Jeff Zimmermann

Despite blessing us with the visual equivalent of a Rice Krispies snap, crackle, and pop for our exhibition, there was probably more All Things Considered than “Walk This Way” on Jeff Zimmermann’s stereo during the composition of his slipmats. Not to say that the Run of the DMCs are necessarily more inspirational than the amble of the NPRs, but Jeff’s audial preference might carry a slightly masochistic connotation: “I listen to talk and news radio a lot when I’m working. This is the best work beat because it’s no fun and therefore more inspirational in a self-denial sort of way.” The oblique approach seems to be a theme in the celebrated international muralist’s career. Four years after receiving his BFA in graphic design, while teaching a popsicle stick and cotton ball art class in Chicago, a church pastor asked him to paint the Virgin of Guadalupe: “I agreed to paint my first mural before I’d ever really done a single painting. I went and took a quick painting class at ColumbiaCollege, to see if I could do it, and crushed the other students. I figured, ‘well, that was fun, this might work.’” Concentrating on bright pop imagery and elements of collage, Jeff’s massive-scale murals decorate neighborhoods throughout Chicago, as well as in Kenya, Puerto Rico, Honduras, and even Cincinnati, Ohio. His designs point the viewer down the narrative trail, with iconic characters [cowboys, graduates, and the ubiquitous Virgin] frozen in unfamiliar environments, and then send them into stuttering queries of “why?” Why are these people so excited about cartoon cherries? Why did you paint my neighbor’s daughter’s face on that wall over on Damen Ave.? “Why not?” Jeff shrugs. Pulling inspiration from the “common” elements of life around him, often incorporating astoundingly realistic portraits of local residents in large [no, LARGE] scale, is it any wonder he finds Morning Edition so enthralling?