Tony Fitzpatrick closes studio and opens Firecat Projects gallery bringing a non-commission model to Damen Avenue


Tony Fitzpatrick autographs one of his books for a fan

Seventeen years ago, Tony Fitzpatrick moved his studio into 2124 N. Damen Ave. During the evening of Fri., Nov. 19, 2010, that space opened as Firecat Projects, a gallery that will feature a different artist each month. Operated by a partnership of Fitzpatrick and Stan Klein, the gallery has eighteen months of exhibitions of little to unknown artists booked after the inaugural showing of Fitzpatrick's work.


Fitzpatrick's "Winter Tiger"

During the opening, the space was packed to the door with friends, colleagues, artists and art lovers with some visitors preferring to stand outside on the sidewalk. "It is time to give back to this community," explains Fitzpatrick. "This space is now the community's. I haven't had a show in Chicago for a long time. This show is a way of saying goodbye. I won't have a public studio again."


Sam Marts, architect, toasts Fitzpatrick's "The December Moth"

In response to the question, "Where will you have your studio?" He replied, "I don't know." He has committed, however, to be at each opening in the newly refurbished space.

Fitzpatrick feels that there are several artists that need light focused on them, "...right now they are like stuck in the mud. Stan and I have quietly gone about contacting artists over the last year. It is a compelling collection of talent."  Though a for-profit business, they will take no commission from the exhibiting artists' sales. This model is contrary to most galleries on Chicago's art scene.


Many Fitzpatrick items were for sale from a table in the gallery

A major theme of the images in this first show, The Night Parade, are moths. On his blog, Fitzpatrick writes, "More and more I like drawing moths; almost as much as birds. There is a ferocious poetry about them and their jittery flight and need for warmth. It speaks to something ancient and human." And so it does.

In keeping with that explanation, his pieces are infinitely complex, ornate yet the focal point is a simple shape. His colors are rich and lush. Each piece seems to have a power that draws you in... like a moth to light.

A poet, playwright, actor, author, album cover designer, book publisher, painter and prize-fighter, there was one thing that Fitzpatrick never did... make signs. Signs that hang outside of businesses.


Anthony Potenzo and friend were enjoying Fitzpatrick's opening


Fitzpatrick's first sign for Potenzo "neighborhood joint"

Two good friends asked him to do a sign for their respective businesses, Anthony Potenzo from Three Aces on Taylor Street and Donnie Madia of Big Star on Damen Ave. in Wicker Park. "Both are Chicago Italian guys who remind one of how this city used to talk. Both have thick Chicago accents and a curbside eloquence that reflects their respective upbringings. Donnie is a West side Italian and Anthony grew up on Taylor Street in a tight-knit Italian American enclave that used to be notorious for protecting its borders from ANYONE whose last name did not end in a vowel. They are the kind of guys I met and had felt like I'd known them my whole life. . .and in a way I had.  They are guys who love this city and devour anything having to do with its history. Both are consummate storytellers who evince a remarkable generosity of spirit. They are my friends and I am fortunate for having them."


The swan as the focus of a Fitzpatrick framed piece

Anthony Potenzo tells his story, "Tony is a dear friend of mine and I had this idea. It was prior to him doing anything with Big Star. I called him and asked him to do the sign. He said, 'Anthony  I don't do signs ... but for you, I'll do it.'"

Anthony and Lyle Aker opened The Three Aces at 1321 W. Taylor St. a few weeks ago. It is a bar and small plate restaurant with Matt Troost as the Executive Chef (formerly with Fianco, The Pennisula Club and an Aspen resort). Potenzo says their tagline is "Italian countryside meets the American farmhouse in Keith Richards' basement bar." Food is inspired by Italian countryside, locally sourced when possible from local farmers in rock and roll atmosphere.

"Basically the sign tells the story of Chicago immigrants," Potenzo explains.  "The star is for the unions in Chicago, the swan represents industry and the steer represents the Chicago stockyards."


The star hanging on Damen at Big Star

Fitzpatrick says, "I liked making the signs because they are very public works of art ... they are also the visual lingua-franca of HOW I understand this city. I like the idea of making public pieces and I've not done much of it, mostly because I couldn't find a medium I liked. Now I have. I designed these and with the help of Seaton Scarf's flawless fabrication and Deirdre Boland's elegant layout, I have a couple of public pieces and I couldn't have done it without these two fine artists."

Fitzpatrick, Ukrainian Village resident, continues to bring his prolific creativity of many styles to many media while continuing to be generous to those around him.

For more information: Fitzpatrick's blog, Bio, images, Steppenwolf




Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Insert images and media with <pp_img> or <pp_media>. See formatting options for syntax.

More information about formatting options