A native of Chicago, Jeff Zimmermann has achieved national and international recognition for his large scale murals featuring painted images of contemporary pop culture and sensitively rendered portraits. Zimmermann’s pop-culture references range from innocuous consumer products such as beer cans, hard candy rings, and high healed shoes, to more symbolically charged images like pistols and portraits of political figures. The images are discrete and floating, knitted together by geometric areas of flat color. The overall aesthetic is smooth and sensual: shiny metal and glossy surfaces, rendered in saturated colors. Zimmermann’s paintings have the sex appeal of commercial art, and any irony surrounding that connection is light and playful.
While rooted in contemporary life and consumer culture, Zimmermann’s work also reveals a sympathetic affinity for everyday people. And though he carefully avoids didacticism, instead playing the role of objective visual journalist, viewers may get the sense that he has reached his own conclusions. The portraits Zimmermann renders on such enormous scale enact a specific agenda in his work. In an effort to subvert the notion of what corporate and entertainment culture considers newsworthy, Zimmermann incorporates into his murals a diversity of people who live and work in the communities he visits—these are not the faces we know from the news, magazines, and television, or those whose historical or political status already qualifies them as subjects for public art.
Incorporating into his works people excluded from the aforementioned categories—what he calls real people—Zimmermann familiarizes himself with a community while allowing its members to breathe authenticity and life into his paintings. The portraits in Zimmermann’s artwork are dignified and attractive, directing the viewer conversation toward a democratic humanitarian dialog, while giving the work an emotional depth that complements the polished context of his product-based world.
Although accomplished and celebrated for his public works, Zimmermann’s studio works have not received a solo exhibition in 10 years. EVERYTHING, opening on October 19 at the Zhou B Art Center, celebrates Zimmermann’s most recent bodies of work including large scale paintings, works on paper and sculptures.
The imagery presented in the exhibition features the detritus of the abandoned lot: chips wrappers, crushed aluminum cans. "Found" artwork on plywood referencing the changing dynamics of chicago's neighborhoods. Additionally, the exhibition presents recent “Love Knot” paintings which have become a recognized iconic symbol in Zimmermann’s work. The knot’s technical approach invites the viewer to to reach out and touch the frayed fibers of the rope. The nautical knot is created by bringing two different colored ropes together. They are pulled together with force and create tension. When forced together, the two different ropes become one and work together as a whole. From a distance, we perceive the knot shape as a heart becoming a metaphor for what Chicago and our country needs in this moment.
Zimmermann has exhibited internationally at The MCA Chicago and Chicago Cultural Center. His work has been featured in national media including the Today Show and in the New York Times. He has created site specific commissions for Fortune 500 companies.