The fate of artists is to be outlived by their creative legacies. The tragedy of Brendan Scanlon, the Chicago artist and Madison native known by his street-artist alias of SOLVE, is that he was murdered before he could leave a more complete artistic bequest. This is the takeaway from the current retrospective of his work, on view through October 9, in the Ray Edwards Gallery at Madison East High School.
A 2002 graduate of East, Scanlon had gone on to study at the Illinois Institute of Art. Pursuing a professional career as a graphic designer for a Chicago marketing firm, he also drew attention as a prolific and inventive Windy City street artist until his stabbing death in June 2008.
On display from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, the retrospective suggests the relentless enormity of his talent across a variety of media, and some probability that he was destined to join the ranks of such renowned street artists as Banksy, Basquiat, Haring, Solveig and Quinones. Visitors to the exhibit are asked to check in at the school's welcome center.
If a few of these works appear hasty, most convey a disciplined command of both concept and execution. In recognizing that all the works in this retrospective were done by an artist who died at 24, the viewer confronts all that has been lost -- all the unknowable art SOLVE might have produced across the span of four or five more decades, all the bold concepts and intriguing media he might have explored if a knife had not cut short his life and its creative impulse.