Joseph Hronek

Chicago artist Joseph Hronek creates small-scale, hyper-real paintings that comment on ideas about perception, reality and artifice. Hronek's figurative and "minimalist still-life" paintings draw the viewer close through their intimate associations and extreme level of detail, encouraging a visual re-examination of the quiet and commonplace.

Hronek is known for his fastidious attention to detail, which begins before the painting is actually started. A series of compositional studies on graph paper comprise the first step of a painting’s development, followed by further color and value studies on paper. Once the composition has been fully considered, and color relationships have been worked out, Hronek begins the final process of making the painting. This is also accomplished in stages: an imprimatura layer, followed by subsequent passages of ala-prima painting, scumbling, and glazing. The surface of the paintings are lovingly and carefully crafted into being, and this committed approach breathes a sense of life into the objects and figures depicted in the works.

Says Hronek:

“I believe the act of observational painting is an act of fiction because the painter is taking many separate moments and combining them into one unified moment. While this may seem more apparent when using a model who is constantly in a state of flux (blinking, shifting weight, etc.), the same holds true when observing a still life object. In this case, it’s the artist who’s psychological makeup and perceptual abilities change from day-to-day. One could take a single object with set lighting and do painting after painting for the rest of one’s life and never come up with the same painting. I think all painting rooted in observation has a truly conceptual componant. It all starts in our heads. This is why I have remained fascinated with representational painting over many years. You can never get a complete answer to what human perception is all about.”

Square Portrait: Angie, oil on panel, 16x16

Square Still life: Apples, oil on panel, 16x16

Horizontal Stll Life: Cherries, oil on panel, 6x18

Horizontal Portrait, oil on panel, 6x18

Square Tromp L'oeil Piece: Folded Paper, oil on panel, 12x12

Square Tromp L'oeil Piece: Lavender Paper, oil on panel, 12x26

Previous Works

Still Life with Tan Vase, oil on panel, 12x9

Still Life with Ultramarine Vase, oil on panel, 12x9

Lime Wrapping Paper, oil on panel, each panel 9x12

Rose Wrapping Paper, oil on panel, each panel 9x12

White Wrapping Paper, oil on panel, each panel 9x12

Seated Figure, oil on panel, each panel 9x12

Standing Figure, oil on panel, each panel 9x12

Standing Figure, oil on panel, each panel 9x12

Friday, March 23, 2007
Humble subjects, major accomplishment
By Alan Artner, Tribune art critic

Joseph Hronek has exhibited and taught for 20 years, and his representational oil paintings at the Addington Gallery are a thrilling fulfillment of his experience.

Nothing is left to chance in these nudes and still lifes. The artist’s planning is as rigorous and time consuming as his execution. He works from the Fibonacci sequence in mathematics and the Golden Section in the fine arts. The results are modest in scale, humble in subject, and diamond hard in accomplishment.

The piece titled “Shifting Nude,” for example, depicts a female model from the rear from the shoulders up. Her hair and skin and painstakingly rendered. But the excitement of the picture comes from the contour of the shoulders and neck that registers movement from her center of gravity – a small thing but, in terms of the painting, of seismic importance.

Similarly, the creases, wrinkles and indentations in the three-panel still life “Folded Post-It Notes” are calculated for maximum effect, and Hronek’s calculations prove unerring.

Perhaps because he is a teacher, Hronek also shows a compositional and chromatic study for one of the paintings to reveal something of his process. The gallery has written statements as well that indicate the same clarity. In our conservative artistic times, one can scarcely do better.

View more work by Joseph Hronek