Butler to Exhibit Art by Mellencamp and His Son

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Butler Institute of American Art will again present an exhibition of paintings by rock icon John Mellencamp.

“Bloodline,” an exhibition of 19 paintings by Mellencamp and his son, Speck, will open May 7 at The Butler Institute of American Art and run through July 2. The rocker created 10 of the paintings.

Mellencamp exhibited his works at The Butler’s Trumbull Branch in 2013, and at the main branch in Youngstown in 2018. While he visited the area to attend receptions for both of those shows, he is not expected to visit for the upcoming show, according to Butler spokesperson Susan Carfano. The rocker will be on a North American concert tour in May and June.

Mellencamp – whose artwork “Monstrosity” is part of The Butler’s permanent collection – and his son celebrate figurative expressionism in their exhibition.

“What is clear about the art of John Mellencamp is that his works extend the rich tradition of American expressionistic art that harks back to the painterly canvases of Robert Henri (1865-1929) and the so-called early Modernists that flourished in the early part of the 20th century,” said Louis Zona, executive director and curator of The Butler.

Mellencamp’s coffee table art book, “John Mellencamp: American Paintings and Assemblages,” was released in November by Rizzoli. It features 170 original works, essays from David L. Shirley and Bob Guccione Jr., and a forward written by Zona.

The book features self-portraits made over the years, as well as portraits of other well-known subjects – including Marlon Brando, Johnny Cash and Meg Ryan – and a variety of everyday people.

“Knife Juggler” by Speck Mellencamp.

Speck Mellencamp, born in 1995, became inspired as a young boy while watching his father paint. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design and studied in Greece. Speck also worked at the Butler several years ago. He is now the executive director of the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts. He and his father have collaborated on a few paintings. In 2019, Speck exhibited his paintings at the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts along with John and his grandmother Marilyn, who passed away in 2012.

“Speck Mellencamp’s paintings pay tribute to the intensity of German Expressionist figurative works,” Zona said. “The grouping of figures appears to step out of the darkness, a chiaroscuro effect that is at once heavily dramatic and sculptural. … One is easily reminded of the strongly contrasting light and dark of Caravaggio’s religious themes and how they are magnified by figures emerging from the darkness which envelops them.”

Pictured at top: “Driving in the Rain” by John Mellencamp.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.