Christopher Pekoc, Visual Artist
2007 Mid-Career AWARD FOR Visual Arts
Christopher Pekoc—Evolution 1964–2006 was the title given to a major retrospective exhibition of that artis’s work at Cleveland’s Convivium33 Gallery in January 2007. Evolution was an appropriate word, as Pekoc [pronounced PEA-koh] has moved, over time, from the painting and drawing he studied at Kent State University through airbrush, pastels, collage and photography. This peculiar path of development seems to have led Pekoc to create a distinctive hybrid genre that is, in the words of Case Western Reserve University art history professor Henry Adams, former curator of American Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art, “a visual mixture of drawing and painting—a sort of drawing which combines the gesture of the hand with a ghostly sense of tone, like that of a developing photograph."
The exhibit displayed more than 40 years of Pekoc’s work, including major pieces that have not been shown in decades, such as his surreal Kent State Triptych, called The Events of May 4th 1970 Are Truly Without Precedent, which was based on his eyewitness experience of the shooting of student protesters by the National Guard in 1970.
Now known for his experimental mixed-media work, he creates complex collages of materials and photographs. He works with photographs he has taken himself or cut from magazines—often of fragments of body parts or objects such as thorns, spikes and severed wings—and then manipulates them in a variety of ways, such as scratching, crumpling, sanding and/or covering them with paint, varnish or shellac. He then cuts them up and literally stitches them together.
Chris Pekoc, who has taught creative drawing at Case Western Reserve University since 1988, has been awarded five fellowships by the Ohio Arts Council and a two-month overseas residency in the Czech Republic. His work has appeared in more than 100 solo and group shows at institutions including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Australia, the Ueda Gallery in Tokyo, several galleries in New York City, the Akron Art Institute and the Cleveland Center for (now Museum of) Contemporary Art.
His work is also in permanent collections at the Cleveland Museum of Art, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Czech Center of Photography, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. His late-1970s mural Night Sky looks down on the main hall of the Cleveland Public Library onPublic Square.
Pekoc’s photography was featured in a limited edition publication, 21st: The Journal of Contemporary Photography, Vol. V—Strange Genius (2002), which showcased new directions in photography. John Wood, photography historian and editor of 21st: The Journal of Contemporary Photography, has compared Pekoc’s works to the “shimmering mosaics of Ravenna” and “the paintings of Gustav Klimt.” His compelling constructions (including the Kent State-inspiredwork) are also the subject of a short documentary film by the gifted Tom Ball aptly titled The Beauty of Damage—The Art of Christopher Pekoc that is accessible on line.
Born in the Cleveland area, Pekoc has said that his early exposure to tools and construction projects in his family’s hardware store (his father was the third generation to operate the business) that he believes ignited his interest in the art of assemblage. Plain Dealer art critic Steven Litt wrote: “Over the past decade and a half, Pekoc has consistently produced beautiful and compelling work that captures something essential about Cleveland’s psyche.”