For most of us in Chicago, Edward Flood will always be associated with that stellar group of artists who burst onto the art scene in the mid-sixties at the Hyde Park Art Center. With exhibition titles like the False Image, Hairy Who, Nonplussed Some, and Marriage Chicago Style, these artists eventually became known collectively as the Chicago Imagists. Flood and Ed Paschke were responsible for organizing the first Nonplussed Some exhibition in 1968; show followed show, and Flood achieved a certain amount of success even before he had finished graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Both the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art acquired his work for their collections, and in 1972, at the age of 28, Flood was included into the international Bienal de Sao Paolo. Nineteen seventy-two was also the year Flood moved to New York. His last show at Phyllis Kind Gallery in Chicago was 1974, and for many people here, it was also the last chapter in Flood’s story. What was it that caused Flood to leave everything he achieved–his prestigious Chicago gallery, scores of collectors, and a city that respected him–and move lock, stock and barrel to a new, somewhat hostile environment? The answer, quite simply, was his work. It was changing and, fueled by Flood’s bright intellect, changing dramatically. Looking back, as we now can, these stylistic shifts appear natural and logical, but in 1972 they seemed at odds with what his following had come to expect from Flood.
His early success had become a straightjacket, inhibiting his ability to explore issues that were, in fact, coming from the work itself. Floods first mature period was characterized by beautiful crafted boxes containing multi-layered plexiglass panels, with each panel depicting part of a larger image. These works have a literal but artificial depth which teases the viewers perceptions, coyly walking the line between farce and drama, presenting the subject as a kind of operatic staging. Often representing tropical paradises or violent storms, the pieces appear to be containing and controlling nature at its wildest, with their humorous aspects simultaneously commenting on the absurdity of the endeavor. With hindsight, it is now clear that Flood’s contemplations on the essence of raw nature ran deeper than the whimsical quality of this early would indicate.
This text by Deven Golden is an excerpt from the curatorial statement for the exhibition.