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On Exhibit: extrateresstrial art

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Whatever you may think about flying saucers, they seem quite real in the paintings of Ken Grimes. White lines against a black background form words or cute extraterrestrials. In the large What Doesn't the Gov't. Want Us to Know . . . , white block letters at the top cite a "UFO survey presented to the House Committee on Science and Astronautics in July 1960." Below are 63 little flying saucers, drawn, Grimes says, from a sheet the committee published summarizing various photos of UFOs. They look a bit like single-celled organisms, or a set of symbols or glyphs. In Grimes's hands they seem alive, a fleet descending out of the night sky.

Grimes is interested in coincidences. An all-text painting lists 22 strange occurrences connected with either Cheshire, Connecticut, where he grew up, or Cheshire, England, where another man named Ken Grimes won a large soccer lottery just after the artist tried to win the Connecticut Lotto. He's continued to document many types of coincidences and cover-ups, from the reasonable to the far-fetched.

Born in 1947, Grimes suffered a mental breakdown while in college during the 1960s. He was at a now-defunct experimental school that had what he calls a "Woodstock" atmosphere: "It was like an orgy in the dorms. I couldn't deal with it." There were additional hospitalizations in the 70s, but he says therapy and drugs have kept him stable for the last 17 years. Grimes speculates that our planet might need similar therapy to combat our problems with "pollution and the reckless abandon in the way we build. We can either control the chaos or let it control us."

Grimes believes we need to change our overly human-centered view to accommodate "an alien perspective," which should promote greater "global awareness." The almost factual quality of his paintings and their winning ingenuousness--both characteristics of much outsider art--make all of this seem plausible.

Paintings by Ken Grimes can be seen at a booth for New York's Ricco/Maresca Gallery at Art 1995 Chicago, the annual international art fair at Navy Pier, Grand Avenue at the lake. Show hours are noon to 8 Friday through Monday, May 12 to 15, and noon to 6 Tuesday, May 16; admission is $10, $7 for students and seniors (children under ten are free). Call 587-3300 for more.

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