Gallery Audio Tour

Grayslake Campus: A-Wing

John Himmelfarb

Pie and Coffee | 2005.14Gr

Audio Tour

In this audio clip the narrator describes Himmelfarb's piece.
Length: 0:2:42 (two minutes and forty-two seconds)

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About the Piece

Pie and Coffee
Screenprint; 5/33
2005.14 Gr

Exhibited at CLC: John Himmelfarb: Recent Paintings & Prints, 2005

John Himmelfarb is an acclaimed artist whose paintings and prints reflect his passion for shape, color, and above all, line. This Chicago artist’s work is included in numerous museum collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the British Museum, Brooklyn Museum, and Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Narration Text

John Himmelfarb is a Chicago artist whose work has often been compared to Miró or Matisse; Kline or Pollack. He easily navigates among varied media, but common to everything he does is his devotion to the elements of design and composition. His understanding of line (Rives), shape and color permeates all his works. In his 40 years as an artist he has firmly established his place in the art world: his work is highly regarded and is held in major collections.

Himmelfarb draws upon his surroundings for inspiration. His recent large scale paintings recall industrial scenes on the South Side of Chicago. Canals, scrap yards, cranes, railroad tracks, bridges; all have scrawled across his canvases in his unique penmanship. While many artists from his era will depict form for form’s sake, Himmelfarb relies on actual things in his world as reference points in his paintings (Himmelfarb). The same is true for his prints.

This screenprint is from Himmelfarb’s “Icon” series. Here we see pictographs fit together in puzzle-like fashion on a black background. Backing away from the individual pieces reveals the overall silhouette of a cup, saucer and spoon. The slice of pie from the title, Pie and Coffee, is found in the lower left portion of the saucer. This intriguing use of icons within icons becomes a layered mystery akin to decoding ancient hieroglyphics. We can only imagine what they are and how they came to be gathered into one composition. Was Himmelfarb sitting in his studio having pie and coffee? Were these the things surrounding him in his workspace? We can detect scissors, a saw, a thermos, a chair, an extension cord, a drill, but what is that squiggly line? Is it a spiraled phone cord? The fun of studying this piece is derived not only from solving those small mysteries, but also from looking at each individual piece as its own unique composition. The tables are turned: now the color field becomes the ground and the black image becomes the figure. This flipping of positive and negative space is one of the basic tools of design, and the artist seems to be delighting in playing with it.

Written by Jane Ellefson, Gallery Preparator, Robert T. Wright Gallery, College of Lake County.

Works cited:
Himmelfarb, John. Gallery talk. Robert T. Wright Community Gallery of Art, College of Lake County, Grayslake, IL, March 4, 2005.

Rives, Veda. “Artists List,” Normal Editions Workshop, School of Art, Illinois State University, Normal, IL. Oct. 27, 2008; .