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Chuck Connelly Into the Light (03) - Ben


Once considered a contemporary to the likes of Julian Schnabel and Jean-Michel Basquiat, artist Chuck Connelly was a key figure amongst New York’s neo-expressionist painters in the 1980s. His work was featured in gallery shows across the city and sold to both private collectors and the MoMA alike. Bold and densely layered, Connelly’s prolific paintings are richly imbued with his own varied life experiences, created as frantically as they are thoughtfully. By the mid-2000s, however, the artist was a man in decline; his marriage was over and most of those closest to him had been driven away by his rampant alcoholism, fiery temper and destructive attitude. 


But Connelly kept painting. 


Effectively a recluse in his native Philadelphia, the artist retreated to his canvases, chain-smoking his way to amassing over 5,000 original works that quickly filled every wall, shelf and room of his deteriorating, unkempt home. With only a few close confidants as his connection to the outside world, Connelly’s isolation only served to focus his manic painting style as he confronted a lifetime of perceived slights, failures, regrets and missed opportunities. In Chuck Connelly Into the Light, the artist is revisited as a man in his 60s, as intense and commanding as ever, if tempered by decades of reflection and solitude. Featuring insights from those who know him best today and his own characteristically colorful observations, Into the Light seeks to discover what becomes of a tortured artist when the pain subsides, how far talent can carry even the most difficult creatives, and if it’s ever too late to emerge from the darkness. 


Born in Pittsburgh in 1955, Connelly graduated from the Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia in 1977 and subsequently spent two years in Germany on fellowship.  In the early 1980s Connelly based himself in New York City where he exhibited regularly and developed a highly inventive style of expressionist painting.  By the mid-1980s Connelly was recognized as a key figure among the New York-based Neo-expressionist painters – alongside artists such Julian Schnabel and Jean-Michel Basquiat – and was collected by major institutions across the United States. In the late 1990s, Connelly returned to Philadelphia where he continues to live and work. Since his early successes, Connelly has been portrayed in film by Martin Scorcese (Nick Nolte’s character in New York Stories (1989) was based on Connelly) and was the subject of an HBO documentary in 2008, which above all captured his discipline and commitment to his craft. In fact, since Connelly’s rise to fame in the 80s, he has had few moments of inertia. As a prodigious painter with a passion for his art, he has amassed a vast collection of canvases, many of which have yet to be exhibited.

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