Art in Chicago this fall: An overdue overview of a neglected era, and 10 other highlights

Chicago Sun Times
By Kyle MacMillan

Elmhurst Art Museum will spotlight the creative voices who followed the Chicago Imagists in the ’70s and ’80s.

The Chicago Imagists, and particularly a groundbreaking subgroup known as the Hairy Who, are the most famous group of artists the city has produced. But less widely known are the artists who followed them, and, in many cases were at least partly influenced by them.

Little has been written about them as a like-minded collection of creative voices, dubbed the Chicago School or Post-Imagists. “It’s as though it didn’t exist,” said Phyllis Bramson. “It did exist. I know about it. I was in it. I know a lot of the artists who were in it.”

The widely known Chicago painter has organized what she calls the first exhibition to examine this group. Titled “What Came After: Figurative Painting in Chicago 1978-98,” it opens Sept. 14 at the Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 S. Cottage Hill Ave., and runs through Jan. 12, 2020;

Featured will be 30 paintings by 15 artists, including Nicholas Africano, Susanne Doremus, Michiko Itatani, Robert Lostutter, Tony Phillips, David Sharpe, Hollis Sigler, Ken Warneke, Margaret Wharton and Mary Lou Zelazny.

The choices were not always easy, Bramson said, because boundaries between this group and others like the Imagists can be blurry. She cites the example of Richard Hull, who is represented with two works.

“He just straddles the fence between the two,” she said. “He clearly has some of the influences of the Imagism group, but he is also in the other (Post-Imagist) camp, too. So, it’s a complicated situation, and I suspect I will raise some hackles.”

Here are 10 other fall exhibitions worth taking in this fall:

“In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists in Mexico at Midcentury,” through Jan. 12, 2020, Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan: Although Anni Albers, Ruth Asawa, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Sheila Hicks, Clara Porset and Cynthia Sargent had some ties among them, these six well-known artists and designers worked in disparate mediums and were from different generations. What ties them all together is that they were strongly influenced by Mexico, where they all lived and worked from the 1940s through the ‘70s.

“Julia Fish: bound by spectrum,” through Feb. 23, 2020, DePaul Art Museum, 935 W. Fullerton: Fish moved to Chicago in 1985, and the Toledo, Oregon, native has been an integral member of the local artist community since, gaining significant local and national attention. This show features paintings and works on paper from the past decade that draw on the architecture of the 1922 storefront where she has lived for three decades. Visit

LaToya Ruby Frazier, “The Last Cruze,” Sept. 14-Dec. 1, Renaissance Society, 5811 S. Ellis: A 2015 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” winner, Frazier uses photography to document the decline of manufacturing in the United States and its devastating impact on workers. In the images to be showcased here, she brought her camera to Lordstown, Ohio, where a longtime General Mothers plant closed in March. Visit

“. . . and other such stories,” Chicago Architecture Biennial, Sept. 19, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, and other sites: Established in 2015 as the largest architecture and design exhibition in North America, the two previous installments of this free event have each drawn more than 550,000 visitors. This year’s edition, which draws in part on the multifaceted dynamics of Chicago’s distinctive architectural heritage, will feature more than 80 contributors from four continents. Visit

Expo Chicago, Sept. 19-22, Navy Pier’s Festival Hall, 600 E. Grand (; Chicago Invitational, Sept. 18-21, Chicago Athletic Association, 12 S. Michigan: Expo Chicago returns for its eighth year with 135 exhibitors from 68 cities worldwide. Running in conjunction with the international art fair will be the Chicago Invitational, a new smaller fair organized by the New Art Dealers Alliance. Spread across three floors of the Chicago Athletic Association, it will feature displays by 36 galleries from 11 countries. Visit

“Pop América, 1965–1975,” Sept. 21-Dec. 8, Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston: Pop art was not just a phenomenon in the United States and Great Britain. This touring exhibition, co-organized by Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art and the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, offers the first unified look at permutations of the movement across Latin America and ties them into what was happening farther north. Visit

“Rubens, Rembrandt, and Drawing in the Golden Age,” Sept. 28-Jan. 5, 2020, Art Institute of Chicago: Though paintings typically take center stage, the directness and immediacy of drawings offer their own distinctive appeal. That is especially the case of those created in the 17th century during the so-called “golden age” of Dutch and Flemish art by such notables as Hendrick Goltzius, Rembrandt van Rijn and Peter Paul Rubens. Visit

Mohamad Hafez, Ann Hamilton, Michael Rakowitz, Sept. 28-June 13, 2020, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, 1155 E. 58th: This internationally renowned yet sometimes overlooked museum aims to grab the spotlight as it launches a yearlong centennial celebration. To kick off the festivities, it has invited three noted contemporary artists, including Hafez, who will serve as interpreter-in-residence throughout 2019-20, to engage with its expansive holdings of ancient Middle Eastern artifacts. Hamilton’s installation will be shown through Oct. 31 at the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, 1100 E. 57th Street.

“Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again,” Oct. 20-Jan. 26, 2020, Art Institute of Chicago: Although Andy Warhol died more than 30 years ago, his influence on contemporary art remains as pervasive as ever. With more than 350 objects from across the pop pioneer’s life, this touring retrospective from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York is sure to be the big draw of the fall. Visit

“Direct Message: Art, Language, and Power,” Oct. 26-Jan. 12, 2020, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago:This provocative exhibition examines how artists since the 1960s have asserted, challenged and manipulated the power of language. Among the works on view will be Jenny Holzer’s immersive installation, “For Chicago,” and Stan Douglas’ “Evening,” which uses archival footage and actors as reporters to re-create the top news stories from two days in 1969 and ’70. Visit