The Chicago Show
May 12 - 20, 2018
Noon - 6pm
LOCATION: 56 Downing St Brooklyn NY 11238
About The Imagists
“The Imagists” is an umbrella term that refers to a few groups of representational artists associated with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at this time. Their style is recognizable for its grotesque surrealism that shirks the effortless chicness of New York and L.A. in favor of lowbrow, small town charm. Often bundled together, The Monster Roster, The Hairy Who, and the Chicago Imagists are three distinct groups that comprised the Imagist movement.
The Monster Roster was a group of WWII veterans who attended SAIC on the G.I. Bill. Mentored by surrealist printmaker Vera Berdich, their work was heavily existential, and were given the name “Monster Roster” by critic Franz Schulze, in reference to the gruesome, mystical nature of their figurative paintings.
The Hairy Who was made up of six artists who exhibited at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago in 1966 through 1968. The three annual exhibitions were entitled “Hairy Who?”, based on an incident in which artist Karl Wirsum became confused when asked about Chicago art critic Harry Bouras. “Hairy Who?” was the perfect title for the Imagists to stick it to the self-important art world. While exhibits in New York were all vying for the most elusively cool title they could muster, The Hairy Who leaned into their lowbrow humor and irreverence for the art world at large. While often compared to the Pop Art movement going on in NYC at the same time, Chicago art critic Karen Lennox noted that the Imagists “sourced surrealism, art brut, comics….”, whereas New York Pop Art sourced “commercial advertisement and popular illustration… One was personal, the other, anti-personal.”
If New York Pop Artists were concerned with the hard, shiny, plastic world of advertising and the relationship between commodity and consumer, The Chicago Imagists and the Hairy Who turned their attention instead to the intimate relationship between humans and the material world around them. They were more interested in using objects to dive into the deep dark recesses of the human psyche than co-opting corporate advertising techniques.