Six complementary but little-known artists who came together for an exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center in 1966 went on to become the most important such group in the city’s history. Its mischievous and instantly recognizable name, Hairy Who, derived from a happenstance question from one of its members during a meeting, didn’t hurt its fame.
“Hairy Who put Chicago on the international art map,” said Mark Pascale, curator of prints and drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago. “Their reputation, their expansive exhibitions going across the country allowed people beyond Chicago to see what was happening, and the art writing based on that spread.”
Although the group’s members — Jim Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca, and Karl Wirsum (all still active and still friends) — had distinctive styles, their work sprang out of the counter-culture mood of the time and shared a similarly irreverent, down-to-earth and Chicago-centric spirit.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the group’s third and final show at the Hyde Park Art Center, the Art Institute, 111 S. Michigan, will present “Hairy Who? 1966-1969” from Sept. 26 through Jan. 6, 2019 (artic.edu). Billed as the “first-ever major survey exhibition” devoted to the short-lived group, it will contain about 225 paintings, sculptures and works on paper as well as related ephemera.
“There’s been talk about doing something for quite awhile,” said Pascale, a co-organizer of the exhibition. “It was [museum director] James Rondeau who finally decided: ‘This is a show we need to do. No one has done it. Let’s do it.’”
A related exhibition, “The Figure and the Chicago Imagists: Selections from the Elmhurst College Art Collection,” will also include significant examples by Hairy Who artists. It runs Sept. 8-Jan. 13, 2019 at the Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 Cottage Hill Ave., Elmhurst (elmhurstartmuseum.org).
Here are 12 other worthwhile shows to check out this fall in Chicago:
— “Yasuhiro Ishimoto: Someday, Chicago,” Sept. 6-Dec. 16, DePaul Art Museum, 935 W. Fullerton (museums.depaul.edu). The widely traveled Ishimoto was one of the most important photographers of the 20th century. This exhibition explores his close ties to Chicago, where he moved in 1945 after being interned during World War II. He lived in the city for more than 10 years, publishing a noted series of street scenes in 1969, titled “Chicago, Chicago.”
— “The Time Is Now! Art Worlds of Chicago’s South Side, 1960-1980,” Sept. 13-Dec. 30, University of Chicago, Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood (smartmuseum.uchicago.edu). This breakthrough exhibition probes the accomplishments of artists living and working in south Chicago neighborhoods like Bronzeville, Hyde Park and Kenwood during a pivotal period of socio-political tumult — a facet of Chicago’s art history that has too often been overlooked. Featured will be about 100 works by such figures as Barbara Jones-Hogu, Yaoundé Olu and Douglas Williams.
— Shadi Habib Allah, “Put to Rights,” Sept. 15-Nov. 4, Renaissance Society, 5811 S. Ellis (renaissancesociety.org). The multimedia projects of Habib Allah, a New York- and Miami-based Palestinian artist, have ranged from explorations of statehood and conflict in the Middle East to portraits of forgotten communities there and elsewhere in the world. This solo show features a body of work that has emerged from his ongoing immersion in Liberty City, a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Miami.
— Expo Chicago 2018, Sept. 27-30, Navy Pier’s Festival Hall, 600 E. Grand (expochicago.com), SOFA CHICAGO, Nov. 1-4, Navy Pier’s Festival Hall (sofaexpo.com). These two fairs are an annual staple of the fall scene. Back for its seventh year, Expo Chicago has established itself as an essential stop on the international contemporary art circuit. This year’s edition will feature 135 top galleries from 63 cities around the world. Focusing on sculpture and what it calls functional art and design, SOFA is marking its 25th anniversary.
— “Pictures from an Exposition: Visualizing the 1893 World’s Fair,” Sept. 28-Dec. 31, Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton (newberry.org). The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition ranks among the most spectacular events in Chicago history. Drawn from the Newberry’s extensive holdings, this exhibition looks at the varied representations of the international fair in photographs, paintings, guidebooks, magazines and all manner of ephemera.
— “AfriCOBRA 50,” Sept. 29-Nov. 3, Kavi Gupta, 219 N. Elizabeth (kavigupta.com). This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of AfriCOBRA, an important black-artist collective that was founded on Chicago’s South Side in 1968 and has enjoyed a resurgence of attention in recent years. Gerald Williams has curated this celebratory show featuring works by him and the other four founding members as well artists as who influenced or were influenced by the group.
— “Ando and Le Corbusier: Masters of Architecture,” Oct. 12-Dec. 15, Wrightwood 659, 659 W. Wrightwood (wrightwood659.org). Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, renowned for his emphasis on meditative spaces and natural light, has transformed a 1920s Lincoln Park building into a dynamic art space. The non-profit facility, which grew out of the Alphawood Foundation’s exhibition program, opens with an examination of the work of Ando and the pioneering modernist Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier.
— “Modern by Design: Chicago Streamlines America,” Oct. 27, 2018-Dec. 1, 2019, Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark, (chicagohistory.org) and “African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce, and the Politics of Race,” Oct. 27-March 3, 2019, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington (chicagoculturalcenter.org). A pair of largely concurrent exhibitions explores Chicago’s sometimes overlooked contributions to 20th century design as the city took its place as a manufacturing powerhouse.
— “Chicago New Media 1973-1992,” Nov. 1-Dec. 15, Gallery 400, University of Illinois at Chicago, 400 S. Peoria (gallery400.uic.edu). Did you know that Chicago played a key role in the development of video games and other new media? This fun exhibition explores the contributions of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and UIC’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory as well as array of artists with Chicago ties. Included will be playable video-game consoles, historical photographs and game stills and a range of other artifacts.
— “West by Midwest,” Nov. 17, 2018-Jan. 27, 2019, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago (mcachicago.org). The West Coast is well established as one of this country’s most important art centers. Not so well known, though, are the Midwestern origins of some of the region’s now-famous artists who, starting in the 1950s and 1960s, were drawn westward by warmer weather, a budding gallery scene and the allure of the Beat culture. Among them were Billy Al Bengston, Vija Celmins, Judy Chicago and Ed Ruscha.
Kyle MacMillan is a local freelance writer.