Tag Archives: art

The Jazz Castle of Tristan Meinecke

by Joseph R. Lewis

Jazz players 2

“Meinecke remains one of the monumental artistic secrets of Chicago, a man whose contribution remains to be adequately understood and evaluated.”
John Corbett,  Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

“If they played jazz in Chicago, they came to my parents’ pool parties.” – Brad Meinecke, son of Tristan

When Tristan Meinecke arrived in Chicago back in the forties he fell in swiftly with the jazz swingers.  Tristan had already taught himself clarinet and alto sax and he worked the jazz dive circuit successfully here in this Windy City for many years.  He played in the first integrated jazz trio to hit the Northside clubs.  He hailed King Oliver and the entire royal court of jazz pioneers that forever changed the sound of music back in the 1920s from their impoverished neighborhoods on the Southside.

In an age of segregation and McCarthyism,  Tristan was an aggressive anti-racist. He threw more than a few literal fists into the figurative face of prejudice.

king_oliver
In the fifties Tristan rose to great prominence as one of the cities most exciting and progressive visual artists.  He clashed ideologically and physically with the art world as only a true rebel artist would.  His low tolerance for BS was compounded by his disdain for self-inflation and this, as you can imagine, put him at odds with many of his contemporaries and curators.  Eventually he eschewed the whole dang scene and established a home for he and his family free from the confines and servitude of any traditional genre or lifestyle.

He built his castle on Cleveland Street.

tris_angel_60s_pool_sized_300His wife, Angel, a famous Chicago starlet from the earliest days of television, counted amongst her good friends the likes of Lil Hardin, wife to Louis Armstrong and a legendary piano player in her own right.

Lil played with King Oliver, too.  She, along with others from that famous musical round table could often be seen lounging at Tristan and Angel’s 10-year pool party, which they hosted from ’61 to ’70 at their double-lot dual-building property at 2022 N Cleveland.

pool_scene_summers_gone_by_sized_437

From that address, this Chicago hipster power couple entertained a celebrity guest roster rivaling that of the Playboy Mansion.  He taught art classes and sold his own work directly from his own home, bypassing museums and galleries completely.

baby_dodds_sized_315Instruments abound, Tristan designed the acoustics of the property himself, to optimize the allure of the music from street, drawing the neighborhood ever-towards him.

Here’s a Meinecke unfired bust of Baby Dodds, jazz drummin’ pioneer.  Tris and Baby were good friends.  Baby sat for the bust->

2B Continued…

THE RESURRECTION OF TRISTAN MEINECKE
Visit the excavated studio of lunatic genius Tristan Meinecke in it’s final days of existence…
Exclusive Gallery Hours coming  this February in Chicago, Illinois.

Stay tuned to follow the adventure at The Underground Multiplex and the official Tristan Meinecke portal.

His Wife is Famous and He’s Crazy

by Joseph R. Lewis

“Vignette” by Tristan Meinecke was exhibited at the Art Institute in 1963

“My father’s last words were, ‘Tell your mom I never cheated on her!’  But before that he looked right at me and said, ‘Take care of my paintings.’”

Brad Meinecke pauses briefly. For a loquacious Midwestern Mid-Lifin’ Lothario like Brad, even brief pauses seem long.  His father’s building will be gone soon.  He’s worried.  You can tell.  But he’s Chicago.  It ain’t over.

tm_cantankerous_fthrdTristan Meinecke, Brad’s father, passed away in 2004 at 88 gruff years of age widowing his wife of nearly six decades.  She had been the darling of Chicago radio and television back in the fifties, back when everything was produced local. Angel Casey was the star of early Chicago children’s show The Playhouse as well as the world’s first wave of soap operas, a marketing gimmick invented right here in the Windy City.  Brad once heard a Chicago policeman bark about his father- “That guy’s trouble!  His wife is famous and he’s crazy!”

live_radio_reading_cropped_sized_800Tristan Meinecke and Lorraine “Angel” Casey had raised their family in a building down on North Cleveland street in present-day posh Lincoln Park.  Back then, though, it was less posh and more piss and spit.  Oz Park was Little Vietnam and soon the Great Daley would raze the whole damn thing and be done with it.  I imagine Tristan didn’t like the idea of urban renewal much.  He seems the sort to see the gold in dirt.  He saw the thresh swinging, though, and faired quite well.

