News and notes: Monster Roster

last edited on Fri. February 12 2016

News and notes on our new exhibition, Monster Roster.

WTTW’s Chicago Tonight stopped by for an early look at Monster Roster. The segment features interviews with co-curators John Corbett and Jessica Moss (aired February 10, 2016).

In an interview with Chicago Magazine (This is the Greatest Group of Midwestern Artists You’ve Never Heard Of, February 2016), Corbett discussed how during the postwar years the country was steeped in “an age of anxiety”:

Dmitry Samarov’s review in the Chicago Reader (Monster mash, February 11, 2016) notes how World War II loomed large: “that conflict overwhelms the first few rooms of the exhibit.”

And in the Chicago Sun-Times (Back from the dead, February 5, 2016) Kyle MacMillan says the Monster Roster showed others that it “was possible to stand up to the New York-driven trends and create art in Chicago that was original and significant in its own right”:

Monster Roster is on view at the Smart through June 12, 2016. 

Out of that angst came the Monster Roster, a group of Midwestern artists who produced raw, grotesque, and tortured canvases. Many of the pieces depict deconstructed and decaying bodies—a direct response to the horrors of war. “There’s a brutality to the work,” says Corbett[…]“It’s not a pretty show.”

The anonymous giants in Golub's paintings battle energetically, yet appear dejected; the scraped, sanded, and ripped surfaces testify to a fight being waged inside and outside their bodies. Though it’s never literally referenced, the Holocaust suffuses certain artworks. Nancy Spero’s Nightmare Figure 1 (1960), a dark black-and-blue oil painting, is a howl into the void. Not much light is let in, and no great distances are visible, as if the chaos and conflict of the world only allowed the artists to see the broken earth at their feet.

Prescribed by a group of influential critics, curators and museums beginning in the 1930s and ‘40s, a linear, New York-centric continuum long has dominated presentations of 20th-century American art history.

But in the last couple of decades, in part because of the increased democratization of information made possible by the Internet, a more layered and inclusive narrative is emerging that takes into greater account what was happening across the country, including Chicago.

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