As opposed to the other Pop Art environs of the 1960s and early 1970s, Chicago did not hesitate to get its hands dirty. Variously pugnacious, puerile, scatological, graphic, exotic, comical, and absurd, Chicago Imagist artwork sought a very different version of “popular” from the detached cool of New York (and to a certain extent London and Los Angeles), a notion hip-deep in the street-corner muck of a working class city with crazy dreams and high ideals…
In contrast to their wild subject matter, [the Chicago Imagists] utilized an aesthetic that was often tightly crafted and stunningly beautiful. That tension, between whip-smart expressive sensibility and a pristine finish, became one of the movements hallmarks, and it gave an engine to one of America’s most highly personal enclaves of artistic personalities. — John Corbett*
Suellen Rocca—a pioneer of the Hairy Who school of Chicago Imagists—died last week. She was a longtime curator and educator at Elmhurst College, west of the city.
*John Corbett, “Chicago Imagist Art—Vintage Grit Pop,” in Painthing on the Möve: Chicago Imagists 1966–1973/Albert Oehlen (London: Thomas Dane Gallery; Chicago: Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2011), 7.
Suellen Rocca, from top: Bare Shouldered Beauty, 1965, oil on canvas; Bare Shouldered Beauty and the Pink Creature, 1965, oil on canvas, left panel of two; Dream Fish Two, 1997, graphite and pencil on paper; Da Hairy Who Foyer–For Ya Prince, 1967–1968, screenprint in blue and red on black paper; Neatest Garbage, 1982, graphite and colored pencil on paper; Rocca with Curly Head, 1967, photograph by Bob Kotalik, Chicago Sun-Times, courtesy of Pentimenti Productions; Dancing Curls, 1968, pen and black ink and pastel, over traces of graphite, on wove paper; Don’t, 1981, graphite and colored pencil on paper; Ring Girl, 1965. Images courtesy and © the artist’s estate, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Matthew Marks Gallery.