Tony Fitzpatrick has been called a master printmaker, but he's also a poet, actor and inveterate gadabout. And when it comes to gallivanting, his favored stomping grounds are his old hometown of Chicago and his occasional home of New Orleans, where he attunes himself to the poetry of the streets, the scents of his favorite restaurants and the sounds of certain music clubs. A mystic of all things sensate, he poses a triple threat with notes about his collages that are as hypnotic as the graphics themselves. Then there are the poetic texts within the images: hieroglyphic arrangements of memories and observations, or deadpan analogies stacked like tombstones on the peripheries.
The Devil's Music (pictured) is one of a series of small collages dedicated to the arcane symbolism of the number nine, a digital talisman of eluded limits and lives lived on the edge. Here a tawny "9" shines in a nocturnal sea of symbols, of floating music notes and metallic deco diamonds, of the lassos of cardboard cowboys and dice coming up snake eyes. Vintage high-rise towers and ads for flapper-era cafes vie with the visual cacophony of the city as an unsettling message appears on the margin: "SHE HEARD: ROLLING PIANO JAZZ: AND THE DEVIL SAT DOWN AT HER TABLE." His notes invoke the "greasy laugh" of an old friend who once warned: "Tread lightly, brother, you and me are already on our ninth life ..."
Queen of Pink Acid is more ominous: an ebony elephant sporting a golden crown and a party dress with crimson hearts over her breasts. An electric mauve "No. 9" shimmers before her as bouquets of daisies and the detached arms of antebellum damsels float in an ether of skulls and diamonds. Disembodied text implores: "YES BABY, I BEEN TO THE RIVER. NOW TAKE ME TO THE DANCE." And here we enter a cryptic realm where Baudelaire meets Marie Laveau, and where the siren song beckons, but where only those with lives to spare dare tread.
No. 9: An Artist's Journey: New Work by Tony Fitzpatrick
Through Oct. 15
AMMO Gallery, 938 Royal St., 301-2584; www.ammoarts.com