Chicago's Artistic Voices of the 1950s and '60s Focus of New Exhibition

After World War II, many artists broke with traditional methods of creative exploration. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago was one place where independent-minded American artists honed their skills and created their own network. A new exhibition at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art considers some of the artistic voices that rose in Chicago in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Chicago Tonight takes a closer look at the exhibition, Chicago Connection: Artists from the Post-War Period.

  • Richard Hunt, 'Thru the Branching,' 1987. (Courtesy of the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art / Flickr.)

    Richard Hunt, 'Thru the Branching,' 1987. (Courtesy of the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art / Flickr.)

  • Seymour Rosofsky, 'Daley Machine,' 1968. (Courtesy of Corbett vs. Dempsey / Flickr.)

    Seymour Rosofsky, 'Daley Machine,' 1968. (Courtesy of Corbett vs. Dempsey / Flickr.)

  • Eleanor Coen, 'Bird Ignoring Three Children,' c. 1962. (Courtesy of Corbett vs. Dempsey / Flickr.)

    Eleanor Coen, 'Bird Ignoring Three Children,' c. 1962. (Courtesy of Corbett vs. Dempsey / Flickr.)

  • Maurice Lapp, 'South Park Cafe,' c. 1988. (Courtesy of the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art / Flickr.)

    Maurice Lapp, 'South Park Cafe,' c. 1988. (Courtesy of the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art / Flickr.)

  • Don Vogl, 'Eat, Drink and Be Merry,' 2005. (Courtesy of the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art / Flickr.)

    Don Vogl, 'Eat, Drink and Be Merry,' 2005. (Courtesy of the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art / Flickr.)

Half a century ago, Chicago artists were taking a hard look at their city.

Seymour Rosofsky was a key figure in 20th century Chicago art. Part of a group of artists known as the Monster Roster, Rosofsky created fantastical works that fearlessly observed the world as he saw it. He studied at the School of the Art Institute – his paintings and drawings are now in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Eleanor Coen is another alumnus of the School of the Art Institute with works in the Art Institute collection. A native of Normal, Ill., Coen employed an expressionist style in mysterious paintings of landscapes and children.

At the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, a cross-section of Chicago’s postwar artwork is currently on display, connecting the dots in this loose network of artists.

The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art was founded in 1971. Two of its founders – Konstantin Milonadis and  Mychajlo Urban – were also alumni of the School of the Art Institute. 

Both men were also friends and colleagues with the dean of Chicago sculptors, Richard Hunt.

“Richard Hunt was a big help with this exhibition,” said artist and museum curator Stanislav Grezdo. “We interviewed him and he helped us select the artists – some of the artists in the show because he was a very good friend.”

There are sculptures by Richard Hunt and also lithographs made by him in the 1980s. That’s because the exhibition combines works from the 1950s and ‘60s, along with later works by the same artist.

Arthur Lerner’s frightening vision from 1962 called Torn Head can be seen next to his 2005 painting Prometheus.

Other artists include Ted Halkin, another member of the Monster Roster, who were so named because of their fascination with morbid and mythological imagery. Their work became a bridge to the Chicago Imagists who followed.

Postwar trauma is referenced in the abstractions of Thomas Kapsalis, whose 1959 painting Danger Ahead reflects his experience as a U.S. soldier fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.

All in all, scenes of everyday life share the walls with abstractions. They are part of an ambitious but modestly scaled exhibition that was years in the making – an exhibition built with input from the artist’s estates or the actual artists.

Grezdo said that the exhibition was a team effort. “There were many people involved and many pieces needed to fit together, to put the show together,” he said.


Chicago Connection: Artists from the Post-War Period continues through Sept. 27 at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art.

The museum is open Wednesday-Sunday from 12:00-4:00 pm.