Tag Archives: wgn

Happily Ever After for Chicago’s Original Hipster Couple

Brad_Meinecke_Stage_Rickenbocker_Summerfest_Pepsi_Stage_78

Brad Meinecke, Pepsi Stage at Summerfest, 1978. Notice his father’s painting behind him.

Brad Meinecke descended from Chicago Royalty.  His father, Tristan, was a successful musician, artist, architect, and family man.  Brad’s mother, Lorraine “Angel” Casey, was one of the earliest media celebrities the Windy City ever produced and an exemplary mother and wife.   Together, Tristan and Angel were THE original Chicago hipster bohemian couple.

The Excavated Studio of Tristan Meinecke opens Friday, February 7th for a limited time only.

Brad Meinecke will appear on Live from the Heartland on Saturday, February 1st at 9AM to discuss the Resurrection of Tristan Meinecke and the enduring Chicago legacy of his royal parentage.

Listen live online at http://wluw.org/
or via radio waves at 88.7FM in Chicagoland

TESTIMONIAL BY BRAD MEINECKE~

This story, and this exhibition, are fundamentally about life, and about two people who really did live happily ever after. Tristan Meinecke and Angel Casey had great success at many noble things. They balanced careers with raising a family. They remained loyal to one another through thick and thin.

ac_tm_piano_cleveland_800Together, they did battle against the insularity of the art scene and the prejudices of society while continuing to have good friends and good times. Tristan struggled with bipolar depression – a condition very little understood in those days – and strove to manage its symptoms so that it did not hold him back from being a husband and father. And through it all, both in spite of life’s struggles and because of them, he was a prolific creator.

tris_angel_60s_pool_sized_300Thus what we are celebrating is not Tristan’s death but the fact that he really knew how to live. He was a modern renaissance man, a two-fisted da Vinci scowling through the back alleys of Lincoln Park, well before it was today’s posh enclave. His legacy of art and architecture was part of the movement which transformed a slum into one of Chicago’s iconic neighborhoods. We study great people from the past, in part, because we want to become like them in the future. Every creative person involved in this ‘resurrection’ project has had the same thought: “Someday I want to create something this worthy to be remembered.”

If you want to experience a deeper connection with our departed neighbor, we enthusiastically recommend the following methods:

1. Appreciate the art he created! One of the wonderful things about art is that it allows people to share a bit of their inner lives, the experiences of the mind and spirit, through a shared knowledge of the work.

2. Spend quality time with his family! It’s a physical fact that a part of you lives on in your children, in the DNA that shapes their bodies. But the words and deeds of people reveal their character. You can hear real stories, ask your own questions, see family photos, all while standing in the space where Tristan stood while creating many of these compositions.

3. Get inspired! One of the wonderful things about good art is that it leads to more art. For example,  Glenn Schreiner, an artist to whom the Meinecke Project owes a great debt, has enriched his style of painting through his intimate interaction with the art of Tristan Meinecke. Studying and learning to describe the art, architecture and history here has taken Crystal Eidson’s poetry and prose to places it’s never been before.

Who knows what avenues of creative discovery will open up once you start exploring?

There is only one way to find out!

We’ll see you soon.

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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.