To the editors:
Once again, Wesley Kimler rears his shaven head in complaint, and the Reader is more than willing to offer a soapbox [January 22]. The former is no big deal: we’ve heard it all before. It’s just too bad that your editors again have been taken in by what now must surely be regarded as Kimler’s scam: if the public won’t pay sufficient attention to his art, it can be forced to pay attention to him. This has the unfortunate consequence of persuading some people–that is, those who don’t know his work or him–that there is some Chicago art world “controversy” where none exists.
Fatigue precludes rebutting Kimler–again–point by point. But the “tastemakers” supposedly inimical to his work and conspiring against him are certainly not the same art writers as were around 15 years ago. With the exception of the Chicago Tribune’s Alan Artner–the favorite whipping boy of every disgruntled Chicago artist, especially those without major representation and/or talent–most of today’s more high-profile critics weren’t writing in the mid-80s or, at least, not in the same venues. Back then, too, it was plausible to assert that any art making not of the Chicago imagist pedigree wouldn’t get a fair shake (except perhaps from Artner–so much for that conspiracy). But that sort of stylistic prejudice has been a dead issue for a decade. Absolutely anything goes these days; there is nothing remotely resembling a Chicago style of art making, be it abstract or representational, emotional or cerebral, whatever.
In truth, Kimler’s painting has been written about favorably more than once around here, but not enough for his liking. Gallery hopping or no, he has had regular shows at credible, well-established galleries, but that’s not enough. And his work sells. Which is fine; good for him. But even that’s not enough. Kimler has some pathological need for conflict and prefab enemies at whom to lash out–namely, anyone who fails to recognize his genius.
As someone who wrote regularly on Chicago art for a number of years for the Tribune and elsewhere, I’m acquainted with the art scene and many of the other local critics, none of whom seem to bear Kimler any ill will. Most just shrug and roll their eyes at the mention of his latest antics, as if he were the wacky uncle who rants about the government and spills his soup every Christmas. His antics seem to have no effect on most critics’ regard for his work, which is predictably kind of interesting, sort of accomplished, and very large. There is no controversy save that his own sickness manufactures. A middle-aged crybaby whose self-regard still outstrips his talent, Wesley Kimler is no big deal.
David W. McCracken