Interior of the Meinecke’s early Lincoln Park home

He wanted to build an X-shaped home for his family so he took a year and taught himself how to be an architect.  He partnered up with his friend Robert Bruce Tague and together they were instrumental in the design and construction of the new Lincoln Park.  Nobody ever let him build that X-shaped building, though.

City-building…Just the kind of project a manic creative mind would need to stay focused.  And this was the sixties, after all.  No SIMS yet.

The Meinecke’s left Lincoln Park.  They settled in West Rogers Park, in this building Brad inherited from his parents.  Tristan’s art studio dominated an adjoining ex-saloon space with accompanying creepy basement.

Tristan toiled and tinkered endlessly.  He would be up for weeks at a time before passing out for days of deep mental and emotional hibernation.  By the seventies he’d long abandoned active exhibition of his art. His career as a prominent visual artist in 1950s Chicago was defined by the surrounding community’s inability to keep up with him.

By the time the public came around to liking what he was doing, he was doing something else and staunchly refused to do commissioned work.  Galleries struggled to put together “coherently-themed” shows.   The Surrealists adopted him for a time, but no label stuck for long.  He was always changing.

It also didn’t help that curators were afraid of getting punched and thrown down a flight of stairs.  These were legitimate concerns.  He stopped showing, but he never stopped working.

Jazz players 2But his work sold well for a time.  His family estimates he created over 800 pieces in his life.  Around 500 sold…the rest are in the basement.

After Tristan passed away the family moved to the basement all the remnant relics of the patriarch’s massive collection.  It is the life’s work of an artist dedicated to the exploration of the deepest depths of this stream called time.   Fittingly, he loved to fish.  His rods are still in the basement, too.  But not for much longer.

Burning with Awareness by Tristan Meinecke. 72″x48″x8″

The rods, along with the 200-plus paintings, collages, sculptures, the large-scale split-level shadow boxes, the hand-written string quartet arrangement, the 300-page hand-typed autobiography, the tractor bag Tristan fashioned into a huge face, the hand-rendered architectural plans of Meinecke-Tague Architectural studios,  the sound recordings of he and his drummer brother Phil playing jazz dives back in the 40s, the pictures of Angel…all of it has to go somewhere else.  Brad doesn’t know where.  Neither does his brother Scott.  They sit together in their father’s old office.  They’re worried.  You can tell.  But this is Chicago.  It ain’t over.

The Current Excavation of Tristan Meinecke

THE RESURRECTION OF TRISTAN MEINECKE
Visit the excavated studio of lunatic genius Tristan Meinecke in it’s final days of existence…
Exclusive Gallery Hours coming  this February in Chicago, Illinois.

Stay tuned to follow the adventure at The Underground Multiplex and the official Tristan Meinecke portal.

Chicago’s Forgotten Lunatic Genius

by Joseph R. Lewis

Brad Meinecke, son of Tristan

Last summer I was directing the Youth Media program at Chicago Filmmakers.  One of my students had been signed up for my class by his parents and clearly had no direct interest in media production.  He liked Judo.  He was a champion butt-kicker.

wrapped woman 6But he held his own amongst a throng of supreme media-geeks and even verbally sparred with his sassiest female classmates to great success.  He was strong and eloquent and charming just like his father, as I soon came to discover.

His dad , Brad, would pick him up from camp occasionally.  He was a brick building of a man- the kind that could derail a train.  Sharp eyes, sand-paper stubble, with an aggressive gift for gab.  He told great stories like a great storyteller.  He knew when to be loud and when to whisper. As is true of most natives to this Midwest Metropolis, he loved talking about Chicago.

One day near the end of the summer I was sharing with Brad my adventures in urban archaeology.  I told him of the discovery of The Lost Marionettes and our impending rescue mission.  He leaned back and laid a big hairy eyeball on me.

Stylized_Blonde“I should tell you about my father.”

“Who’s your father?”

“My father came this close-“ Brad raised his hand and shoved it in my face, his thumb and finger pressed together tightly, “to being an internationally famous artist.  He’s one of the Chicago Greats…but nobody remembers him anymore…”

“Why not?”

“Because he was a genius…and a lunatic.”  He stared at me for a moment calmly, knowingly.  “His name was Tristan Meinecke.”

I expected a torrent of abusive tales and rueful recollections.  Instead, what I’ve been shown in these past few months is an ever-deepening picture of adventure, love, family, and rebellion unlike any that I’ve ever seen.    It’s like good jazz thumping across six decades in rhythm with the powerful heartbeat of our native city.

