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On Exhibit: the feats of Fitz

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When the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl in 1986, lights in the windows of three downtown skyscrapers--the CNA, Prudential, and Amoco buildings--spelled out "BEARS #1."

"I was the first one to do something like that," says local art dealer Fitz Gerald, who was a student at the time. Describing the undertaking as a "major ordeal," Fitz says he had to get permission from all the buildings' owners and tenants. "The media made me out to be the world's biggest Bears fan, but I didn't do it to be a Bears fan. It was more an analogy between sports and culture, cutting through red tape and the bureaucracy of the system."

Fitz started staging "public installations" in 1984. His most infamous work was in 1991, when he commemorated the 120th anniversary of the great fire by projecting images of a fireplace from inside the upper windows of the Latino Chicago Theater Company on Damen Avenue. The event unfolded while a performance took place inside. It was accompanied by smoke, alarms, and flashing lights, and was so convincing, Fitz says, "that a man actually came into the crowded theater--a converted firehouse--yelling, "Fire!' And the Fire Department showed up."

These days Fitz is a self-described "recovering installation artist," but he's not out of the game completely. "When I did installations, I was involved in maybe two collaborations a year," he says. "Now that I'm an art dealer, I'm involved in the art world and doing collaborations with artists every day. You can't beat that."

His most ambitious collaboration, "Radius: A Sculpture and Video Event," opens Saturday night in a temporary space in River North. The exhibit--organized with Lance Kinz, who runs the gallery Feigen Incorporated--includes sculpture, installations, and videos by 33 Chicago artists. It's timed to coincide with Art 1995 Chicago, the international art fair at Navy Pier, which starts next Thursday.

For the last four years, Fitz has helped mount group exhibitions by Chicago artists during the spring art fairs. This year he's joined forces with Kinz to form the Radius Group, a not-for-profit coalition of local artists and such galleries as Beret International, Rhona Hoffman, Peter Miller, MWMWM, Ten in One, and Tough. Their first exhibit focuses on three-dimensional work because the art fair "doesn't have the room to show a lot of sculpture," Fitz says. "The people selected range from elder statesmen who've been doing work for decades to very fresh, very young, provocative emerging talent. There's a lot of good work being done in Chicago."

Participating artists include John Arndt, Yvette Brackman, Adam Brooks, Arturo Herrera, Doug Ischar, Gary Justis, D'Nell Larson, Nina Levy, Joseph Litzenberger, Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Adelheid Mers, John Pakosta, Susan Peterson, Richard Rezac, A.E. Theobald, Frances Whitehead, and Barbara Wiesen.

Fitz says the Radius Group was formed to "help create energy for the Chicago scene. A lot of people have good intentions and talk about doing something like this, but don't act. "Radius' means that Chicago is the center of the midwest, and that everything goes out from here. We're going out on a limb, but we're going to spread out good karma, too."

"Radius: A Sculpture and Video Event" opens Saturday with a free reception from 6 to 9 PM. It's on the first floor of 213 W. Institute Pl., a block north of Chicago and Franklin, near the new Space Gallery. The show will run through May 20. Hours are noon to 5 Wednesdays through Saturdays; 10 to 5 Saturday, May 13, Monday, May 15, and Tuesday, May 16; and 10 to 2 Sunday, May 14. Call 440-3222 for more.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Nathan Mandell.

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