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Canvassing Chicago

“To the east were the moving waters as far as eye could follow,” Nelson Algren wrote in 1951. Fifty years later, the abstract painter William Conger reinterpreted that famous first line from Chicago: City on the Make in his painting To the East Were Moving Waters. For Conger, who has lived most of his 71 years in Chicago, the relationship of the city to the lake is a central theme. “There’s the marvelous clutter of the city with its wild aspirations and energy, and the lake with its order and timelessness,” Conger says. “People go to the lake to see what forever is like, while the city is right now.” In advance of two shows opening in January—a retrospective at the Cultural Center and new works at Roy Boyd—we asked Conger to reminisce on a few of his most Chicago-centric paintings.