Alex Loghrim (1951-1984)



Alex Loghrim (1951-1984). American. Not classically educated, in fact not possessing even a high school diploma, Loghrim’s sculptures first began to appear in galleries in New York in the mid-1970s. His early work seemed to borrow much, aesthetically, from various schools of abstraction with, as several critics have noted, some subtle influences from “tribalist” schools of the early 20th century. Loghrim then moved from New York to Chicago, and his early work was followed by what was perceived as a shocking move toward realism during his first major showcase at the Whitney biennial in 1980.

Initially Loghrim’s realist work, which sold well from the outset, tended toward a predictably, if somewhat stylized, neo-classicism, and reflected a conservatism that ran through much of the art world, not to mention American politics, even as some of the most politically-charged protest art of the last twenty years was being made on the Left. But in interviews, Loghrim eschewed politics—this was also not uncommon for artists in this period—stating that the motivations for his sculpture were aesthetic, and aesthetic alone. Gradually, Loghrim’s realist work moved toward the hyperreal, with a long and strangely fascinating stop-over in the uncanny.

For much of his career, Loghrim’s medium of choice was plaster, and marble when he could afford it. Soon after his Biennial show, however, he switched to bronze. Taking a cue from Degas, he would adorn his life-size bronzes in actual clothes, which he typically bought from a Sears & Roebuck in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Still unsatisfied however, he began painting his bronzes in lifelike skin-tones—and eventually dispensing with the clothes altogether. The juxtaposition of metal against the illusion of soft flesh—of the dead against the living—has a jarring affect. In an interview two years before his death, Loghrim cited the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians as influencing his decision to apply paint to bronze. “For them it wasn’t about this statement about life and death and the frailty of flesh. It was about looking at this piece of marble that’s supposed to be a man, or a god in the shape of a man, and thinking, well, people don’t look like that. They’re just not that pale, for one thing, and, you know, like the irises have color. And for them, that distinction it’s not even there. Beauty was alive whether contained in the sculptor’s marble, or in the prostitute posing for him.”[1]

Loghrim left several striking pieces behind—Kathryn (II), Philomel and The Vivisector, and Randy Rhodes (Morning) are all stunning works—but unfortunately the story of his death has come to overshadow much of the work he did in life. Increasingly, Loghrim became obsessed with medieval writings on alchemy, and grew more and more convinced that he was on the verge of discovering a chemical compound that could turn metal, specifically bronze, into flesh—or this is what has been gleaned from the cryptic contents of several notebooks found in his studio after his death—but the compound, a dangerous mixture of _____ and ______,[2] produced highly toxic fumes and, his studio being poorly ventilated, he was overcome. He was found dead by two City of Chicago police officers, surrounded by over seventy bronze statues, meticulously painted and arranged with drinks and plates of food, in the manner of a party.

[1] Loghrim, Alex. Interviewed by Cindy Sherman in Art Preview. 47.3, 1984. p 68.

[2] Actual names of chemical compounds have been excised.