Tarik Echols: Open

December 9, 2022–May 14, 2023
Curated by Alison Amick

Tarik Echols: Open

Drawing with repeated lines, shapes and words in red, white, black, purple, blue, yellow and green, with swatches of gray watercolors in the background
Tarik Echols (American). California 245, n.d. Watercolor and crayon on paper, 22 x 30 in. Collection of Jennifer Mannebach

Tarik Echols

Tarik Echols: Open presents a survey of work made by the artist between 2011 and 2020 and is Echols’ first solo exhibition.

Echols’ former arts facilitator Jennifer Mannebach offered: “Tarik tends to build patterns of words that become scaffolding for other layers of letters or symbols. A drawing may start with [a] single word that is repeated using crayon and oil pastel, sometimes with washes of watercolor layered over. ‘Open,’ ‘home’ and ‘mother’ are a few of his favorite words. They are sometimes punctuated with recognizable drawn images like a horse or human figure. Occasionally found materials are collaged into the work. I once gave him an old dictionary that he wrote in and tore things out of. I remember a specific piece where he riffed on the [word] ‘live’ page of the dictionary and included the torn page in his piece. He deftly uses color and pattern to create a feeling of atmosphere and depth in some work. Occasionally there are emphatic lines on the edge of a word or section that really anchor it. I’m always amazed at how he can elevate the material of a simple crayon. I also have a very clear memory of him extending drawings beyond the paper, which I really enjoyed. I tried to give him larger paper, but I think he still drew beyond it, and there was something very satisfying about that.”

For more than 15 years, Echols has participated in day programs run by Little City in Palatine, Ill. Established in 1959, Little City, a nonprofit, serves children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities through residential programs, employment services, horticultural programs and art-making at the Center for the Arts (CFA). At CFA, facilitators work with program participants to make artwork—providing as little or as much guidance as needed. Echols stopped making artwork for a time around 2014 then began again shortly before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, in response to this global event, CFA operations were halted. Echols continued to make work at his residence—a practice he has maintained since the closure of the program—using notebooks and smaller sheets of paper. Little City looks forward to re-opening CFA on a limited basis in 2023. For more on Little City and CFA, visit

Special thanks to Tarik Echols, Little City, Wendy Mayfield, Samuel Farchione, Frank Tumino and Jennifer Mannebach for their support of this exhibition. Thank you to Tom di Maria, director emeritus of Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, Calif., for his insightful contributions to the exhibition.

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View photos from Tarik Echols: Open on Flickr.
Tarik Echols: Open


Art After Work: Tarik Echols
Thursday, May 18, 2023, 5–6:30 p.m., Intuit

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