Hairy Who exhibit captures sixties mood

Jim Nutt. “Miss E. Knows,” 1967. The Art Institute of Chicago, Twentieth-Century Purchase Fund. © Jim Nutt.
Jim Nutt. “Miss E. Knows,” 1967. The Art Institute of Chicago, Twentieth-Century Purchase Fund. © Jim Nutt.

There’s an exhibit, actually a divided exhibit, up at the Art Institute of Chicago that humorously and poignantly portrays six artists’ views of the world, of the battles between the sexes and of the troubled sixties.

At first glance you might think that the works of the six artists who comprise the Hairy Who, Jim Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca, and Karl Wirsum, all graduates of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, are alike.

Well, yes their style is similar enough to group them together. They gravitate to comic book and advertising colors for their picturesque commentaries. And they enjoyed puns and colorful wordplays.

But when going through the glass doors separating the main entry lobby from the museum,  take a left into print and drawings gallery. You get to know the works of each artist in rooms basically dedicated to his and her prints and drawings.

By the time you head west through the museum to see their finished works in the Rice building you should be able to know whose work you are seeing without looking at the painting ID.

Gladys Nisson "The Great War of the Wonder Women," Watercolor on Graphite on paper. (J Jacobs photo)
Gladys Nisson “The Great War of the Wonder Women,” Watercolor on Graphite on paper. (J Jacobs photo)

The exhibit celebrates the 50th anniversary of a Chicago show, but in Rice building  the works are primarily grouped by the Hairy Who’s six exhibitions from 1966 to 1969 in Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Washington D.C.

Among the best commentaries made on the wall descriptions of each show is one that notes that in San Francisco, the art teachers where the show was held disliked the exhibit but the students understood and loved it.

A phrase in the Art Institute’s online site about the show perfectly sums up the Hairy Who’s messages as “progressive ideas that challenged prevailing notions of gender and sexuality, social mores and standards of beauty, and nostalgia and obsolescence.”

DETAILS: “Hairy Who? 1966-1969” is at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., through Jan. 6, 2019  For hours and admission information visit artic.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *