Seymour Rosofsky's sinister whimsy 

Corbett vs. Dempsey displays a monstrous vision in "Xylophone Solo"

Woman at Table, Children Underneath, by Seymour Rosofsky

Woman at Table, Children Underneath, by Seymour Rosofsky

Press materials for the upcoming Seymour Rosofsky show "Xylophone Solo" describe the painter's early subjects as "little monsters," and that's not just a cute attempt to reclaim the term from Lady Gaga. Rosofsky, who went to that great monsters' ball in the sky in 1981, was part of the Monster Roster, a postwar Chicago movement that also included the likes of H.C. Westermann, Leon Golub, and Karl Wirsum. Based at the School of the Art Institute, the group championed a surrealistic form of representationalism at the height of the abstract-expressionist vogue. Rosofsky's subjects are identifiable, yet really weird and even monstrous—characterized by a sense of whimsy touched with a seriously sinister undertone. His early painting Unemployment Agency features several rows of identical men in hats, sitting in severe, tall-backed chairs, facing rows of boxes that disappear into the distance. A nightmare of endless bureaucracy, it hangs now in Rahm Emanuel's office. Make of that what you will.

"Xylophone Solo" offers a look at Rosofsky's drawings, composed with pencil, watercolor, pastel, and charcoal. The pieces contain his usual notes of darkness held at bay. Girls Jumping in Tilting House, for instance, features a modest, single-story clapboard structure coming apart around two rope-skipping tots. Youngsters—or something like them—also figure into Woman at Table, Children Underneath. The kids here, though, may not be kids. They're devilish-looking, with little grown-up faces. The woman of the title is naked, pensive—vulnerable to whatever tricks might be played on her.

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