Tristan Meinecke. b. 1916 d. 2004

Where to begin?  Tristan the infant savant? Tristan the self-taught jazz musician?  Tristan the two-fisted?  Tristan the architect?  The father?  The husband?  The author?  The anti-racist?  The surrealist?  The manic depressive?  The composer?  The bulldog?

Only one thing is apparent- He lived the kind of life that can only be lived here, in this crossroads city called Chicago.
2B Continued…HERE
XOX

THE RESURRECTION OF TRISTAN MEINECKE
Visit the excavated studio of lunatic genius Tristan Meinecke in it’s final days of existence…
Exclusive Gallery Hours coming  this February in Chicago, Illinois.

Stay tuned to follow the adventure at The Underground Multiplex and the official Tristan Meinecke portal.

Producer’s Testimonial from Tyler Pistorius: Why He Supports Rescuing the Lost Marionettes of Ralph Kipniss

Update: Oops! Didn’t realize this was already posted. No matter. A repost is just as good.
Right now, the campaign to rescue the lost marionettes is less than 70 hours tylerPaway from the deadline. I suppose now’s as good a time as any to tell you why I took part in such an unusual endeavor in the first place.

I initially said yes to helping my friends, Joseph Lewis and Lew Ojeda because I saw this as an opportunity to take part in a documentary film production. Needless to say, the documentary is still in production, but there were many events that have transpired since the beginning that had me in a constant state of surprise. I didn’t expect that I would be moved to tears upon seeing a video of Ralph giving life to a little marionette on his porch. I didn’t expect how tragic Ralph’s circumstances were. Losing a friend and partner, having a puppet parlor go up in flames, not being able to see 60 years of a life’s work because it’s locked up in a vacant apartment in Chicago, and despite being an absolute pro at marionette performance, receiving little to no help. I didn’t expect that I would think about my grandparents every time I saw Ralph, who can’t see any of this because they’re not here anymore. The day I went into the building to film the lost marionettes, I didn’t expect that there would be so many (anywhere between 1,000-3,000). I didn’t expect that my footage of the lost marionettes would be shown on CNBC. I didn’t expect that our story about Ralph Kipniss would receive coverage from the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Reader, and various news outlets across the country. I most certainly didn’t expect that someone like Neil Gaiman would take time out of his life to watch some 4-minute long video I made, let alone pledge and endorse this campaign. (I still find that to be completely surreal.) But most of all, I didn’t expect what this could do if the campaign is successful.

I, along with Joe, Lew, Demetra and a band of like-minded individuals have put in a lot of work and made several videos. This campaign means more to me than any project I’ve ever done, and that’s saying a lot. At this point, I’ve done all that I can do.

This campaign still has a chance. Donations are at $10,000 and climbing! That said, it has a long way to go ($25,000), and it will take a miracle. If this neil-gaiman XOXcampaign fails, whoever pledges get to keep their money. If it succeeds, here’s what could happen. This campaign is not just about some guy’s doll collection. This goes beyond Ralph Kipniss. There could be a story in Chicago news that isn’t about murder, rape, schools closing, privatizing education, or Ventra. It would be about a community of people coming together, in a time of economic peril, to do something good. It would keep an incredible amount of hand-crafted, hand-painted wooden works of art from going in the garbage. It would help preserve Chicago’s heritage. It would preserve Ralph’s legacy that can be passed down to others. It would preserve an art form for future generations. An art form that has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years, by different cultures for different means.

If this succeeds, this could be world headline news. One thing is for certain. Anybody who donates will be a hero. Is all of that not worth $1?

Contribute to the Kickstarter campaign by clicking here.

Dear Chicago: Would You Like to Make World Headlines for Something Other Than Murders and School Closings? Here’s How

by Legendary Lew Ojeda

There are 4 people out there with $3900 who could help us right now to make world headlines for Chicago. I’m not kidding.

The Ralph Kipniss marionettes are believed to be the world’s largest collection of marionettes privately-made by a single artist. 

As you know by now, The Underground Multiplex has been running a

Ralph Kipniss with Wizard of Oz marionettes in the 1960s

Ralph Kipniss with Wizard of Oz marionettes in the 1960s

Kickstarter campaign to the save the life work of master marionette puppeteer Ralph Kipniss. As of this writing, we are just short of $16,000 of our goal, which is due at 9:49AM Central Standard Time November 13.

