The Mars Gallery (no relation to the planet) is located in the old Fulton Market area just northwest of the Loop. The second-floor, turn-of-the-century loft was once an egg and butter supply house, which seems natural as the gallery specializes in bright imagery. The work here often touches on elements of popular culture, ranging from art by well-known children’s book artists, to rock music-inspired prints, to artists who dwell in the world of the fantastic and quasi-surreal.
In recent years the gallery has branched out into abstract art, but even the abstract pieces have a bright, extroverted quality. If you like your colors lush and jazzy, your art with a touch of offbeat wit, or you are looking for some art for a children’s room that adults can enjoy as well, the Mars Gallery is a place you should visit.
Director Barbara Gazdik comments: “Our gallery likes FUN. We refer to it as ‘fine and funky artwork.’ Some of it is popular culture-based; some is abstract; some of our works are dark and funny at the same time. I think everything we have is bright and colorful. We like to make people feel at home when they’re here, and help people find a painting or print they can purchase to match the look of their home.”
Some favorite Mars Gallery artists would include Keith Luthardt, who is well-known for his children’s books illustrations. His paintings inhabit much the same visual world with round-faced little boys and girls in bright colors who exchange thoughts of simple philosophy while playing.
Mars-represented artist Erik Skaggs works in a hard-edged style; his paintings almost look like large linoleum cuts. Some contain strongly post-cubist elements with geometric figures, and constructions floating on the canvas like pieces in playful, jazzy puzzle.
Kathy Mason Lerner paints wild landscapes with very large brush strokes in bright, cheerful colors. These are often wind-blown lakeside scenes with bushy wildflowers dominating the foreground. Her work has that certain kinetic quality of post-impressionism at high speed.
Mars Gallery includes an upstairs area featuring graphic work, much of which resonates with post-war urban humor. This includes some rock music prints, posters of old films (“Gangland Strikes!”), black-and-white photos, urban curiosities ( “A Little White Chapel Wedding Window”), prints of skulls, and bright poster-like montages that suggest amusement park posters.
The principals behind Mars Gallery like to throw themed openings: A recent notable reception was a show of animal artwork which featured live animals at the opening, including a raccoon that played basketball, a live but sleepy alligator, a cat that played the guitar (not well), a boa constrictor, and a lively uncaged crowd of over 100 people. Unlike most other galleries, Mars also has a small, built-in bar and food emporium: a little nook known as “Carmen’s.”
The art at Mars Gallery is strong on wit, humor, fantasy and a touch of carnival fun house. They throw great “themed” receptions, usually well attended, which have a real “ high life/low life” mix of interesting Chicago people. We encourage you to visit soon.
Below are examples of artwork representative of that shown at the Mars Gallery.