Recently relocated from Sarasota, Fla., M Gallery is the latest addition to Gallery Row on Broad Street. For their new exhibition, a collection of works by Chicago-based artist Kevin Beilfuss, owner Maggie Kruger is planning a live webcast with interactive Facebook and Twitter pages. She says 80 percent of her clients are from out of town, and the webcast will allow these collectors to join in the festivities. “I think this is the first time a gallery has attempted to do an interactive live stream broadcast, so we are all pretty excited,” she says.
Kruger describes Beilfuss’ work as having a “magical chaos that directs your eyes to the exquisite details you need to see … Kevin’s show, with its combination of competence and energy, is the perfect venue to be portrayed through today’s accessible interactive media.” In fact, M Gallery was designed with the intent to create a feeling of accessibility, and with its many small rooms, it has a homey, intimate vibe. Hanging on the walls of this well-decorated “home” are Beilfuss’ colorful, contemporary paintings.
After working as an illustrator for 13 years, Beilfuss began painting full time. Trained in the classic traditional style at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, he learned to paint the human figure in realistic detail. It wasn’t until recently that Beilfuss made a conscious decision to take his painting in a different direction. A workshop with artist Carolyn Anderson inspired him to loosen up. “There’s a lot more suggestion to the way I paint now, with abstract areas of color and texture that allow more room for the viewer,” he says.
The process begins with an idea, but Beilfuss says the models will often bring their own “je ne sais quoi” to the session. Painting “alla prima” (all in one sitting) creates the fleeting feeling of movement within his paintings. He tries to work quickly and finish all at once. “I’m not as interested in getting things exactly the way I see them as suggesting things, pushing the colors, and trying to design the painting,” he says. In “Valencia,” a woman reclines in profile, one arm folded behind her head as she stares at something beyond the canvas. Wearing a turquoise skirt and a cherry colored top that exposes her middle, she resembles a flamenco dancer. With broad strokes of color, the woman blends into the couch and the wall as if she is part of the decoration.
Beilfuss works to evoke a feeling of timelessness in his images. While most of his figures are clothed, he is drawn to the beauty in the curves of the female figure. “There is an endless supply of things to study within the human form,” he says. He explains that fabric can be treated abstractly, and a lot of times his figures are more representational, while the background is made of bold, abstract colors. “I try not to overwork things,” he says. “When I was an illustrator, everything had to be spelled out. I want things to look rougher with big, bold, slashy, sloppy paint.”
He says he enjoys the contrast of painting a woman’s soft curves with the abstract splashes of color. In “Seated Nude,” the model sits in a chair, her back to the viewer, her head resting in the palm of her hand. The curves of the chair echo the curves of her legs. The piece exemplifies Beilfuss’ style — detailed, sensual, and beautifully chaotic.