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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Friday, August 9, 2019

 During this talk Onli went over core aspects of his life long artistic practice and how it stems from the hard wired impulse of humans to exaggerate when creating images of humanity.

He reviewed how he discovered this trait about himself in elementary school and nurtured it over his 50 plus years of being a professional/career artist.

His term "Rhythmism" addresses how the past.present/& future are always about and within the intuitive and imaginative flow of most artistic practices.

 More than a style.....it is the root of his practice.

 The Box Factory For the Arts knows how to promote the Arts as a vital part of community life.
 Onli showing the Rhythmistic treatments he and quilter Patrick Whalen gave this traditional Teke masque icon.

During his presentation Onli went into his professor model and opened with the BBC DVD insightful feature "More Human Than Human".

 Onli's fine art works tend to be produced on themes. Collections such as the Watermelon or No Evils typify this practice.

 From personal books to major Rhythmistic fine art....a life long practice yields a great deal to appreciate.
 The press is often open to Onli's works. The greater challenge is having his works included in museum collections, corporate collections and collections of serious fine art collectors. 

The trends and times are catching up to Onli's decades long practice as curators and art directors are becoming more accepting of his future-primitif distinctions.

A major female art collector on a studio visit questioned how Onli could depict women as natural positive powerful goddesses, not simple sex objects,..... though he is a practicing, openly heterosexual male. 

She went on to say that had he been a woman or even Gay she would have purchased his artwork.  

Onli thanked her for her candor and felt she spoke the logic that so many others operate with when they a dysfunctional response to him as the artist behind these impressive art works.  She also added that she was impressed at how his art was legit, skilled, expressive with substance not fluff, and real. 

But she still was not willing to buy from him.  All to the embarrassment of the gallery owner who was at that time exhibiting Onli's works.

Hmmmm! Her lost.  More enlightened collectors, curators and dealers are out there.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Prof. Onli  is currently preparing selected Rhythmistic Visual Fine Art for a major exhibition Summer of 2019 at the Box Factory For the Arts in upscale St. Joseph, Michigan-USA.

Series 5 Art Exhibition Opening ReceptionFeaturing the artwork of Susan Teague, Erica Roberts, Turtel Onli, Marcy Mitchell and Jennifer Zona
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
 The Box Factory for the Arts1101 Broad Street, Saint Joseph, MI 49085
The Rhythmistic Smorgasbord":

This showcase will give intelligent curators and collectors the unique opportunity to experience varies pathways in Onli's decades long dynamic Rhythmistic practice as he is now on the threshold of his Vintage Phase.  Onli grew up during the last era of Great American Illustrators. 

 He wanted to be one and during his early 20s he illustrated for the likes of Playboy,  WGN, Delmark Record"s, National PTA Magazine, The Singer Society For Visual Education and other clients. 

Working from the outside in!

 He was shocked when he finally was accepted to the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago to discover their entire studio curriculum was absolutely into "Conceptual Art" and devalued the robust American legacy of figurative painting along with its lavish commercial illustration  applications.  However he remained true to his ambitions to express himself using the narrative aspects based on the human face or body with his future-primitive flavor. 

He may use photographs or live models as references but tends to modify them away from their original state to arrive at a more distinct, less sterile impact, not limited by simply copying  the references to a common or boringly flat "Paint-By-Numbers" result or marred by the dedicated  use of opaque projectors. 

The Oustider looking In!

 Onli did go on to earn a BFA in Art Education and a M.A.A.T. in Art Therapy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Both practices and degrees lead to a long career as an Arts Educator and clinical-community based Art Therapist.  Except for a few years in the 1980s, when Onli was with the Younger Gallery in Chicago, and in 2001 with the Divine Gallery in Saugatuck,  he has not been represented by galleries, curators or art representatives. This created a sort of outside the mainstream presence in Onli's practice. This on balance with his works being presented in alternative spaces, not for profit galleries and museums,


 Onli has maintained a nexus of fine-art esthetics and commercial applications fueled by his experimental undercurrent of narrative future-primitive stylizations that he long ago referred to as "Rhythismtic" which is expressed in bodies or collections of work centered around a unifying theme. Concepts such as the metaphysical, the health giving watermelon, the morality of the "No Evils" proverb are a few.

Theme 1: “Outsider In”
“All hail the outspoken, the outré and the odd,” the report declares, somewhat breathlessly. “As we become ever more inundated with mass-replicated imagery and aggregated articles, our appetite for unique messengers and standout visuals increases with each and every share… consumers are rejecting anything that has even the slightest whiff of Goliath… We’ve entered a new Age of the Strange.”


Current world events are causing hesitation in spending–buying patterns show some caution, but not when it comes to the arts.


Most art market report and agree that current uncertainty in politics and economics is affecting high-end spending. People are turning to experts and data to guide their decisions, and statistics show a shift from buying art from auctions to art dealers.


Recently art dealers are closing 63% of art sales, while auction houses experienced a 19% decline in sales in 2017. Trust, transparency, and discretion are key factors that collectors seek in a dealer’s reputation.

Overall, the outlook for the global art market is increasingly positive with an 18% increase in a positive outlook combined with an 8% decrease in negative opinions.

Mid-market prices between $10,000 and $50,000 see an uptick, while artworks over $1 million see a pullback.


Meanwhile, because of changing spending patterns, galleries are reserving high-dollar art pieces in their stock to avoid flooding the market and driving prices down. Buyers are feeling more confident with mid-market prices, and with this rise in optimism, collectors are purchasing more emerging, though riskier, artists.



Monday, May 6, 2019

CHICAGO- Rhythmistic visual artist, Turtel Onli, is preparing selected art from his various collections to be in his coming retrospective-type exhibition this Summer in the Series Five Exhibition Program of the Box Factory For the Arts in St. Joseph Michigan.  Onli is known for his Rhythmistic narrative paintings and drawings that he produces around a unifying theme resulting in a compelling body of work.  With the Series Five program he is expected to present for curators, smart collectors and art lovers samples from several of these collections.  Onli coined the term Rhythmism in the early 1970s to explain his future-primitive practice.  Series Five, including artists Susan Teague, Erica Roberts, Lauren Stienhofer & Jennifer Zona, will showcase their art throughout the Box Factory For The Arts.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

EXHIBITION NOTICE: Summer 2019
Box Factory For the Arts 
in St. Joeseph Michigan, USA

Rhythmistic visual fine art by Prof. Turtel Onli will be featured in the annual  prestigious Series Five artists' exhibition at the Box Factory For the Arts in St. Joseph Michigan July 19th until Aug. 24th, 2019. Onli will be presenting a rare insightful sampling of important  Rhythmistic works created since 1999. Including watercolors, textiles, oils , acrylics and selected drawings.



Curators, collectors, and educators will especially appreciate experiencing Onli's varied Rhythmistic treatments of media,  concepts and humanity in a future-primitive narrative context.

Exhibition Link