I learned today of the death of Joe Markevicius, one of my favorite artists. Joe was a “soutsider” artist, a graduate of Gage Park High School and a wizard with pastels. I always thought there was a sadness to Joe at least partly reflected in his choice of subject — mostly Chicago places that had disappeared or were in the process of disappearing.
His renderings were incredibly detailed and his skies always dramatic. I never got entirely clear on how much Joe had studied art, but from his own account his training was limited. His craftsmanship was for the most part self taught, and he certainly worked outside the mainstream art world. In some ways he seemed like an architectural version of the great self-taught Chicago painter Drossos Skyllas, whose portraits and landscapes were as finely rendered as Joe’s buildings.
I first encountered his art in the late Puffer’s Bar on Halsted Street in Bridgeport. Though he worked mostly with pastels, it was an oil painting that caught my eye, a rendering of the Tripoly building, one of my favorite Chicago structures, soon to be torn down. I bought pictures from Joe for several years after that, including lots of doomed buildings and a few trains, all given his visionary treatment and incredible attention to detail.
Joe eventually left Chicago to live in Asheville, North Carolina. In a classic case of procrastination regret, I always meant to reconnect with him after he returned to Chicago some years ago, but of course now it’s too late. I remember he found the label “soutsider art” amusing, but his work for the most part never got much attention outside the South Side, though Intuit has borrowed pieces over the years, including the Tripoly building and Aladdin’s Castle (Riverview).
One day Joe will receive the full recognition he deserves for his art. I feel fortunate to have known him and to remain surrounded by some of his wonderful pictures in my home, including, especially, the Tripoly building. We first bonded over our mutual love for this doomed landmark — and monster movies.
You can read Joe’s obituary here.
Here are some examples of his work.