Colin Chillag

It is Important To Be Nobody

September 5 – December 8, 2018


Navigating the social structure of the schoolyard is fraught with trauma for many young people, a reality that is not lost on Phoenix-based painter Colin Chillag. For his first solo show in New York, Chillag finds focus in the concept on being nobody, a take on both the Buddhist inspired interpretation of nothingness and the Nihilistic comfort of powerlessness. Working from found photographs, Chillag turns his deconstructed style towards somewhat delicate subject matter — the faces of local school children. In one part of this series of paintings, yearbook portrait-like in their composition, Chillag distorts the features of five young girls, each of their bright eyes made hauntingly inhuman through his methodological build-up of paint and dark, scratchy color. The skin of several girls is almost waxen in its visual quality, adding another layer of disassociation to the portraits. 

In the past Chillag has described his penchant for abstracting his otherwise hyperrealist works with glitching, over-laid lines, and unfinished edges as “like a child drawing on a photograph.” This idea is given a new understanding when applied directly to the subject matter of children. The group paintings are reminiscent of digitally altered computer images, their large swaths of flat color dragged across the canvas, as if with a paintbrush tool. Passing under the radar is a survival tactic for many young people, and in many cases, Chillag honors this by literally erasing faces from the group. For It’s Important to be Nobody, Chillag’s hyperrealism is pushed into the computer age, yielding a series that is at once off-putting and captivating — a contradiction not unlike the central thesis of his most recent work.

Colin Chillag was born in Syracuse, NY in 1971. He received his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1993. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States in venues such as the Phoenix Art Museum, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and The Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, AZ . Recently he was the recipient of the Mid-Career Artist Award from the Phoenix Art Museum. Chillag’s works are in the permanent collections of Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and Arizona State University Art Museum. His work has been both featured or reviewed in a variety of publications including Modern Painter, Art in America, and the Los Angeles Times. He is featured in the permanent collection in the Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, AZ; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, AZ; University of Arizona Art Museum, Tucson, AZ; Treg Bradley Collection, Scottsdale, AZ; and the Zabludowicz Collection, London, UK.