The story has been covered widely by Dave Hoekstra of The Chicago Sun-Times; by Gwynedd Stuart of The Chicago Reader; by Dominick Suzanne-Mayer of Heave Media; soon by Kwame Shorter of CHIRP Radio; and by LeeAnn Trotter of NBC 5 Chicago. Boing Boing has now posted about this campaign as well.   If you haven’t read about the incredible story of Ralph Kipniss and his marionettes, please do so. Here’s a video of Trotter’s NBC 5 news report:

The Associated Press has picked up the story and distributed it to the following news outlets

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Stamford Advocate
Dallas-Fort Worth Star Telegram
Danbury News Times
Wichita Eagle
Miami Herald
Quad Cities Times
Kansas City Star
Arlington Star-Telegram
San Francisco Gate
Modesto Bee
Austin 360
Charlotte Observer
Houston Chronicle
and many others!

Our campaign has also been “faved” or shared by Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, Rabbit Room Productions, La Mama Theater and more!

This story has national attention. It also has the very strong possibility of going viral, so please share this on Twitter (we are @TheUGMultiplex), on Facebook and click the up arrow on this post at Reddit (it’s a quick register).

If our campaign is successful, Chicago will gain world attention for saving the largest collection of privately made marionettes known in the country and perhaps the world.

As of this writing, FOUR PERSONS WITH $3900 EACH COULD PUT US OVER THE TOP RIGHT NOW AND JOIN 278 OTHER HEROES IN MAKING ART HISTORY.

Chicago, you have your chance at history. Right now.

We have until Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 9:49AM. Click here to help.

Thank you!

Mysterious Pop Art Masterpiece Pops Up in the Neighborhood

Does anyone know what this work is called?

Does anyone know what this work is called?

I recently met a neighbor who had this painting hanging on his living room wall. I was astonished at the quality of it, simultaneously comic and frightening.  He didn’t know the title of it and did not know who created it, as he had acquired it through his workplace, which considered trashing it.

Bravo to my neighbor Ian for saving it! Now the question is: who created it. I’m told that it is a prize-winning work of collaboration between 4 or 5 artists.  Does anyone out there know for sure?

Dead Celebz #2 starring Lillian Gish

Gish Nasty XOX

LILLIAN GISH
B93-D93
Born in OH
Queen of Silence
Seldom smiled
Suffering eyes

Daughter of the American Revolution
Her father disappeared
Her mother was an actress
Her young sister always feared
Lill would die at any moment
Becuz the good die young

They’d sell popcorn at the old Majestic
next door to their mother’s Candy Kitchen
Word came of her father in OK
She went and cared for him until he died

The Majestic burned down
Mother moved them to NYC
next door to little Mary Pickford
Lill danced with Bernardt when she was 12
She was Griffith’s angel
Garbo was her apprentice
“The Birth of a Nation”
“Intolerance”

“Those little virgins,
after five minutes you got sick of playing them”
She could outshoot Huston and Lancaster
Outlaw Jennings, the one who taught her
To Gielgud’s Hamlet, she was “lewd Ophelia”
She cared for the Griffiths as they died
She was there, bedside.

“I never approved of talkies…
Silents were so much more expressive!”
75 years in showbiz.
No Man. No kids.
The last words of her long career were,
“Good night, dear.”

Didn’t get the nomination
“At least I never lost to Cher.”

She Nasty XOX

GOBEARS XOX

GOBEARS XOX

4’x4’
house paint, spray paint, Guerilla Glue, old National Enquirer, rain, dirt, sun, ash, lightning, MM on 1/4” wood sheet

~A POEM TITLED~
“Sermon to the First Assembly of the Mighty Beings of the Kingdom of Nawizopaati”

We assemble, HERE
at the Temple of Nawizopaati
Let it be known (and echoed thruout!)
THIS IS NOT NAWIZOPAATI, no no
Nawizopaati is a moment midswirl
Two Kastles sandstorming world 2 world
heeling behind clouds of music and show
(which are of course the smallest of the small in the galaxy of Nawizopaati)
And here we summon you, Great Kingdom of Nawizopaati,
Under the protective gaze of the Mighty GOBEARS
May we carry Nawizopaati in our hearts always
and forever reside in the lee of the Eddy of Dinadoo…
GOBEARS
XOX

XVII.VI.MMXII
shy, ill 4eva