Saturday, January 11, 2020

 SWANN GALLERIES is hosting a unique auction of 100 selected original works of art from the prestigious Johnson Publishing Collection.  It includes an early Rhythmistic oil painting created by Onli when he was 18 years old. Already a total departure from the orthodoxy of images created by what is now called the Black Art Movement that were wedded to images of suffering and oppression along with tributes to selected historic figures and moments.

 The youthfully enigmatic Onli saw his path via a future-primitif approach to visual art. Genetic memories, counter-cultural advancements and dymaxion sciences resonated with him. The looming nexus of creativity, culture & commerce often led to Onli being minimized in those same Black Art Movement circles, anthologies, exhibitions and celebrations.

 "Family Group" is a personal statement as at that time in the young Onli's life he was being kicked out of the home of his grandfather, who had raised him since age 2.  Being confronted with the thrilling opportunities and challenges of living life on his own...separate from the only family he had ever known, is symbolized in the small child on the lower right....detached.....alone......poised.
This is evidence to the power and potential of Onli's decades long experimentation and Rhythmistic practices that covers fine and commercial artistic expressions.  So far, without being represented by commercial galleries.  Johnson Published produced the highly successful Ebony and Jet magazines along with a child's edition called Ebony Jr.  Onli did a tenure as a freelance illustrator for Ebony Jr.
Onli states he would love to be represented by a major gallery.

 Fortunately his Rhythmistic works have found themselves in the likes of The New Museum of Contemporary Art, The Chicago Children's Museum, The Tubman Museum and the pages of major publications.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Saturday, January 4, 2020

2020! New Year and Nu Decade too.  While doing year and decade in review I am looking at things to do.  In the now....and the wow.  I am fortunate to be in a group exhibition at the Box Factory For the Arts in the upscale St. Joseph city in Michigan, USA. It is called "Inspired By the Greats" organized by the astute Nikki Gauthier.  It features art created as an homage to or appropriated from landmark works or styles associated or master by classic great visual artists.

 The exhibition is so hot that it has been extended until Feb. 29th.  Like for another month. Curators and hip collectors are flowing through.





Monday, December 2, 2019


 "Danse of the 911 Phoenix" 30"W X 40" Acrylics on canvas.  The narrative concept of this painting, started on 9-12 expresses the re-emergence of the American Spirit after the tragic events of 911.

Onli is committed to crafting the best possible works of Rhythmistic Fine Art.  In this practice he feels that any work he still owns is actually incomplete.  True completion for him happens when a collector or institution acquires the actual owrk of fine art.  Until that point Onli reserves focus and effort to enhance, embellish and advance the visual and technical dynamics of the art.  Comparing and contrasting these two images provides a sample of this process.

 He often asks:  "What is a masterpiece?  How does one create one?"



Thursday, October 24, 2019


ABOVE: "Rhythmistic Miles Davis" inks on illustration board, 1975:  Onli was often on Safari to bag  big-time, well paid celebrities and entertainment stars with his Rhythmistic visual art. In the late '70s he visited with jazz legend and crazy insane person, Miles Davis to negotiate purchasing Onli's Rhythmistic illustration for ue as an album cover. Miles was excited and wanted it, however Mr. Davis did not want Onli to be paid.  The negotiation ended with Onli keeping the illustration and Miles left frustrated..... exclaiming: "Punk....don't you know who I am???" and evidentially Onli sold it to a fan of Mr. Davis for the asking price offered to Miles.

Years later Mr. Davis even started making "art".


The "Michael Jackson Cape" was created in the '80s as a spoof about the" King of Pop's" hair catching afire during a commercial filming. This cape and others, were shown in a major multimedia fashion shows at the Limelight Club in Chicago and at the New York Art Expo. Onli later had the cape redesigned into a coat, which later sold to a serious collector of fine wearbable art.

 Here the MJ cape is shown during a Chicago River West Art Gallery Walk.
"What is art?

"First of all we must recognize the obvious. ‘Art’ is a word, and words and concepts are organic and change their meaning through time. So in the olden days, art meant craft. It was something you could excel at through practise and hard work. You learnt how to paint or sculpt, and you learnt the special symbolism of your era. Through Romanticism and the birth of individualism, art came to mean originality. To do something new and never-heard-of defined the artist. His or her personality became essentially as important as the artwork itself.

 During the era of Modernism, the search for originality led artists to reevaluate art. What could art do? What could it represent? Could you paint movement (Cubism, Futurism)? Could you paint the non-material (Abstract Expressionism)? Fundamentally: could anything be regarded as art? A way of trying to solve this problem was to look beyond the work itself, and focus on the art world: art was that which the institution of art – artists, critics, art historians, etc – was prepared to regard as art, and which was made public through the institution, e.g. galleries.

