Hayward Gallery Touring presents How Chicago! Imagists 1960s & 70s

Southbank Centre’s Hayward Gallery Touring presents How Chicago! Imagists 1960s & 70s, the first significant UK exhibition in almost 40 years of work by the group of artists who have become known as the Chicago Imagists. Opening at Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art (16 March – 26 May 2019) then at De La Warr Pavilion (15 June – 8 September 2019), this exhibition focuses on 14 artists highlighting their individual styles as well as their shared references and moments of connection through painting, objects, drawings, prints and ephemera.

Having mostly studied in proximity to one another at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago throughout the 1960s, the artists in this show share an enthusiasm for Surrealism, Art Brut, comic books, non-Western and ‘self-taught’ artists, commercial advertising and the music, markets, sideshows and architecture of the city they lived in. They learned from teachers at the School of The Art Institute, such as Ray Yoshida, and in turn, their teachers learned from them. In 1966, Jim Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca and Karl Wirsum first presented their works together at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago under the name of theHairy Who. Following the show’s success, the Hyde Park Art Center staged a series of similar exhibitions in the years that followed, bringing together new constellations of artists under names such as Nonplussed Some, The False Image, Marriage Chicago Style and Chicago Antigua. The strong bonds developed between these artists during the 1960s and 70s has kept them affiliated under the moniker ‘Chicago Imagism’, despite the diversity of their work. How Chicago! will focus on works produced in those pivotal decades, a vital period in the development of these artists’ practice.

Between 1966 and 1969, the Hairy Who artists self-published four comic books as an affordable way of creating full-colour, printed accompaniments to their exhibitions that were more fitting to the artists’ aesthetic than a standard catalogue. These publications featured hand-drawn reproductions of the works on display, comic strips, fake advertisements and lots of puns, highlighting the humour and entertainment value which is so prevalent throughout How Chicago!

A critique of gender normativity and stereotyping is a theme which runs throughout many of the artists’ works.
Christina Ramberg’s fascination with the female body is apparent in the repeated motifs of disjointed bodies in which flesh and fabric appear to merge within her paintings. Ramberg’s journals and source images reveal formal interests in the bandaged bodies of medical illustrations, and the drapes and folds of clothing in Renaissance imagery. This interest for Ramberg began when she was a young girl and witnessed the dramatic transformation her mother would undergo as she prepared for a night out, using makeup and corsetry to alter her face and figure.
Suellen Rocca’s work also hints at notions of femininity with pastel-coloured, fleshy female forms rendered indistinguishable from the objects with which they interact. In the context of advertising, Rocca’s work can be seen as a comment on the problematic depictions of women and feminised objects within society.

The 14 Imagists in How Chicago! are united by humour and fondness for wordplay, bringing to the surface all that is funny, popular, ridiculous as well as grotesque, vulgar and serious. This exhibition gives UK audiences the chance to see an incredible and hugely influential body of work which has been rarely seen outside the USA. At a moment when many contemporary artists are reconnecting with ideas around imaginative figuration, this exhibition provides a vital and inspirational touch-point for emerging artists and the public alike.

This exhibition is organised by Hayward Gallery Touring in collaboration with Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art and De La Warr Pavilion. How Chicago! is curated by Sarah McCrory, Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art, and Rosie Cooper, De La Warr Pavilion. A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue will be produced by Hayward Gallery Publishing, including essays by the curators and Lynne Warren, Curator at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and texts on each of the artists.

How Chicago! is supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art as part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative exploring Chicago’s art and design legacy.

Sarah McCrory, Director at Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art, and curator of the exhibition saidThis exhibition came together through affection for the artists that Rosie and I share. We have approached this exhibition as fans. For me, showing this work within the context of Goldsmiths CCA, a university gallery, highlights the impact of the collegiate and sometimes competitive relationships spawned at art school, how those early relationships are the grounding of an artist’s future career, and how shared ideas and influences can unite a diverse group of artists.

Rosie Cooper, Head of Exhibitions at De La Warr Pavilion and curator of the exhibition said: I am thrilled to be bringing such a significant exhibition to the De La Warr Pavilion this summer. The vibrancy, humour and inventiveness of each artist’s work will be an inspiration to our visitors. At a time when artists are considering the creative possibilities of life and work outside London, it is especially relevant for a cultural institution such as ours to be presenting works by a community who developed such a strong sense of identity in Chicago, America’s so-called ‘Second City’.

Brian Cass, Senior Curator of Hayward Gallery Touring said: How Chicago! builds on recent Hayward Gallery Touring exhibitions that evidence our dedication to developing partnerships and supporting ambitious projects that combine scholarship, historical breath and relevance to current thinking in contemporary art and culture. We are delighted to be collaborating with Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art and De La Warr Pavilion on this unique exhibition that celebrates a constellation of iconoclastic and hugely influential Chicago-based artists and speaks very strongly to the particular contexts in which the curators are working.

Full list of artists: Roger Brown, Sarah Canright, Jim Falconer, Ed Flood, Art Green, Philip Hanson, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Ed Paschke, Christina Ramberg, Suellen Rocca, Barbara Rossi, Karl Wirsum and Ray Yoshida.

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