Chicago-based artist Tony Fitzpatrick has presented a mesmerizing collection of print/collage works in No. 9, An Artist’s Journal currently on view at Slugfest Gallery in Austin, TX. Comprised of several pieces all roughly 7.5 inches wide by 10.5 inches tall, the collection tells stories of places traveled and people known (and lost) as revealed in the subtle clues embedded using symbolic imagery and collaged objects. The ephemeral quality of the works are the result of both the actual bits of precisely cut graphic images adhered to the surface as well as the melancholic nature of the pieces as a whole. Mr. Fitzpatrick stacks cutout handwritten words in columns within each image that form poems that possibly hint at the meanings of each piece or perhaps of a moment experienced in the “story.” He frames each work with three or four matchbook covers, one in each corner of the piece. These matchbooks, which appear to date anywhere from the 1940’s through the 1960’s, often hail from bars and restaurants in New Orleans, a richly storied city where Mr. Fitzpatrick has spent some time. In fact, you may have seen his work on the cover of the Neville Brothers classic 1989 album Yellow Moon, to which he attributes the initial boost to his career as a visual artist.
The works in No. 9 strongly resemble–and are possibly a subset of a larger series of–works previously exhibited in New Orleans during the Prospect 1 Biennial earlier this year. Those works were also of similar scale and composition as the ones in No. 9 and were possibly even more compelling shown in New Orleans. However, beyond their obvious cultural references, the thread that runs throughout No. 9 and is even part of the Slugfest exhibition’s namesake is a reference to a dear, departed friend of Mr. Fitzpatrick, who bears the tattoo “No. 9″ on his forearm as a memorial to his friend who would always say goodbye by reminding folks to be careful because “we’re already on our 9th life.”