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Goldene Shaw: "Exhibitions" in History of the Hyde Park Art Center, 1939-1976

The "Exhibitions" section lists notable exhibitions and relevant and/or interesting press and comments. The author stresses the local relevance and the fact that the center sent out press for every HPAC exhibition, and art critics responded in kind. Some of the press, notably around artist collectives like The Hairy Who, the Nonplussed Some, the False Image, Marriage Chicago Style, and Chicago Antigua, put the HPAC square with institutions like MCA and the Art Institute. These were the hot artists of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and not only was the HPAC exhibiting them, but they were also exhibiting them first and had access to the groups' newest pieces. Their exhibition notices were often artworks in themselves and raised quite a stir in the Chicago art scene in the late 60s. Most exhibitions were opened and closed with cocktail parties, at which copious amounts of HPAC vodka punch was consumed and, in general, it seemed that the HPAC's exhibiting tendency was, perhaps, eclectic and random, but always local. Franz Schulze said "In Chicago the only institution that over the long haul has displayed similar faith in the city's artists is the Hyde Park Art Center."

While the booklet is a history from 1939-1976, the "exhibitions" section is really only about ten years, mostly between 1963-1973. Certainly, there could be many factors contributing to this small sampling, such as inconsistent records, but it makes me wonder about the elliptical overview. Although the focus on relevant dates benefits our class, a large amount of the writing is about collective groups like the Hairy Who and the Nonplussed Some, with a random scattering of others. Accordingly, it seems that these groups were showing the majority of work in Hyde Park and that their style could be considered de rigueur, but I wonder what else was going on. Despite the fact - or maybe because of the fact - that it was written in 1976, the author paints a pretty nostalgic scene of this period of exhibitions. A lot of the press cited hinges on how the HPAC is crazy, different, wild and exhibiting art that could often be considered not to be art, which makes it seem that the HPAC wanted to be seen as an more radical or alternative art center, but I think that this can only work for a member-supported institution that's aware of the trends and exploits them.

Who else was exhibiting? Why did these collective artist groups succeed during the late 60s and early 70s? Was the HPAC trying to promote itself as an alternative exhibition space? If so, how did that change when their cadre of fringe artists started exhibiting at more traditional institutions?

Here's a best of the best of:
1962
"Hyde Park Past & Present" exhibition

  • from World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 to WPA inspired works in the 1930s, this exhibition covered art made by Hyde Park artists from 1890-1962, illustrating that Hyde Park has had and continues to have a tradition of great, working artists showing locally and representing all aspects of the arts, from photography to architecture to the avant-garde.

1963
"Hollywood Image Show"

  • Curator Don Baum wanted to see what Chicago artists could do in the realm of Pop Art, as Pop was being pushed in the Art Institute's American Annual.

1964
"Monster School of Chicago Art (1948-1954)"

  • a retrospective featuring Leon Golub, George Cohen, June Leaf, Cosmo Campoli, and Whitney Halstead.

1965
"Three Kingdoms: Animal, Vegetable and Mineral"

  • artists were asked to produce a work on the theme. One of many "themed" exhibitions at HPAC, intending to push creativity.

1966
"The Hairy Who"

  • first Hairy Who exhibition, featuring artists Gladys Nilsson, James Nutt, Art Green, James Falconer, Suellen Rocca, and Karl Wirsum. Critics say "barbaric yelp on canvas." 12 pieces sold for a total of $1510. All 6 artists are SAIC graduates.

1967
"The Second Hairy Who"

  • Five original members (minus Falconer) exhibit and again have their comic book exhibition catalog. The five artists had all recently "dominated" at the Art Institute's Chicago Show, and Nilsson, Nutt, and Rocca had won prestigious artists' awards at the Art Institute's 70th Annual Chicago and Vicinity Artists Exhibition. Show is extended because of its popularity.

"Wedge"

  • An exhibition of minimal, monumental sculptural forms. Artists include Robert Phillips, James Zanzi, John Brower, Al Boutin, Dennis Subia, and James Falconer.

1968
"The Third and Final Hairy Who"

  • Showing works that hadn't been exhibited until then, making the HPAC a site for the newest of the new. The five artists also had shows that year at the MCA and the Art Institute.

"The Body"

  • A juried exhibition of artists judged by Alice Adams, Art Green, and Karl Wilsum.

"After the Afternoon"

  • Theme based on Georges Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of le Grande Jatte."

1969
"The Nonplussed Some - Some More"

  • Another collective of younger Chicago artist of a similar vein to the Hairy Who and their second exhibition was an "instant success." Original members were Sarah Canright, Edward Flood, Robert Guinan, Edward Paschke, and Richard Wetzel.

"The Exquisite Corpse"

  • Featuring the works of Ray Martin, Gerald Ferstman, Jack Harris, Robert Donley, and Charles Reynolds, exhibiting surrealist and fantasy imagist painting, incorporating expressionist and pop elements, and relating to the "conflict between idea and reality."

1970
"Marriage Chicago Style"

  • A merger between the Nonplussed Some and the Hairy Who. Bridegrooms and brides wore traditional Western wedding attire with hockey skates and hockey sticks, and with the HPAC hosting the "wedding" reception.

"Fourcaste"

  • An exhibition of paintings by surrealist artists Vladimir Bubalo, Buffy Zellman, Jack Harris, and Richard Wetzel.

"Furniture-Objects"

  • "Cake servers, coffins, unplayable games, unusable chairs etc..."

1971
"Chicago Antigua"

  • Theme of the exhibition was "a baseball team for the elderly" and aimed to show how much marriage had aged them (see Marriage Chicago Style). "Senility means virility" is how their mature art was characterized. HPAC is mentioned in the press as "uninhibited," "independent, and at times unorthodox."

1972
"Santi-Cloth

  • "When is canvas not cloth?" - exhibition of art works made from cloth "as long as it is not on the customary stretched canvas."

"Who is Aldo Piacenza?"

  • Exhibit of outsider artist Aldo Piacenza and his intricate bird house cathedrals, who was "accidentally discovered" and "plunged into the limelight" by hungry fans.

1973
"New Trends in Ceramic Sculpture"

1974
"Blackjack Flashback"

  • Bill Marhoefer exhibits "eerie baldheaded sailors, fantastic skulls, plastic cookies, studded with wire, tacks, and glass plus other dangerous things." Dan Ryan Clyne exhibits paintings and cutouts of "black, pink, blue and silver cooties and some lively drawings of strange objects."
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