Contemporary Art (2015–2016)

Robert and Joan Feitler Gallery

Installation view of Chicago Imagist paintings in the collection by (from left to right) Roger Brown, Ed Paschke, and Sullen Rocca.

Over the past century, artists have embraced an ever-increasing array of subjects, processes, and materials.

The Smart Museum’s contemporary collection reflects the rich diversity of these approaches while emphasizing several central threads in recent art: the persistence of figurative traditions, the emergence of conceptual art, and artwork that explores the pressing social issues of our time. The collection also includes many artists with significant connections to Chicago.


In 2015–2016, the contemporary gallery will be the site of several special projects. 

Conversations with the Collection: Memory I
September 12, 2015–January 10, 2016
As the University of Chicago reflects upon its 125-year history, the Smart presents an experimental installation on the theme of Memory that explores art’s relationship to the recollection of personal and cultural histories, nostalgia, and other facets of memory. The project mixes works from across cultures and eras, from ancient Chinese oracle bones to Antony Gormley’s Infinite Cube (2014). 

Conversations with the Collection: Memory II
February 11–June 12, 2016
A half-dozen University of Chicago faculty members and scholars—from the Department of Visual Arts to the Institute for Molecular Engineering—select works from the Smart’s collection for an interdisciplinary installation on the theme of Memory. The theme will be explored further through a series of object roundtables

The Next Generation: Chicago Imagists from the Smart’s Collection
February 11–June 12, 2016
In the late 1960s and early 70s, after the dispersal of the Monster Roster, a new group of artists emerged that came to be known as the Chicago Imagists. These artists, who rose to prominence through a series of group shows at the Hyde Park Art Center, approached figuration with wit and irreverence while drawing upon earlier art historical styles such as Surrealism, as well as self-taught art and popular forms such as comic book. This presentation features paintings from the Smart Museum’s collection by Roger Brown, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Ed Paschke, Christina Ramberg, and Suellen Rocca.