Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists, directed by Leslie Buchbinder, explores the art of Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Karl Wirsum, Art Green, Suellen Rocca and Ed Ruscha; a group of visual artists that emerged from Chicago’s Hyde Park Art Center in the mid-60’s. Nicknamed Hairy Who, this group celebrates dreams, sex, comic books, painted window advertisements, pinball machines, newspaper tabloids, and the general whirligig carnivale of 1960’s hope and anxiety that permeated activist circles at the time. The film is attractive, drawing on great archival footage, as well as extensive interviews with prominent contemporary artists (such as Karry James Marshall and Jeff Koons). And while the Imagist project reflected many of the same anxieties and technologies of pop and psychedelic art (think R. Crumb and Robert Rauschenberg), the film takes great pains to describe this as an analogous yet discrete moment.
Thinking about Hairy Who and the whole Imagist scene, Gladys Nilsson said, “It’s like we all existed in a little bubble.” And frankly this insularity is one of the more disheartening aspects of the film. The focus on about twenty artists presents a narrow picture of progressive art in Chicago during this time; notable projects go unmentioned, including the Chicago Surrealist Group based out of the Solidarity Bookshop, the South Side Community Art Center, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Yet despite this oversight, Hairy Who is a very interesting film, and while it might not tell the whole story, it tells a compelling story.
Saturday, April 12, 7:15pm
Sunday, April 13, 3:20pm
Director: Leslie Buchbinder
Writer: John Corbett
Producers: Brian Ashby, Leslie Buchbinder
Cinematographers: Brian Ashby, Ben Kolak
Editor: Ben Kolak
Music: Tomeka Reid
Cast: Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Jeff Koons, Chris Ware, Jim Nutt, Roger Brown, Ed Paschke