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Judy Ledgerwood: Chromatic Patterns for the Graham Foundation
Over the past two decades, Ledgerwood has used color, scale, and pattern to challenge the traditions of high Modernist painting, specifically the historically male-dominated realms of color-field painting and abstract expressionism.

CHICAGO, IL.- In Chromatic Patterns for the Graham Foundation, Chicago-based painter Judy Ledgerwood creates an immersive, site-specific wall painting that transforms the first-floor galleries of the Foundation’s historic Madlener House—designed by Richard E. Schmidt and Hugh M. G. Garden and built in 1901–02. Enveloping visitors in an optically expansive field of vibrant fluorescent colors with a metallic floral motif that pulsate in close proximity to the building’s Prairie-style ornamentation, this installation explores the possibilities of painting as it approaches the conditions of architecture—where walls take on new meaning and function, and the surface, the possibility to produce new affects. Intentionally confusing viewers’ perception of space through her use of hot color and reflective pattern, Ledgerwood prompts us to consider the divergent ways that pattern, color, ornamentation, and surface have been variously coded, gendered, repressed, and embraced in art and architecture.

Over the past two decades, Ledgerwood has used color, scale, and pattern to challenge the traditions of high Modernist painting, specifically the historically male-dominated realms of color-field painting and abstract expressionism. Ledgerwood subverts Modernist painting’s hierarchy of values and claims of autonomy by employing decorative language and a lush color palette as the mainstay of her work. Incorporating references to Jugendstil textile design, personal and symbolic meaning, and proportions intended to relate to the viewer’s body, she posits the strength and power of women’s work and the feminine by boldly inscribing them into conversation with the canon of painting, and now architecture.

Ledgerwood’s installation for the Graham Foundation questions the relationship between abstract painting and decoration—here at the scale of an interior—and in doing so explores the possibilities of ornamentation and surface in architecture. The original details of the Prairie-style mansion, such as the prominent wood moldings and stone fireplaces, not only serve as reminders of the building’s original domestic function, but also frame the spaces of Ledgerwood’s wall painting—the very same surfaces that were originally wallpapered at turn of the century. Fragile and temporal, Ledgerwood’s installation must be experienced in situ in order to grasp its full impact.

The Graham Foundation will celebrate the opening of the exhibition with a public reception in honor of the artist on Thursday, January 23rd. Additionally Judy Ledgerwood will speak about her exhibition on February 6th and the poet, art critic, and curator, John Yau, will give a talk on April 3rd.

Judy Ledgerwood is a Chicago-based painter and educator. She is the recipient of numerous awards including The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award, Artadia Award, a Tiffany Award in the Visual Arts, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, and an Illinois Art Council Award. Her work is represented in public collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen Switzerland. She received a BFA from the Art Academy of Cincinnati and a MFA the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Ledgerwood is Director of Graduate Studies and Professor of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University.

Concurrent with her exhibition at the Graham Foundation, Ledgerwood has completed another wall painting at the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago. Chromatic Patterns for the Smart Museum will run through spring 2015.

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