Risk and Reward | Art Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Risk and Reward 

Erik DeBat unveils retrospective

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Diabolic Self Portrait by Erik DeBat

Diabolic Self Portrait by Erik DeBat

Critic's Choice

Risk and Reward

Erik DeBat began his art career in the mid-1980s, as a teenager leaving his mark along the transit lines of Chicago's north-side neighborhoods. By the time he was 20, he'd quit the street stuff and enrolled as a design student at the School of the Art Institute. Although he dropped out to start a streetwear company, DeBat continued doing studio work, gradually evolving toward a style inspired by pop art and abstract expressionism. Risk and Reward is a retrospective of his work from the past 20 years, including never-before-exhibited studies and drawings as well as collages, silk screens, and self-portraits. Death Before Dishonor, one of several paintings of superheroes, depicts a black-and-white, bulked-up Batman preparing to throw a punch amid lava-lamp splotches of yellow and red; the scene is at once macho and whimsical. Diabolic Self Portrait shows the artist as a cat-eyed devil with tiny teeth, an oval drawn in yellow above his head to suggest a redemptive halo. Elsewhere, references to fashion, commercialism, and Americana reveal an artist trying to create his own mythology without getting so caught up in it that he loses his sense of humor.  Opens Fri 4/1, 6-10 PM. Through 8/31: daily, 24 hours, Art Hall, Renaissance Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan, 312-447-0955, erikdebat.com.

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