GEORGE DEEM (1932-2008)


A Pop artist usually chooses current subject matter, very often of a commercial nature, and blows it up to make us really see it. His approach is deadpan, often humorless. George Deem, in contrast, is obviously not averse to a joke once in awhile, and is an unashamed romanticist. He draws on the past for his subject matter in quite a nostalgic way but endows it with contemporary flavor. The content of his pictures is borrowed form the old masters. In fact, he reproduces these old and loved paintings in his own pictures. But they are not copies. Each is executed in a very painter-like way but in a modern spirit. George Deem also uses calligraphy in his works, both as nostalgic reminders of antiquity and as compositional devices. The writing is indecipherable; it is not meant to be read. 


George Deem was born in Decker, Indiana in 1932. He attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1952, and was interrupted by being drafted into the army. He served in the town of Heidelberg, Germany and during his two years of service he visited the cities of Florence, Venice, Paris and London and saw their remarkable art collections. Upon his return from the service in 1955, Deem returned to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and studied with Paul Wieghardt, teacher of other artists such as Robert Indiana and Claes Oldenberg. Upon his graduation in 1958, Deem moved to New York City where in the 1960's he exhibited with artists like Larry Rivers. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at such institutions such as the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Menil Collection, Houston, the Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain in Strasbourg, among many others. His work is in public collections such as the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine arts, Houston, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana, among others. Deem lived in New York until his death in 2008.