For local painter Colin Chillag, springtime seemed ripe for shaking off some dust and putting older works on display. “I had some work sent back from galleries in L.A., and some paintings that had been in storage. That made me think, ‘Well, some of the work I wouldn’t want to show again, but some of it I’ve never shown in Arizona,’” he says. “So I started to think of doing a retrospective. It was kind of an idea that was building.”

A couple of years ago, Chillag showed new works at Phoenix Art Museum as the Contemporary Forum’s designated “mid-career artist.” Last year he had a show in L.A.’s 101|exhibit, the gallery that represents him. “I didn’t want to do an official retrospective, because it’s just so much work, and I would have to borrow back so many pieces [from collectors],” he says. “But I had enough in my possession that I could piece together a decent overview of my career.” That is when Chillag started talking to local gallery/studio owner Hector Ruiz from the Chocolate Factory on Grand Avenue.

The selections for the upcoming show feature a wide range of painting styles. “Consistency is not the objective,” Chillag says. “It’s more the opposite. I get tired of something, so I move on and try new things. But sometimes you leave behind something that you feel could have been more.”

Chillag refers to a large piece he’s been working on, “Goo Goo For God”—with vibrant colors and large, fluid, goofy shapes—that is more cartoony. He considers it a clash between high- and low-brow art, inspired by generations of painters like Peter Saul, Keith Haring, Christian Schumann, Kenny Scharf and Basquiat. “My work is probably closer to Peter Saul,” he says.

For those familiar with Chillag’s more widely exhibited photorealistic works—his signature unfinished canvases with interesting marginalia such as calendars, emotional outbursts and mental lists—the current work may seem like a departure. With this brief return to the cartoon style, he gets a break and says he feels even more inventive.
Riding the wave of this freedom, he decided to revisit his “Selfless Acts” series, a collection of small renderings of famous suicides reenacted farcically in glossy oils, which he posted frequently on Instagram while in process. “In 2004, I worked with the same idea. It’s an alphabet series. But a sort of a fucked-up alphabet,” he says. “I had a window here where I could do that over again for this show.”

The original series wasn’t well preserved. Chillag sold some pieces, stored some away, and about half, he says, he simply threw out. “I don’t tend to value my work very much after I’m done with it,” he says.

This actually had a part in his reconnecting with Ruiz. Years ago, Chillag rented a studio at the Chocolate Factory. When they were catching up recently, Chillag saw Ruiz’s growing collection of paintings and art books and was impressed. He even recognized one of his own works on the wall—a discarded painting of the death of Jackson Pollack that Ruiz had rescued from the trash. Chillag says it felt like a sign for him to reflect and revisit old works.

Ruiz and Chillag have been affiliated for about 10 years and even have collaborated on works in the past. Chillag is thrilled to be showing at the Chocolate Factory, an impressive space that is rarely open to the public.

Colin Chillag
Mid-Career Painting Show
Art Detour weekend, March 18 – 20
(other times by appointment)
The Chocolate Factory
1105 Grand Ave, Phoenix