The Figure and the Chicago Imagists: Selections from the Elmhurst College Art Collection

September 8, 2018 - January 20, 2019

Over and over, the Chicago Imagists cast the figure in numerous roles, distorting it and layering it with metaphor and personal meaning. Outrageous, irreverent, humorous and inspired by popular culture, these works reflect highly original expressions of the human form. This exhibition features over 30 works from the internationally known Elmhurst College Art Collection, focused on artists working in Chicago between about 1950 and the present.

Housed in Elmhurst College’s A.C. Buehler Library, the Elmhurst College Art Collection began in 1971 with federal funding. The first ten pieces were selected by Ted Halkin, artist and chairperson of the EC art department for a brief period before returning to teach at the School of the Art Institute. From the 1970’s to the mid- 1990’s the collection grew under the excellent leadership of curator, art chair-person and artist Sandra Jorgensen. Thanks to a matching grants program from the Illinois Arts Council, and bequests from artists and generous donors the collection now, comprised of over 150 works of art, is known as the finest public collection of its kind. It is an important resource for students, faculty and the greater Chicagoland community. Through Rocca’s advocacy, works from the collection are often exhibited around the world.

In the 1960s, Suellen Rocca and five other artists formed the groundbreaking group, the Hairy Who, known for their powerfully graphic images and brazen sense of humor. This visionary group forged the way with others that later became known as the Chicago Imagists. Since 2006, Rocca has been the Curator and Director of Exhibitions, overseeing the College’s collection of Chicago Imagist artwork. The Elmhurst Art Museum recently recognized Suellen Rocca for her outstanding service as an artist, curator, and educator in the western suburbs.    

Click here to read the exhibition catalogue.

Press highlights:
WTTW - The Weird and Fanciful Art of the Hairy Who
The Chicago Reader - Looking Back at The Hairy Who
Chicago Gallery News - Suellen Rocca: A Life Story Through Art

The Figure and the Chicago Imagists is part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art exploring Chicago’s art and design legacy with presenting partner, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. The Figure and the Chicago Imagists is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Related Programs

Sunday, December 16, 2018 - 11:00am

Symposium: The Figure, Humor, and the Chicago Imagists

In partnership with Art Design Chicago and Elmhurst College, this full-day symposium explores works by the Chicago Imagists with specific emphasis on the ways in which they used humor in their depictions of the figure. The symposium features presentations on the topic and the opportunity to view the extraordinary Elmhurst College Imagist Art Collection on view at the Elmhurst Art Museum.

Schedule: 

Free with museum admission or current membership
1:45 - 3:00pm Elmhurst Art Museum - Panel Discussion, view current exhibition
Speakers: Suellen Rocca, Dan Nadel, Frank Trankina, and Mary Lou Zelazny

Please note the morning sessions are Sold Out
11:00am - 12:30pm Illinois Hall, Elmhurst College - Introduction: Suellen Rocca, Speaker: Dan Nadel
12:30 - 1:30pm Lunch break

This Symposium is proudly part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art exploring Chicago’s art and design legacy with presenting partner, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. The Figure Humor and the Chicago Imagists is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art, and free with registration required.

Art Design Chicago is a spirited celebration of the unique and vital role Chicago plays as America’s crossroads of creativity and commerce. Led by the Terra Foundation for American Art, this citywide partnership of cultural organizations explores Chicago’s art and design legacy with more than 30 exhibitions and hundreds of events throughout 2018.