Amft: discovered work of French Painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau in Library

In her introduction to the Amft exhibit at the Cliff Dwellers in Chicago, Mrs Loren Chernoff shared her recollection of Robert Amft. He was a man who saw the entire world through the eyes of an artist, using all kinds of media to express himself. Like Picasso, he couldn’t walk down the street without finding something that he would turn into a whimsical sculpture. He filled his ten-room apartment with massive oil paintings, sculptures, water colors, photography, and mixed media. But he was also well grounded in art history. Once, during the late 90′s, he was using the Evanston Public Library and noticed a painting that he recognized as the work of  William-Adolphe Bouguereau, a nineteenth-century French artist. He brought it to the attention of the Board of Directors, who then contacted Sotheby’s, who sold it for $ 900,000 to be used by the Evanston Library.

Amft: March 29, 2017 Exhibition of his works at The Cliff Dwellers

The exhibit is curated by Mr. and Mrs. Chernoff displaying works of Amft from their private collection. The Cliff Dwellers Club is a private civic arts organization in Chicago, Illinois. The Club was founded in 1907. The club was formed to encourage, foster and develop higher standards of art, literature and craftsmanship; to promote the mutual acquaintance of art lovers, art workers and authors; to maintain in the City of Chicago a club house and to provide therein galleries, libraries and exhibition facilities for the various lines of art.  The name of the Club is said to be based on the novel “The Cliff Dwellers” by Henry B. Fuller. Alternatively, it is referring to the ancient cliff-dwelling Indians of the Southwest, for a club that is perching on high ledges and values the arts.  Robert Amft was a Cliff Dweller beginning in 1954. He served on the Board of Directors from 1962 until ’64, and was Vice-President of the Club during that last year.  The show is not open to the public, only to be viewed by members of the club.

 Amft: Art made with Commercial Spray Paint

Robert Amft

Robert Amft “Shadow”
Acrylic on Canvas

Today Graffiti is on the rise in popularity, price and demand pushed and marketed by the art industrial establishment. Robert Amft used commercial spray paint and stencils on canvas and paper at a time when modern graffiti art  was non-existent. Quite the contrary, the Art market rejected spray paint as a medium for fine art during the 50′s and 60′s of the previous century. Since Amft did not discriminate between fine and commercial art he disagreed with this notion. He experimented with aerosol paint, kept using commercial spray paint until 2012, the end of his artistic life. He made art for his own sake, driven by enjoyment of  making art,  immersed in the act of creation, no reward in mind, no worries, unconcerned of the external art market, just happy and unburdened.  One may say that “Amft’s work is entirely free from fear or action-inhibiting doubt.” (Warren Linn 5/23/2014)

Amft: Painting for Particular People

Amft Exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center in  2005. (Retrospection)

The show was curated by John Corbett and Annie Morse. The retrospective of Robert Amft’s glorious, uproarious paintings, was on exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center from March 6 to April 16, 2005. The show exposed seven decades of fiercely independent Chicago art. Amft was so far ahead of his time that some of his oldest canvases look like they were painted yesterday. Amft has been making images in the Windy City since the 1930s, when he was a student of Francis Chapin at the School of the Art Institute. Born in 1916, Amft is an artist with a deft sense of humor and a highly personal visual language. His unique oeuvre represents a missing link in Chicago art history, bridging the pre-WWII artists and subsequent generations of Chicago Imagists. Amft came up during the waning years of modernist art in the city, amid regionalists, social realists, post impressionists and early abstractionists, but as a young artist he was already busy pursuing ideas that set him apart from other ’40s and ’50s painters. Aspects of Amft’s work – particularly his deadpan humor and interest in self-taught art – vividly presage the aesthetic of the Hairy Who and other post-60s Chicago artists. Amft’s early paintings were inspired by encounters with the work of self-taught artists and were often set within a complicated commentary on art history, resulting in playfully revamped versions of paintings by Picasso, Seurat and Van Gogh. Since the late ’50s, Amft has often painted serially, creating groups of landscapes, forestscapes, and scenes of his backyard in Rogers Park, manipulating a tightly delineated range of materials. In the ’60s, when other artists began to investigate outsider art and ironic humor, something he’d been into for decades, Amft delved deeper into such terrain, creating classic pieces like Head, his portrait of Mona Lisa with a cigarette in her lips, which won the Art Institute’s Renaissance Prize in 1974. Many of Amft’s ’60s and ’70s paintings were made using commercial spray paint and stencils, a practice he continues today in magnificently conceived, brilliantly stylized scenes of the Midwestern landscape