After serving in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, and following a promising start in the New York art world of the late 1950s, Thomas Chimes (1921–2009) moved back to his hometown of Philadelphia to focus on his work away from the quickly centralizing art scene. His trajectory as an artist can be seen through five distinct periods embodying shifts in material and approach, with each body of work demonstrating meticulous craftsmanship and deep intellectual engagement with his sometimes hidden subject matter. Over the course of his lifetime Chimes became increasingly hermetic, conjuring the subjects of his paintings around a constellation of cultural icons whose radical ideas and unique acts have shaped our understanding of the human condition.
Throughout his career Chimes had several retrospectives of his work, including early exhibitions at the Ringling Museum of Art in 1965, The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1975, and Moore College of Art in 1986. In 2007, he was the focus of a major retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, curated by Michael R. Taylor, which was accompanied by a monograph titled Adventures in ‘Pataphysics. A subsequent publication, Into the White (2013), was released in conjunction with Chimes' touring exhibition in Germany and Greece that focused on his later works in white.
Most recently, Locks Gallery published Alchemy Machine (2018), with an essay by art historian Robert S. Mattison, which looks dynamically at the artist's background in the military and training for the U.S. Air Force (where he served as a radio operator and gunner in WWII bomber planes) and at how Chimes' metal box constructions of the 1960s reflect larger theoretical and cultural themes of the Atomic Age.
Works by Thomas Chimes can be found in the collections of the Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, D.C., Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE; Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; J.P. Morgan Library and Museum, New York, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; Phoenix Art Museum, AZ; Portland Art Museum, OR; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond, VA; Wadsworth Atheneum Art Museum, Hartford, CT; and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT.
His work has been exhibited at institutions including, among others, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY; The Morgan Library and Museum, New York, NY; The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, Ireland; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA; The Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX; The Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece; Galerie der Stadt, Tuttlingen, Germany; and The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Locks Gallery has represented the artist and his estate for over thirty years, working to further understanding of his major periods: the crucifixion paintings (1958–65), metal box constructions (1965–73), dark portraits (1973–1978), white portraits (1979-1989) and his enigmatic white panel paintings (1989–2009).