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Karl Wirsum: Winsome Works(some)

October 14, 2007 – January 6, 2008

installation view of "Karl Wirsum: Winsome Works(some)"


Karl Wirsum: Winsome Works(some), organized by the Chicago Cultural Center, includes approximately 85 works by the influential artist Karl Wirsum dating from the 1960s to the present. An original member of Hairy Who, Wirsum was represented in the group’s first exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center in 1966. In the decades since, he has produced an expansive body of work characterized by a consistent, playful vision.

As a painter and sculptor, Wirsum has worked in a wide range of mediums and formats. His exuberant art is a mixture of skillful craftsmanship and popular culture. Lanny Silverman, the exhibition’s organizing curator at the Chicago Cultural Center, observes that “Wirsum’s work is witty and engaging on many levels and blends abstraction and figuration through a wide variety of cultural references, ranging from comic books and toys to ethnic art.”

Wirsum is a key figure in the history of Chicago Imagism, his assertive style typifying the movement’s partiality for emphatic shape, graphic line, and strong color in unexpected combinations, and for social caricature. Born in 1939, he has lived and worked in Chicago almost his entire life. He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1961, and continues to teach there. Throughout the years, he has shown in national and international solo and group exhibitions, and his work is represented in the permanent collections of major museums.

A companion exhibition, Hairy Who (and some others), includes thirty paintings, prints, drawings, and collages from MMoCA’s permanent collection and an important private collection that provide an overview of Chicago Imagism and the charged Chicago art scene that emerged in the 1960s.


Fire Lady or Monk’s Key Broad. Artist: Karl Wirsum. Date: 1969. Medium: acrylic on canvas.

Fire Lady or Monk’s Key Broad


Learn more about Fire Lady or Monk’s Key Broad.

Exhibition Support

Organized by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Karl Wirsum: Winsome Works(some) was curated by Lanny Silverman. It was made possible through generous gifts from Ruth P. Horwich, Phyllis Kind, Carol and Larry Levy, and Lindy Bergman.

The Wisconsin presentation of Karl Wirsum: Winsome Works(some) and the exhibition Hairy Who (and some others) have been made possible by generous funding from Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, S.C.; Bruce Rosen and Diane Seder; the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation and the Overture Foundation; the Art League of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; and a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.