapes such as in Mars Global Headquarters Parking Lot.  In this painting, he captures the sunlight hitting the concrete curbs, the islands of grass and the yellow lane lines running along the asphalt surface. In Garfield Park Conservatory,  we see the sunlight reflecting against the floor tiles, entrance doors and the large plants in the background.

Paczos also gives us views of the city through windows inside a stairwell at the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago. He creates a contrast between the cold look of concrete and steel of the stairwell with warm views of the city that can be seen through the windows.

Andy Paczos, Logan Center for the Arts
Andy Paczos, Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, 10th Floor, 2015. Oil on linen. © Dimitre Photography Inc.

The power of Paczos’ work is that he doesn’t exaggerate details to create a dramatic effect. His paintings instead are a contemplative observation and a reminder that these urban scenes are something we all can see if we only take the time to take a closer look.

“His artistic process is awe inspiring because he goes back to the site for days until he finishes a painting. He doesn’t take a painting back to his studio to work on it. His artistic process is like Chicago’s hard-working ethic,” added Stelcer.

Paczos received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1985. Over the years, he has had a number of solo shows and has participated in numerous group exhibitions. He is also the first visual artist that was granted permission by the Chicago Transit Authority to paint on train platforms.

To learn more about Paczos’ creative process, check out his opening night talk that he gave at the Ed Paschke Art Center on YouTube.

Andy Paczos: The Eye and the Hand  will run through April 28 at the Ed Paschke Art Center located at 5415 W. Higgins Avenue. The Ed Paschke Art Center is open seven days a week and visiting hours are 10am to 7pm Admission is free, but donations are welcome. For more information visit their website or call 312-533-4911.

Thomas Wawzenek
Thomas Wawzenek