At first glance, Chris Cosnowski’s works might seem like simple photographs of childhood toys.
But on closer examination, they are detailed paintings of nostalgic items used to convey a message.
“The ideas for my paintings come from a variety of sources - politics, current events, movies -- even conversations with friends,” Cosnowski said. “I’ll usually think of a combination of objects that relate to an idea and search them out.”
His exhibit, Super-ficial!, runs through Sept. 2 at South Shore Arts. Cosnowski’s exhibit is the fourth artist to be featured as part of the Outstanding Midwest Artist Series. The series, which started in 2007 with a show by Michael Noland, focuses on an individual artist and focuses on the breadth of the artists’ work, and South Shore Arts publishes a catalogue detailing the exhibit. Cosnowski’s exhibit is the first to be featured as part of the series since 2010.
“All four (artists) are artists whose work I have personally admired,” said John Cain, executive director of South Shore Arts and curator of the exhibit. “This is one of my very favorite shows that I’ve curated. The work speaks for itself.”
Cain said he loved the Chicago-based Cosnowski’s work from the moment he saw it more than a decade ago.
That piece had a photorealistic depiction of his-and-hers bowling tropies and was called “American Gothic.”
“He takes these everyday objects - some would call them kitsch -- and imbues them with all of the importance of classical Greek statuary or Renaissance art,” Cain said.
Cosnowski said he likes to situate objects -- bowling trophies, space men, toy cars -- on a white plane with a monochromatic background.
“This abstract environment gives the paintings a more metaphysical sense despite the apparent solidity and reality,” he said. “Also, my style tends to be more iconic. I like to focus the viewer’s attention on the objects themselves.”
Cain said the objects that Cosnowski loves are loved by many, including himself.
“I share Chris’s love of the things he depicts: bowling trophies, toy cars, plastic space men, Monopoly tokens,” Cain said. “This is the stuff of one’s American childhood. I relish it.”
Cain said the paintings in the exhibit are spaced minimally to mimic Cosnowski’s spare style.
“(Cosnowski’s work) will give viewers of a certain age a sense of nostalgia, because so many of us collected this material as kids,” Cain said. “But it’s a testament, too, an homage to design and visual imagery that we take for granted in our everyday lives. Chris’ exhibit sort of celebrates the people who took their concepts from the drawing board to the shelf in the dime store, creating trinkets that became iconic emblems of our lives.”
Cosnowski said he hopes the people who see his work have a good time.
“I think that painting’s main strength is that it gives the artist the ability to create an artificial space,” he said. “So I hope that people who see my work enter that space and have a good time - even though some of the subjects may be more serious.”