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James Falconer


oil on canvas

36" x 28"

James Falconer painted this self-portrait when he was a student enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He stands defenseless and still, and his arms are slack at his side. His body is awash in vibrant colors and outlined in bright red, yet his eyes are darkened by several quick brushstrokes of blue. He is aware of his surroundings, but uncertain. Behind him loom three tall men blanketed in shadow; the yellow highlights suggest backlit silhouettes which lend a sense of foreboding to the precarious setting.

This work was painted in Chicago in 1964—an unsettling time in the United States. The U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War escalated, and despite the passing of the Civil Rights Act that year, Chicago’s racial divide was witness to extreme police brutality and rioting. Though considered a member of the Chicago Imagists, Falconer deviated from the group’s practice of regarding their artwork as apolitical. By 1969, he would go on to co-found the Chicago branch of Artists Against the War in Vietnam with Dominick DiMeo, Robert Donley, and Donald Main.


Gift of the Raymond K. Yoshida Living Trust and Kohler Foundation, Inc.