Who named the Roster?

last edited on Fri. March 11 2016

While it was never embraced by the artists of the Monster Roster, the moniker Monster Roster has an interesting history.

Critic Franz Schulze coined the term. But Schulze and artist Irving Petlin have reported that there was a precursor in 1958 or 1959, when Peter Selz used the term “monster” to describe several artists he intended to include in an exhibition. Petlin:

Schulze himself also links the term to a non-art historical source—Chicago’s reputation on the football field:

The moniker entered national circulation in the February 1959 issue of ARTnews, when Schulze used “Monster Roster” to summarize the expressive figurative direction of a number of artists in Chicago. It stuck. Schulze:

Monster Roster is on view at the Smart Museum through June 11, 2016.

It probably came out of the 1959 New Images of Man show that Peter Selz put together at the Museum of Modern Art. In which New York first took real notice of what they began to call the Chicago Monster School. It was a way of disparaging them and, in a sense, marginalizing them.

In those days, you know, the Chicago Bears were known as the Monsters of the Midway. So the term “Monster” sort of attached to these tough, hard-nosed Chicago artists whom I then associated with the Monster Roster.

In any case, the Monster Roster had the sound of good art lingo. I liked coining the name because—I confess it—as a young critic I wanted to be able to invent a term that would summarize a phenomenon and at the same time be easily remembered.

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