Artist Chuck Connelly keeping it simple in Chestnut Hill

A small Chestnut Hill art gallery is showing the work of one of the more notorious artists of the last 30 years.

Chuck Connelly’s work was once regarded on par with New York’s superstars in the 1980s, but he has become more widely known for his hot temper. His antisocial behavior has been acted out by Nick Nolte in Martin Scorsese’s contribution to the film “New York Stories” and in an HBO television documentary “The Art of Failure: Chuck Connelly Not for Sale.”

The Emmy award-winning documentary showed Connelly in his East Oak Lane home, spitting profane rants at the camera, quite often appearing to be drunk.

Since then Connelly has stopped drinking, and seems to have mellowed. But without apologies.

“Those were my favorite parts, when I was screaming and yelling into the camera,” said Connelly while setting up a show at the Chestnut Hill Gallery on Germantown Avenue. “That was the realest; you don’t get to see that kind of rage on TV. True, pure rage. Like Jackie Gleason in ‘The Honeymooners,’ but real.”

The initial reaction to the documentary was a windfall, however short-lived.

“When the film came out, I had a little show in Connecticut at the New Arts Gallery. I sold a ton of paintings,” said Connelly. “It all got ugly. All the parasites start coming around, scavengers who take and run. The next sale, much less. At the last show, nothing sold. It’s so typical of people–they see something on TV: Justin Bieber did a painting, it must be hot. Now things are leveling out.”

Connelly uses thick, meaty brushstrokes to paint post-expressive pictures of both the apocalyptic and the mundane–of tornados and kittens. At the Chestnut Hill Gallery, he organized a group show with three other artists: light boxes by Ted Victoria, a found-object installation by Harry Anderson, and prints by Hal Hirshorn. It’s called “Out of Order.”

“We were working on other titles and it was getting too artsy: ‘We have to have a subtitle,’ ” said Connelly. “We were going to have another title with meaning. “Connections” or some B.S. like that. That what separates this from those big New York shows with their high-falutin’ thinking. Keep it simple, stupid.”

It’s hard to say what the work by the four artists has in common, other than that the artists like each other and like to hang around together. But Connelly still has that bristly personality.

“We’ll see if it works out and we don’t have a big fight and don’t talk to each other at the end. Sometimes that stuff does happen,” he says.

That hasn’t happened yet?

“It’s touch and go,” Connelly laughed. “Some guys irritate me more than others.”

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