Ivan Albright's self-portrait
Photo: The Art Institute of Chicago

The great French artist Jean Dubuffet once called Ivan Albright’s work “a crumbling, rotting, grinding world of excrescences.” (He meant it as a compliment.) The description is evident in Albright’s self-portrait from 1935 (pictured), in which the 38-year-old transformed his face and hands into an ugly mass of wrinkles and crevices. Albright was born in south suburban Harvey, married the great-granddaughter of Joseph Medill, and lived in and around Chicago for most of his long life (he died in 1983). His art is the focus of Flesh, an exhibit at the Art Institute that opens May 4. “Albright’s masterful technique draws you in,” says John Murphy, the curator. “The end result is at once seductive and repellent.”