Fruit is good for you. Mountains are pretty to look at too. Everyone has a heart and computer screens have personality, depending on how you look at them.

Welcome to the anthropomorphic world of Chris Uphues!

The artist has had a studio at Secret Project Robot in Brooklyn since forever. A September-October exhibition of his work (along with artists Rob Corradetti and Buried Diamond) was just announced on Facebook by Galerie F in Chicago. I probably won’t make it to that one, though any chance to write about Uphues is cause for celebration.

What makes his work so special? For one, it’s downright cheerful and not in a dumbed-down way (though the artist embraces the dumb in life with open arms). Uphues’ multi-colored hearts, fruits, and other inanimate objects are also executed with an emotionality that feels almost too simple. Almost!

Take fruit for example. It is one of the oldest subjects in artfrom bas reliefs on ancient balustrades, to patterns on tapestries from England to the Middle East, to still life paintings rendered in sumptuous oils, to obtuse symbolism at the hands of Magritte, to repetitions of ad-like illustrations by Warhol. Uphues nods backwards to all of these, as well as Keith Haring’s contorted, overlapping figures, googly-eyed kid’s toys, scratch & sniff stickers, rave-era smiley faces, Grateful Dead dancing bears, emoticons, South Park‘s stoner character Towelie, and on and on.

His drawings of ’80s boom-boxes and old televisions remind a bit of Thomas the Train, while an allegiance to smiley hearts and droopy-eyed citruses, which Uphues wheat-pastes on street walls, takes on the conceptualism of things like Paul Frank’s Julius and Shepard Fairey’s Obey icon. They appear out of nowhere and the viewer scratches their head wondering for what reason.

And that’s the key to this artist. He’s obviously serious about these often unserious characters. Perhaps by animating those things that sit still in our rooms, or off in the landscaped distance, Uphues is subtly pointing out the life-forces we all take for granted?

But be warned. Next time you encounter one of his hearts or fruits on your way to the subway, it will lock eyes with you and in a weird zen-like way, will meet you right where you are. (Brian Chidester)