The Time Is Now! Art Worlds of Chicago’s South Side, 1960–1980

September 13, 2018–December 30, 2018

During the 1960s and 70s, Chicago was shaped by art and ideas produced and circulated on its South Side. Defined by the city’s social, political, and geographic divides and by the energies of its multiple overlapping art scenes, it was a vibrant era of creative expression that produced a cultural legacy whose impact continues to unfold nationally and internationally.

The Time Is Now! examines this watershed cultural moment—brimming with change and conflict—and the figures who defined it. Focusing primarily on African American artists in and out of the Black Arts Movement, the exhibition features approximately 100 objects assembled from the Smart Museum’s collection and other public and private collections, including art and ephemera associated with the Wall of Respect, the Civil Rights Movement, AfriCOBRA, Afrofuturism, the Hairy Who, outsider art, and the radical jazz of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

Together with a scholarly catalogue and a series of public programs, The Time Is Now! reassesses and recalibrates traditional narratives of postwar Chicago art, revealing how artists living, working, and exhibiting on the South Side charted new artistic courses, challenged the political status quo, created new spaces for art, and reimagined the future in ways that continue to resonate through current national dialogues around race, gender, protest, and belonging.


Gertrude Abercrombie, Ralph Arnold, Ben Bey, Darryl Cowherd, Jeff Donaldson, Harold Haydon, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Lester Lashley, Carolyn Lawrence, Yaoundé Olu, Robert Paige, Suellen Rocca, Robert A. Sengstacke, Pauline Simon, Gerald Willams, Karl Wirsum, and Joseph Yoakum, among many others.

Related Publication

Employing new scholarship that reassesses and recalibrates traditional narratives of postwar Chicago art, a related exhibition catalogue contains a series of long and short essays, interviews, and other contextual material, along with full-color images of all works included in the exhibition and extensive reproductions of ephemera and historical photographs. 


South Side Stories

The Time Is Now! is presented in partnership with the DuSable Museum of African American History as part of South Side Stories and is presented concurrently with the DuSable’s exhibition The Art and Influence of Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs.

Art Design Chicago

This exhibition is presented as part of Art Design Chicago, an exploration of Chicago’s art and design legacy, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art with presenting partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

Top: Gerald Williams, Messages (detail), 1970, Acrylic on canvas. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Purchase, The Paul and Miriam Kirkley Fund for Acquisitions, 2017.8.

Above: Darryl Cowherd, Blackstone, Woodlawn, Chicago, 1968, 1968, Gelatin silver print. Collection of the artist. Art © Darryl Cowherd Sr.