John Fraser - Time Well Spent

John Fraser

Time Well Spent

Opening Reception

Friday, October 19, 2018

6:00 to 8:00 pm


Time Well Spent, an exhibition of new works by Chicago artist John Fraser, will be on display October 19 through November 24 at William Campbell Contemporary Art. An opening reception will be held Friday, October 19, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Time Well Spent will feature Fraser's abstract mixed-media constructions that fuse graphite, acrylic, and collage with found materials on hand-constructed wood supports. The resulting pieces emphasize the physicality of art making and the corporeal presence of the artist's innermost aesthetic and spiritual considerations. Embedded with tangible and psychological stimuli, they promote visual and emotional discourse between artwork and viewer.

"My work, for over thirty-five years, has been concerned with things of a timeless and universal import," writes Fraser. "And these concerns have been manifested in material and formal ways via forms, shapes, suggestion, and restrained applications of process and intent." Not images, but objects, Fraser's pieces engage the surrounding space by piercing it physically with surface and material and visually with an ongoing dialogue between light and shadow. Such a quiet dynamism is achieved, in part, by cutouts on the wood supports, which reveal the wall underneath while creating shadows to highlight the three-dimensional aspects of the constructions.

Fraser describes his work as additive, and he assembles the myriad components in a way that allows them to exist effectively as both part and whole, each embodying its unique identity, but also unified by muted, contemplative color stories and an absence of direct cultural reference.

Two notable, recurrent forms in Fraser's present body of work are old hardback books and abstracted columnar configurations. Emptied of their contents, manipulated, and reconstructed, the antique book covers function as architecture, or figural structures within the abstract landscape of the work. Further, they are vehicles for loose visual and metaphorical narratives around the universal human experience. "I like working with things that are of and part of the world," says Fraser, who, with these books, harnesses the history and energy of every person who has handled them over time.

Columnar elements are important for the artist as well, and reference his own studies in architecture along with the many cultures that have employed the form throughout history. Such strong verticals conjure notions of standing or reaching figures, in addition to a fascination with what exists in the vast space above. The structures also convey a subtle totemic quality, suggesting a connection with the meditative side of art and humanity as they converse within the broader universe.

Fraser makes art meant to spark sincere, memorable experiences through meaningful looking-to encourage viewers to spend time with the pieces and build that visual and emotional relationship. Fraser writes: "Ultimately, my goal is to produce an object worthy of study and reflection. My desire is to provide the potential viewer an opportunity for contemplation and for seeing. One's attention and consideration, I hope, will be time well spent."


John Fraser has exhibited nationally and internationally for nearly four decades. He has shown artwork in dozens of solo and group exhibitions, including venues in his native Chicago and across Illinois, as well as in New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Cincinnati, Fort Worth, Houston, Miami, Nashville, Phoenix, San Antonio, and San Francisco, among others. International venues include those in London, Munich, Tokyo, Toronto, and São Paulo, to name a few. Most recently, his work appeared in a group show at the Old Jail Art Center in Albany, and before that he was the subject of a solo exhibition at San Antonio's McNay Art Museum.

His work has been featured in various periodicals, including New American Paintings, Artforum, the Chicago Tribune, New Art Examiner, the New York Sun, and Sculpture magazine, among others. He has been the subject of several exhibition catalogue and brochure essays as well, including in the 2010 book Restraining Order: John Fraser: Work in Mixed Media 1991-2010.

Fraser's work appears in numerous public and private collections, among them, those of the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the McNay Art Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe, the Old Jail Art Center, the Sioux City Art Center, and el Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Esteban Vincente in Segovia, Spain.

John Fraser earned his MFA from Northern Illinois University and his BA from Roosevelt University in Chicago. He has taught at several universities, and served as visiting artist at Brigham Young University, Northwestern University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Illinois, and the University of Minnesota, to name a few. He has received various grants and residency appointments, including those at YADDO in New York State and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.


Founded in 1974 by William and Pam Campbell, William Campbell Contemporary Art exhibits high-quality contemporary art in a variety of media, including paintings, works on paper, mixed-media constructions, photography, prints, ceramics, and sculpture. By exhibiting nationally recognized artists, along with new and emerging talent, the gallery aims to nurture an awareness and appreciation of the exciting diversity found in contemporary art.