How Chicago! Exhibition Highlights
As How Chicago! Imagists 1960s & 70s draws to a close, we’re rounding up all of the works that we’ve spotlighted since opening in June.
DLWP’s Exhibition Spotlight campaign chooses a work from our current exhibitions every week and shares it with our online audience and the response we’ve had from the works in How Chicago! has been overwhelming.
The radical, colourful and approachable nature of the Imagists’ work has drawn people closer to their stories and sharing pieces of this show in particular has allowed the Imagists’ sense of fun to spill out of our gallery and into people’s lives.
The artists learned from and collaborated with each other to stretch their creative boundaries to its limit. To not splash their work across our social media would have been a disservice to their goal of inspiring others into exercising creative flair.
Here’s a round up of all the works that we’ve focused on during How Chicago!‘s time at DLWP.
Click the pictures to go to their Instagram post then share the image on your story!
How Chicago! Imagists 1960s & 70s closes on Sunday 8 September 2019. Visit the page here.
This painting portrays one of the lively parties that often followed exhibition openings at the Hyde Park Art Center.
Pictured top left: Imagists’ gallerist Phyllis Kind; collector and benefactor of HPAC Ruth Horwich drinks punch with HPAC exhibitions director Don Baum.
Top right: critic, collector and champion of the Imagists Dennis Adrian with artist Lori Gunn Wirsum and baby Ruby Wonder; Jim Nutt and Gladys Nilsson with their son Claude; School of the Art Institute of Chicago teacher Whitney Halstead is about to enter as Roger Brown strolls outside.
Bottom left: art historian Franz Schulze who coined the term ‘Imagism’. Bottom right: Barbara Rossi dressed ‘Marriage Chicago Style’ is about to run into False Image artists and Ray Yoshida.
Attracted by the consumer culture of the late 1960s, Art Green developed a polished, glossy aesthetic. Often glimpsed through apertures, idealised images taken from advertising are combined with artificial-looking textures and arbitrarily juxtaposed with industrial landscapes and architectural elements. Green’s use of peeling layers, theatrical spaces and parted curtains also relates to the work of Roger Brown, Philip Hanson, Jim Nutt and Suellen Rocca.
Philip Hanson’s work has been frequently described as romantic – particularly in relation to the crudely slapstick and more humorous nature of many of the other Imagists’ – but there are often several layers of meaning in his paintings. Highly allusive and allegorical, Hanson’s work makes hit painted (and, in early work, etched) subjects and objects perform various references to art historical genres, such as the vanitas.
In Light Wrap, a woman is portrayed from behind, fixing her hair in front of a mirror. Her naked body is covered by a transparent dress that billows in curves so fluid she appears to be in motion – yet both her face and her reflection are hidden are hidden from us, compounding a sense of mystery.
Much of Sarah Canright’s work from the late 1960s and 70s stands apart from the other Imagists’ for its soft, ethereal shapes and subdued pastel tones of pink, blue, green and purple. These works reinterpret figurative forms, particularly those labelled by the artist as ‘obviously’ female – including flowers, women’s hair, curtains and decorative textiles.
Canright’s work work plays on notions of ‘interiority’. It is simultaneously an introspection of herself as an artist and a woman, and a reworking of traditionally domestic and female activities such as weaving and braiding. Double Take is an example of Canright’s definitive move towards a gendered approach to modernist abstraction, both in colour and in form.
Fascinated by the gaudy imagery of America’s entertainment industry, Ed Paschke was drawn to depictions of mainstream pop icons and celebrities, as well as the strippers, pimps and circus performers who populated many of Chicago’s clubs and bars. Elcina’s skin tones reference the distorted, brash colours of early TV transmissions.
Elcina is one of Paschke’s large oil-painted portraits, depicting a pin-up-like female performer. Painted in vibrant colours with a bluish tinge to her hair and clothes and glowing yellow skin, she is lightly tattooed and wears stockings, suspenders, a pointed bra and elbow-length gloves. Her bouffant hair is loosely heart-shaped and she is heavily made up. She sits against a vivid background of orange fading into lime green. With its seedy undertones and murky neon hues, this portrait is unapolagetically brash – an attitude that defines so much of Paschke’s unflinching and provocative work.
Inspired by the smooth, flat surfaces and bold colours of pinball machines, a number of the Imagists – especially Ed Flood, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Barbara Rossi and Karl Wirsum – utilised a distinctive technique of reverse painting. By applying acrylic on to the back of plexiglass they achieved a crisp, glossy, glowing effect.
Motifs in First Nighter are drawn from vernacular imagery that includes comic books, shop signage, posters and advertising – all common source material for the Imagists. Influenced by Joseph Cornell’s box works on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, Flood created depth by using several layers of plexiglass.
Ray Yoshida’s impact on the Imagists at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago cannot be overstated. While himself a student at SAIC, Yoshida was exposed to non-Western art by teachers including artist Kathleen Blackshear. He began to voraciously collect from the thrift stores, flea markets and streets of Chicago, amassing over 2,600 objects; a passion he passed on to his pupils. Yoshida carried the teaching style he experienced on, and was instrumental in fostering many of the Imagists’ practices. He would later go on to exhibit alongside them.
Yoshida’s work reveals his intense fascination with the imagery of folk art and every day visual culture. In the late 1960s Yoshida painted abstract narrative scenarios populated with faceless figures in loosely domestic settings or infinite landscapes in tiers and stark outlines. Untitled (c.1972) is typical of this period, with its undulating striped patterning and unlikely composition.
In 1966, 1968 and 1969, Jim Falconer participated in the Hairy Who exhibitions at the Hyde Park Art Center alongside Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca and Karl Wirsum. These shows were characterised by visual excess, featuring boldly patterned, flowery linoleum wallpaper on which the works were hung – also a solution to cover up the rough wall surfaces. In this work, Falconer uses the same linoleum as the backdrop for a central silkscreen, blurring boundary and hierarchy between work and environment.
Falconer’s paintings from this period present thick, bold lines and contours with vibrant colours that create a figuration that sits between pattern and experession. Much of his work displays a certain sarcasm characteristic of the Imagists: in an untitled work from 1966, a distorted character – perhaps a patron or critic – is surrounded by the words ‘We Just Love Your Paintings’, evoking the frenzy around the Imagists’ work.
Suellen Rocca was 16 years old when she enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1960, graduating in 1964. As well as paintings, prints and drawings Rocca also produced sculptural works, such as Ah! and Mm…, a pair of leatherette purses from a series of doodled synthetic handbags she produced in 1968. At less than 15 centimetres in height and width, these tiny bags are doll-sized. Rocca has cited children’s paraphernalia as an influence, from pre-reader books to ‘connect the dots’ games.
Each week, we’ll be highlighting one of the works from our current exhibition, How Chicago! Imagists 1960s & 70s. Visit the works at DLWP before 8 September.Posted by Caspar Jayasekera on Monday 2 September 2019