 That’s Institutionalism – made famous through Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades.
Institutionalism has been the prevailing notion through the later part of the twentieth century, at least in academia, and I would say it still holds a firm grip on our conceptions. One example is the Swedish artist Anna Odell. Her film sequence Unknown woman 2009-349701, for which she faked psychosis to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital, was widely debated, and by many was not regarded as art. But because it was debated by the art world, it succeeded in breaking into the art world, and is today regarded as art, and Odell is regarded an artist.

Of course there are those who try and break out of this hegemony, for example by refusing to play by the art world’s unwritten rules. Andy Warhol with his Factory was one, even though he is today totally embraced by the art world. Another example is Damien Hirst, who, much like Warhol, pays people to create the physical manifestations of his ideas. He doesn’t use galleries and other art world-approved arenas to advertise, and instead sells his objects directly to private individuals. This liberal approach to capitalism is one way of attacking the hegemony of the art world.
What does all this teach us about art? Probably that art is a fleeting and chimeric concept. We will always have art, but for the most part we will only really learn in retrospect what the art of our era was."
Tommy Törnsten, Linköping, Sweden

Thursday, September 12, 2019

" I have a lot of things to say and a lot of ways to express them!"

This was Onli's positive and bold response when asked why he doesn't do one type of art. One style. In a single category so folks would understand exactly what he was doing.  Onli is highly appreciative of all of the people who visited his exhibitions, hired him along the way, contributed to his education and were willing to take classes he taught..  He call it the real stuff of life. Sometimes there just ain't no cure for who we are.




However so much in the upper levels of the international Art World is conducted through the lens of power, politics and trends.  But in the United States of America one can throw down by pulling one's self up by one's boot straps.  This applies to a life as an artist too.

Onli likes to think his is an example of living the American dream. Or as Sly Stone once sang: "You can make it if you try!"

This is a picture of Onli from 2004. Over his long and varied career he has known the challenges of being censored, blackballed and often erased for his practice that was independent, diverse, multi cultural, open, heterosexual, Black Male, yet comfortable with non-Blacks, talented, creative, skilled, commercial, esoteric and all the other things that seemed to naturally flow from and through his natural practices.

 Now as he approaches 70 years of age...comes ageism.

Yet Onli is still working to secure positive gallery representation, museum acquisitions, and full professorships along with major commissions from those who see his flow as the positive powerful promising innovative timeless practice it tends to be. 




Along the way Onli has had incredible moments.  Like earning two degrees from the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago while freelancing for the likes of WGN and Playboy Magazine, being covered by the New York Times for being a part of the Cool Globes traveling exhibition.  A bench in the Chicago Children's Museum. Winning a drawing contest in Paris. Exhibitions in a host of not for profit non-commercial independent galleries. Positive reviews.



While actually teaching at the public school and college levels.  These moments have always shown Onli was ideal for bigger more lucrative opportunities.  But then comes to politics of selection. The process where king & queen makers seek out those to elevate and control over those who innovate and toil.



As the upbeat Onli had put on his answering machine in the late 1970s and on his  smartphone today...

 "If you are looking for creativity, you have come to the right place."

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Is art based on beauty?

"For me art is nothing more and nothing less than the creative ability of individuals to express their understanding of some aspect of private or public life, like love, conflict, fear, or pain. As I read a war poem by Edward Thomas, enjoy a Mozart piano concerto, or contemplate a M.C. Escher drawing, I am often emotionally inspired by the moment and intellectually stimulated by the thought-process that follows.

 At this moment of discovery I humbly realize my views may be those shared by thousands, even millions across the globe. This is due in large part to the mass media’s ability to control and exploit our emotions. The commercial success of a performance or production becomes the metric by which art is now almost exclusively gauged: quality in art has been sadly reduced to equating great art with sale of books, number of views, or the downloading of recordings. Too bad if personal sensibilities about a particular piece of art are lost in the greater rush for immediate acceptance.

So where does that leave the subjective notion that beauty can still be found in art? If beauty is the outcome of a process by which art gives pleasure to our senses, then it should remain a matter of personal discernment, even if outside forces clamour to take control of it. In other words, nobody, including the art critic, should be able to tell the individual what is beautiful and what is not. The world of art is one of a constant tension between preserving individual tastes and promoting popular acceptance."

Ian Malcomson, Victoria, British Columbia

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In the definitive book that serves as a guide for institutions and serious collectors of fine art, "African Art: The Diaspora and Beyond", authored by the dedicated collector of Black & African art Daniel Texidor Parker, in its Chapter III Masters of the Diaspora there is a vital section:" Black Esthetics."

 This was book published in 2004. 

On page 63 it reads:

"The discussion of Black Aesthetics is ongoing. It ranges from the development of new technology to arts profound effect upon the viewer.  We hear the voice of Chicago artist Turtel Onli, who focuses on elements of rhythm and flow in art. The term he uses to  express this concept is rhythmism,  

Onli says, "This a futuristic approach to visual Africanism that distinguishes  the work of many contemporary artists."

Saturday, August 17, 2019

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