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Internationally renowned artist and IU Northwest professor David Klamen discusses his art career on Nov. 8

Artwork by Klamen has been exhibited around the world and alongside such renowned artists as Matisse and Picasso

Untitled painting by David Klamen from his “Painting Paintings” collection.

Richard Gray Gallery
Untitled painting by David Klamen from his “Painting Paintings” collection.

Indiana University Northwest invites students, faculty, staff, and the greater Chicagoland community to attend a lecture and presentation by David Klamen, internationally renowned artist and IU Northwest professor of Fine Arts.

The featured event will take place on campus at the Library Conference Center (Room 105ABC) on Monday Nov. 8 from 1 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. Klamen was recently awarded the Distinguished Scholarship Creative Activity Award and, as part of his achievement, will conduct a lecture focused on the history and development of his artwork.

A full spectrum of Klamen’s art will be discussed during his lecture, from pieces he created as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to some of his most recent work, which has been exhibited alongside internationally renowned and respected artists like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.

At IU Northwest Klamen teaches drawing, painting, fundamental studio, and art theory. He is an accomplished international artist and is represented by Richard Gray Gallery in New York and Chicago. Klamen has artworks in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others.

Klamen said that while his art career has spanned nearly three decades, his overall creative philosophy has remained consistent.

“My presentation in November will highlight the common themes and concepts that can be traced through almost all of my artwork,” he said.

Klamen’s work demands active participation from the viewer; whether it’s a serene landscape muted by varnish, or an image or scene embedded in a colorful barcode pattern, his pieces demand closer examination.

He traced his interest in this recurring theme of viewer participation back to a scene in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, in which the character Ishmael inquires about a painting, discolored by years of smoke and varnish, that hangs behind the bar in the Spouter Inn.

“Ishmael asks the bartender what it’s a painting of, because he can’t quite make it out,” Klamen recalled. “The bartender tells him a story about the painting but also doesn’t really know what the image depicts. So they ask other sailors in the bar, but nobody seems to know, so out of curiosity they hold up their lights or they open up one of the windows in the bar and they realize that it’s a painting of a whale. That slow disclosure of the imagery, the fact that this was a painting that required the viewers to become participants in understanding it rather than just spectators of an image, was very influential to me.”

International inspiration

This same theme of active participation is also found in Klamen’s latest body of work, “Painting Paintings.” His work ironically plays with the artworld conventions embodied in the work of some of the greatest artists in history, including Rembrandt, Mondrian and Monet.

Klamen adds his own twist to the “Painting Paintings” collection by depicting iconic museum paintings and then manipulating the images with sharp angles, skewed perspectives, and thick varnishes. He consistently set out to deconstruct the nature of memory and explore visual answers to the question, ‘How do we know what we know?’   

“Most of my work involves some kind of heightened awareness of the viewer’s roles in understanding the work,” Klamen said. ”While many of the works do that by slowing down the disclosure of the image where you literally can’t see what it is until you spend time with it, other works are revealed by questioning visual art conventions in such a way that it raises that question for the viewer.”

A press release from the Richard Gray Gallery stated, “Staying rigorously faithful to the appearance of his 'subjects', Klamen employs a vast range of periods and styles: Renaissance masterworks by Zurburán and Rembrandt are so heavily varnished as to be nearly obscured; the strictly horizontal and vertical lines of Mondrian take on new meaning as diagonals; and Franz Kline's postwar gesturalism becomes suspended in time.”

A series of 20 pieces comprised featured exhibits at Richard Gray Gallery in both New York and Chicago.

Born in 1961 in Dixon, Ill., Klamen received his B.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1983, and he earned his M.F.A. two years later from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He then accepted a tenure-track position at IU Northwest, embarking on twin careers as teacher and exhibiting artist.

To learn about IU Northwest’s Fine Arts Department, see

To view Richard Gray Gallery’s Web site dedicated to David Klamen, go to


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Department of Fine Arts

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Additional Article Photos

Richard Gray Gallery
Untitled painting by David Klamen from his “Painting Paintings” collection.