Cosmo Campoli

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Cosmo Campoli (March 21, 1922 – December 15, 1997)[1] was a Chicago sculptor, specializing in strong, surreal bird and egg imagery. He was hampered in later years by bipolar disorder.[2]

Exhibits and Career[edit]

Cosmo Campoli exhibited a sculpture, "The Birth of Death", in the 1959 show, "Images of Man" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, among other notable artists as Karel Appel, Leon Golub, and Alberto Giacometti.[2]

However, at this time he also became "confused", as he put it, and his bipolar disorder manifested. Unable to keep up a steady pace of work, he nevertheless taught sculpture at the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology[2] and exhibited with the Chicago Imagists at the Hyde Park Art Center.[3]

Campoli was given a major career retrospective at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art in 1971.[2]

Later, Compoli and Dutch artist Sonja Weber Gilkey originated and curated (with other associates) a groundbreaking exhibit called "Spumoni Village" in the influential Chicago gallery 1134.[4]

He was popular in his home neighborhood of Hyde Park, even having a dish, "Pasta Campoli" named after him at a local Thai restaurant.[2] His bronze sculpture, "Bird of Peace", can be seen near the Murray School in Nichols Park in Hyde Park.[1]


Campoli grew up on an Indiana farm near the Illinois border and was from an early age what would later be called an "action" sculptor, literally infusing energy and life into each piece, mainly in clay at an early age. After art schooling he taught at the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology where he influenced many subsequent artists. His interest was in organic, nurturing, rounded "yen" forms, particularly portraying the spirit of birds, other animals, eggs largely in bronze, clay or stone, or else multi-material objects such as abstracted birdbaths. Most of his extant works are in private collections. His work was at the Alan Frumkin Galleries, though. Although there was some recognition of his work in retrospective survey at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, Cosmo is one of a great many superior modern artists who have fallen between the art-critical cracks and been largely forgotten.

Cosmo the Teacher[edit]

John M. Grzywacz said this about Campoli: "He was a really remarkable man if you were open to a vital life. I took a class with him at the ID in 1955... I remember a project we were to make something sculptural out of found materials... I went searching the streets and came back with pocketfulls of broken glass. I melted the glass in a ladle with an acetalyn torch... after much experimentation I managed to salvage a piece after improvising a cooling system... still the piece was in the ladle... Cosmo looked into my little set up often... In frustration I tried to tap the sculpture out of the ladle. Unfortunately it broke... Cosmo didn't say anything until I got into the class room for the crit... he explained to the class what a dummy I was... not accepting the ladle as part of the piece. It was an important lesson for an 18-year-old. I also remember his edible sculpture process which I discovered when I visited the school in 1972."[citation needed]

A. Beardsley said this about Campoli "Cosmo was always the teacher despite how young you were. When I was a child in the late 1970s I would go to Cosmo's house and he would give me glitter,glue,paint,and other interesting objects to adorn his front yard. As a child I felt it was a magical place, and his involvement in my life lead me to the arts. He was always the teacher!"


  1. ^ a b Dedication of Restored "Bird of Peace"
  2. ^ a b c d e Elizabeth Burke-Dain, "Cosmo Campoli" (obituary), New Art Examiner, Volume 24, no. 6, March 1997, p. 11
  3. ^ Richard Vine, "Where the Wild Things Were", Art in America, May 1997, pp. 98-111.
  4. ^

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