the artist

Thomas Chimes

Thomas Chimes

Philadelphia, PA

Thomas Chimes

"Duchamp's famous 'underground' pronouncement struck a chord with Thomas Chimes, whose interest in the writings of Antonin Artaud and Alfred Jarry had encouraged him to explore the margins of mainstream art and literature... As a consequence of this withdrawal from the contemporary art scene, Chimes began to investigate issues such as esotericism and mystification in metal boxes and paintings whose irrational and often willfully obscure imagery reveals his affinities with Surrealism.  This methodical effort to delve into his unconscious in order to portray a level of reality beyond surface appearances can be compared to Arthur Rimbaud's notorious claim that the poet or artist 'makes himself into a visionary by means of a long, immense, and calculated derangement of the senses.'  However, for Thomas Chimes this flight from reality was achieved, not through abuse of drink or drugs, but through a prolonged engagement with literary and artistic subcultures, whose radical nature deeply enriched his artistic practice."

-Michael Taylor, Adventures in 'Pataphysics, Philadelphia Museum of Art (2007)


After serving in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and following a promising start in the New York art world of the late 1950s, Thomas Chimes (1921–2009) moved back to his hometown of Philadelphia to focus on his work away from the quickly centralizing art scene.  His trajectory as an artist can be seen through five distinct periods (listed below) embodying shifts in material and approach, with each body of work demonstrating meticulous craftsmanship and deep intellectual engagement with his sometimes-hidden subject matter.  Over the course of his lifetime, Chimes became increasingly hermetic, conjuring the subjects of his paintings around a constellation of cultural icons whose radical ideas and unique acts have shaped our understanding of the human condition.

Locks Gallery has represented the artist and his estate for over thirty years, working to further understanding of his major periods: the crucifixion paintings (1958–65), metal box constructions (1965–73), dark portraits (1973–1978), white portraits (1979-1989) and his enigmatic white panel paintings (1989–2009).

Fast Facts

Name: Thomas Chimes


Place of Birth: Philadelphia, PA

1948 Art Students League, New York, NY
1947 Columbia University, New York, NY
1939 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

Significant or special training:
1943-1945 U.S. Army Air Force
Chimes served as a radio operator and gunner in WWII bomber planes influencing his metal box constructions of the 1960s which reflect larger theoretical and cultural themes of the Atomic Age.

Gallery Representation (when Convention Center acquired artwork):
Locks Gallery, Philadelphia

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