The Chicago version of Pop Art, embodied in the work of the Hairy Who, is sweaty, nervous, sometimes giggly or goofy.
It’s tempting to characterize Karl Wirsum’s recent spate of exhibitions in the city as his New York moment.
Life-size knit body suits mingle with painted metal lawn chairs, plastic purses, and rows of zines and ephemera in the summer show at Matthew Marks Gallery, What Nerve!, which gathers the work of four outlying postwar art groups in the United States.
In 1968, Suellen Rocca, the artist who painted “Purse Curse,” was a member of the Hairy Who, a group of six artists who exhibited under that moniker from 1966 to 1969 in Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C.
It isn’t often one comes across fresco paintings in art galleries, the last time I remember seeing a sizable number was the “Rooms” section of the Francesco Clemente retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in 1999.
The Hairy Who is not the backing band of the Austrian pop singer Conchita Wurst. Still, it’s hard to believe the members of the Hairy Who, one of several coteries of artists who came together in the 1960s–1970s under the broader moniker of the Chicago Imagists, would not have celebrated this transgender performer, not so much because she won the Eurovision song contest last weekend or because she is biologically a he, but because, along with voluptuous hair, long lashes and sequined robes, Conchita has a beard.