Monster Roster: Existentialist Art in Postwar Chicago

February 11–June 12, 2016

Seymour Rosofsky, Patient in Dentist's Chair, 1961

Above: Seymour Rosofsky, Patient in Dentist's Chair, 1961, Oil on canvas. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of the Rosofsky Estate, 2014.16.

Top: Cosmo Campoli, Birth of Death, 1950–1951, Cast bronze. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of Joyce Turner Hilkevitch in memoriam of Jonathan B. Turner, 1991.357.

The group of postwar artists nicknamed the Monster Roster established the first unique Chicago style.

Spearheaded by Leon Golub and united by a shared interest in the figure during a period that is often seen as dominated by abstraction, the group created deeply psychological works that drew on classical mythology and ancient art.

This is the first major exhibition to examine the history and impact of the Monster Roster, which has been overlooked despite being one of the most important Midwestern contributions to the development of American art. It examines not only the complex aesthetics and personal styles of Golub and his compatriots—including Cosmo Campoli, June Leaf, Dominick Di Meo, Seymour Rosofsky, and Nancy Spero, among others—but also uncovers the Monster Roster’s relationships with preceding generations of Chicago artists and differences from the well-known Chicago Imagists who followed.

Monster Roster brings together approximately 60 major paintings, sculptures, and works on paper from the Smart Museum and other collections in order to provide the definitive account of the movement, from the formation of Exhibition Momentum in 1948 to the group’s dispersal in the mid 1960s.


Robert Barnes
Don Baum
Fred Berger
Cosmo Campoli
George Cohen
Dominick Di Meo
Leon Golub
Theodore Halkin
June Leaf
Arthur Lerner
Irving Petlin
Seymour Rosofsky
Franz Schulze
Nancy Spero
Evelyn Statsinger
H. C. Westermann

Related Exhibitions and Installations

On view in galleries adjacent to Monster Roster, three related exhibitions and installations explore Monster Roster printmaking, the group’s antecedents and influences, and the next generation of Chicago Imagists.


The exhibition is accompanied by an in-depth catalogue featuring full-page color reproductions of all works in the exhibition as well as a detailed chronology, historical photos, reprints of key texts by Jean Dubuffet and Franz Schulze, and new essays by the exhibition curators and Dennis Adrian, Jon Bird, Thomas Dyja, Mark Pascale, and Arlene Shechet.