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Film Wed Oct 01 2014
Hairy Who exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery, 1969.
If you missed the year's greatest art film in June, The Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists is coming back. The 109-minute documentary about the lurid and outrageous Chicago art movement of the '60s and '70s will be shown at the Siskel Film Center from Friday through Oct. 9.
Director Leslie Buchbinder will be on hand at the 8:15pm Friday show. On Sunday, the six original Hairy Who artists will appear at the 5:30pm show.
The film was shown here a few times in June and we reviewed it for Gapers Block then.
Hairy Who exhibit at the Hyde Park Art Center, 1968.
If "art film" sounds boring, this one isn't. The artists then and now, and the contemporary artists they influenced, are a colorful and inventive crew. The first group of artists who became known as the Chicago Imagists were the Hairy Who -- Jim Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca and Karl Wirsum. They burst upon the Chicago art scene in 1966, when Don Baum, director of the Hyde Park Art Center, first showed their work. Another group of Imagists -- the Nonplussed Some -- was led by the late Ed Paschke and Ed Flood plus Sarah Canright. The False Image group, which included Roger Brown, Philip Hanson and Christine Ramberg, followed soon after.
The Imagists brought what was considered lowbrow art to highbrow galleries. They were influenced by European surrealism and Dada as well as pop culture such as comic books, carnivals and pinball machines. Those artists soared in the '60s and '70s and many are still active today. (A new art center dedicated to the work of Paschke, who died in 2004, opened here in July.)
In turn, the Imagists influenced future outsider art, street art, post-street art and the current popularity of comic books, superheroes and graphic novels -- genres that have become mainstream. Jeff Koons, who worked as Paschke's assistant, is a sculptor known for creations such as Balloon Dog and Rabbit (owned by the MCA). Chris Ware, who started drawing cartoons in the 1980s, now is an award-winning graphic novelist and creator of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. The work of comic artist Daniel Clowes was shown in a major exhibit at the MCA here last year.
And the Imagists' influence extends nationwide. What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present is the current exhibit at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum in Providence. Organized by Dan Nadel, co-editor of the Comics Journal and author of books about comic book history, the show runs through Jan. 4. It features the work of the Hairy Who's Nutt, Nilsson and Wirsum as well as artists from the San Francisco group known as Funk and artists from the noise band Destroy All Monsters and another artists' collective known as Forcefield.
Furthermore, the book chosen for One Book, One Chicago for 2014-15 is Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which is, among other things, an imaginative history of comic book art. One Book, One Chicago will explore the book's central theme, "Heroes: Real & Imagined."
The art movements started by the Chicago Imagists in 1960s have spun off many successors. Both the originals and their followers are featured in interviews in the film, The Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists. Director Buchbinder has created a joyous, graphic portrait of the artists and the period. As our Gapers Block review headlined: It's a film about the Chicago art movement that offended almost everyone. It ain't your grandma's art museum.
The Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists (2014) opens Friday and runs through Oct. 9 at the Gene Siskel film Center, 164 N. State St. Tickets are $11 general admission, $7 for students and $6 for members. Buy them online or at the box office. For showtimes and more information, see the website or call 312-846-2600.
Images courtesy Pentimenti Productions.