Jan 17th 2023

University Galleries of Illinois State University is pleased to present Wolf’s Clothing: Imagism from the Collection from January 17 through April 2, 2023. All events are free and open to the public.

Wolf’s Clothing presents selected works from the permanent collection of University Galleries of Illinois State University. Artists include: Robert Donley, Peter Bodnar, Krys Hendren, Miyoko Ito, Ben Mahmoud, Gladys Nilsson, William Otton, Ed Paschke, Seymour Rosofsky, Barbara Rossi, and Joseph Yoakum.

The few decades following the Second World War saw a flowering of the visual arts — particularly drawing and painting — in and around Chicago. In the 1950s, a group of artists known as the Monster Roster made freaky, psychological pictures inspired by their experiences in the war and the paintings of Jean Dubuffet. The following decade, several artists associated with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago exhibited together under the group name the Hairy Who. When they disbanded, their loud graphic style influenced a more diffuse set of artists who came to be known as the Chicago Imagists. Frequently, artists associated with all three of these movements are lumped together under the banner of the latter. “Imagism” has become a label of convenience for anything made in Chicago around 1970 that displays an interest in stylized organic forms, cultural reference, and playful, often perverted, content.

The works in this exhibition demonstrate a range of techniques and approaches used by mid-century Chicagoans. Between Miyoko Ito’s lithe, muted compositions and Ed Paschke’s wily portraits, for instance, there may seem to be little common ground. What connects their work, as well as that of all the artists in this exhibition, is a coy approach to the relationship between abstraction and representation. Just as there are landscapes latent in Ito’s designs, Paschke’s figures emerge from skeins of indulgent patterning.

The art critic Roberta Smith once called Paschke “a formalist in wolf’s clothing”: the photographic precision of his representations belies the delight they take in tricks of ornamentation, framing, and perspective. Likewise, the works in Wolf’s Clothing demonstrate how, circa 1970, Chicago artists thematized the tension between what an image shows and how it does so.

This exhibition is organized by Troy Sherman, Curator at University Galleries.

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