About J Thomas Pallas

Brief Bio

J. Thomas Pallas received his MFA from the University of Chicago, focusing on the dialectics of abstraction/representation, authenticity/appropriation, complicity/political activity, and ethics/aesthetics. He currently curates exhibitions for the City Colleges of Chicago, leads independent projects at the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, and consults on Interpretation and Engagement for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. He earned BA degrees in Studio Art/Art History and English from Rice University with a thesis focused on contemporary queer drama, and has also studied at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and the European College of Liberal Arts (Berlin). His work has been exhibited in Chicago and at venues throughout the country, such as Arthouse at the Jones Center (Austin), Urban Institute for Contemporary Art (Grand Rapids), Truman State University Art Gallery (Missouri), Arizona State University, and the Indianapolis Art Center.


University of Chicago
Master of Fine Arts, Contemporary Art Theory and Practice, 2008

Rice University
Bachelor of Arts, Studio Art/Art History, 2004

Rice University
Bachelor of Arts, English , 2004

New York University, Tisch School of the Arts
Film Production, 2002

European College of Liberal Arts (Berlin)
Certificate, Comparative Philosophy, 2001

Selected Exhibitions

Hoarding, Amassing, Excess NIU Art Museum DeKalb, IL
Arte No Es Facil Centre de Desarollo de las Artes Visuales Havana, Cuba

Institute for Encyclopedic Amalgamation (solo) Northwestern University, Dittmar Gallery Evanston, IL
Where History Meets Progress West Chicago City Museum West Chicago, IL
Mid-American Print Council Biennial McDonough Museum of Art, Youngstown, OH
Word On The Street: Image, Language, Signage Center for Book and Paper Arts, Columbia College, Chicago, IL
Front & Center Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL

Arte No Es Facil Links Hall, Chicago, IL
No Printing Necessary Arizona State University Art Gallery, Tempe, AZ
Combs and Other Found Collages (solo) Intelligentsia, Chicago, IL

MDW Art Fair Geolofts Building, Chicago, IL
Perspectives: 2011 Faculty Exhibition Gallery 350, Illinois Institute of Art, Chicago, IL
Remake Eel Space, Chicago, IL
Minority Art: Inspiration, Obligation Governors State University, University Park, IL
Collage in Three Time Spans (solo) South Suburban College, Holland, IL

Art from the Heartland Indianapolis Art Center, Indianapolis, IN
U.N.I.T.Y and UNITY: Jumpman Series High Concept Laboratories, Chicago, IL
National Wet Paint Zhou B. Art Center, Chicago, IL
Around the Corner Artists and Residents project with SAIC, Chicago, IL
New Work (two-person show with Joe Miller) The Wassaic Project, Wassaic, NY
Gwendolyn Brooks Brothers (solo) (((antena))), Chicago, IL

American Race Truman State University Art Gallery, Kirksville, MO
Art Prize 2009 Exhibition Urban Institute for Contemporary Art, Grand Rapids, MI
Armed ‘n Hammered (solo) Reception Gallery, Chicago, IL
Evolving Artists Beverly Arts Center of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Don’t You Hear Those Cavalry Drums (solo) The Ghetto Gallery, Chicago, IL
Adaptation The Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, IL
New American Talent Arthouse at the Jones Center, Austin, TX
One Brick Country in the Sea DOVA Temporary at University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

I Wear My Father’s Shirt Backwards Sheridan House Arts Center, Houston, TX


Demons, Snake Girls, & Evil Trees President's Gallery, Harold Washington College
Dig. Mine. Core. Erase. President's Gallery, Harold Washington College Chicago, IL
Now Is The Time President's Gallery, Harold Washington College Chicago, IL
Nattering Nabobs South Suburban College, South Holland, IL
Well Done Well High Concept Laboratories, Chicago, IL
Psycha-Bobble High Concept Laboratories, Chicago, IL
The Illuminated Thread ALL RiSE Gallery, Chicago, IL
"Chicago Artists to Watch" Series Coalition Gallery, Chicago, IL
This Ain’t Yo Mama’s Fridge Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, Pasadena, TX

Selected Recognition

Winter Residency, 2013
Anchor Graphics and The Center for Book & Paper Arts, Columbia College, Chicago, IL

Center Program Residency, 2013
Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL

Experiment #56: Pedestrian Speech Acts, 2012
Red Rover Series, Chicago, IL

Community Arts Assistance Program (CAAP) Grant, 2011
Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Chicago, IL

Fractured Atlas-Funded Artist-in-Residence, 2011
High Concept Laboratories, Chicago, IL

Open Crit Program (Hamza Walker, Moderator), 2011
Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL

Mutualisms Symposium, 2011
Co-Prosperity Sphere, Chicago, IL

Political Art Doesn’t Matter, 2011
Front Street: Surround for the Underground

Reframing Photography: Theory and Practice (ed. Rebekah Modrak), 2010
Routledge Press and Accompanying Website

NEA-Funded Fellow and Artist-in-Residence, 2010
Elsewhere Collaborative Museum, Greensboro, NC

Community Scholarship Grant, 2009
Center for Race and Culture, Maryland Institute College of Art

Full Graduate Fellowship, 2007-08
University of Chicago, Division of the Humanities

Visiting Artist / Artist Talks

Northwestern University, Chicago
Columbia College, Chicago
Loyola Academy, Chicago
Illinois Institute of Art, Chicago
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
South Suburban College, Holland, IL
Co-Prosperity Sphere, Chicago
Governors State University, University Park, IL
Unity Elementary, East St. Louis
Elsewhere Collaborative Museum, Greensboro
International Civil Rights Center and Museum, Greensboro
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Contemporary Arts Workshop, University of Chicago
Peck Elementary School, Greensboro
Burnside Elementary Scholastic Academy, Chicago


* Every aesthetic work promoted by the creator, collector, or consumer is a proselytization of an ethical position.

* The work of art may be a product of creation, collection, or consumption.

* The work of art is a metaphor for what has, might, or could happen.

* Each work of art serves as a nominee for what constitutes “art”, a pawn to be deployed in the on-going game of determining artistic valuation.

* Every work of art operates as a collage, kidnapping images, objects, and ideas from their native habitats, forcing them to live outside their original context side by side with other captives. The work of the artist necessarily mimics the mix, the mash-up, the radical miscegenation of everyday life.

* Art cannot and should not exist in a vacuum - - each consumer brings social, political, emotional baggage to bear on the their experience and space must be allocated to allow each unique interpretation.

* The work of art is a tool to be exploited by each consumer in a process of creative meaning-making - - it will be shifted, altered, bastardized, enlarged, belittled, ennobled, or ignored to the extent that the consumer is offered engagement.

* The process of community collaboration is an ambiguous affair - it should be less than certain if the art work is being created for the benefit of the community or if the community is being used to make the art; the truth should lie somewhere in between.

* A work of art can draw on aspect of experience - - a successful recipe involves a melange of the personal, the popular, and the political.

* Scale is an important consideration with any work, but the scale of the work is not necessarily proportionate to its impact/value.

* Dialectics are greater than didactics.

* Art can teach and the artist can learn.

* The work of art need not reinforce social, political, economic hierarchies. Politically pertinent subjects should be substituted for established societal spectacles.

* In art as in life, there is no truth, so an artist may utilize lies, hoaxes, and falsehoods to create a more truthful work of art.

* The personal biography and experience of the artist should not affect the work of art.