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Retrospective Brings Professor and His Paintings Together Again

William Conger said it will be an "interesting homecoming" when he's reunited with his works from the past 50 years. In a celebration of Conger's career, the Chicago Cultural Center will host a retrospective exhibition featuring the former Northwestern professor's paintings.

"Most of these works I've not seen since I made them," said Conger, professor emeritus and former chair of art theory and practice. "It will be quite an experience to see them again. It's like sending your kids off into the world in preschool and having them come back when they're 45 years old.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how these works relate to each other and how they'll affect me."

The exhibition, which runs Jan. 24 through March 29 in the Cultural Center's fourth-floor main exhibit hall, will include more than 60 of Conger's original works, painted between 1958 and 2008.

Conger, a constant on the Chicago art scene since his first solo gallery exhibition in 1974, believes his work, a blend of organic and geometric abstraction, bridges the gap between self-referential modernist work and the tradition of allusive Western art. His oil paintings, featuring bold colors and shapes, allude to a wide range of subjects.

His works are held in many collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Almost all of the works in the retrospective will be borrowed from Chicago and national collections.

The show's catalog, funded in part by the Office of the Provost, the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences dean and the Department of Art Theory and Practice, features an essay by critic Donald Kuspit and an interview with Conger by Julie Karabenick.

— Geoffrey Cubbage

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Untitled Conger
William Conger, Untitled, 1964, oil on canvas, 36x36 in.; Collection of Terry Moritz.
William Conger, Navigator, 2006, oil on wood panel, 36x36 in.; Collection of James Young