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Play pinball on vintage machines surrounded by art inspired by it
Karl Wirsumm Zing Zing Zip Zip.


ELMHURST, IL.- Elmhurst Art Museum presents the World Premiere of Kings and Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago, an examination of the intertwined history of two of Chicago’s greatest exports: pinball and imagist painting. Curated by New York’s Dan Nadel, this interactive exhibition invites guests to play pinball on Chicago-built pinball machines from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s—including machines produced by Elmhurst's Gottlieb family —alongside paintings, sculptures and prints inspired by them, including works by Roger Brown, Ed Flood, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Ed Paschke, Christina Ramberg, Suellen Rocca, Barbara Rossi, Karl Wirsum and Ray Yoshida. The exhibition is on display from February 25 – May 7, 2017.

Most of the world’s finest pinball machines were made in Chicago's North Side factories, and many of those were produced by Elmhurst residents, the Gottlieb family. As those machines reached the apex of pictorial and engineering ingenuity, the artists now known as the Imagists and the Hairy Who were finding their unique visual style with inspiration from many vernacular sources including the arcades and Riverview Park. Pinball provided inspiration with its high contrast coloration, absurd juxtapositions and ultra-flat forms. Pinball was but one inspiration for these artists, along with the city’s many color storefronts and the enormously popular Riverview Park. This exhibition also contains photographs of Chicago in those years, as recorded by some of these same artists.

“I saw the 2011 Jim Nutt retrospective at the MCA when I was in town for a conference and it was a revelation (with no idea I would be living in Chicago a few years later),” says Elmhurst Art Museum Executive Director, Jenny Gibbs. “Ed Paschke is really the only one of this group of artists who is known outside Chicago. The colors, the super-flat characters and the use of reverse-painted Plexiglas as a support stuck with me. Flash-forward a few years to Elmhurst Art Museum and a family vacation in Vegas. It is 108 degrees and we are looking for the coolest, darkest family-friendly place we can find. That would be the Pinball Hall of Fame, which was the site of an epiphany when I learned that all of the great artwork and machines came from Chicago. The real a-ha moment came when I stood looking at a row of Gottlieb machines with artwork by Roy Parker and saw the ancestry of Jim Nutt's imagery. When I learned that the Gottlieb family was from Elmhurst I knew this show was meant to be here. Dan Nadel is the perfect guy to round out the scholarly edges of this new area of art historical discovery.”

“The Chicago Imagists are a group of 1960s artists who used the language of vernacular commercial art to make highly personal imagery.” says curator Dan Nadal. “Pinball has deep roots in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, where many manufacturers and designers were located around the same time. Ed Paschke, one of the great post-Pop American painters, was part of what came to be known as The Chicago Imagist painters. Kings and Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago is a unique opportunity to experience two great Chicago products together in a single space.”

A selection of the imagist pieces featured in Kings and Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago are on loan courtesy of the Elmhurst College. The Elmhurst College art collection is a collection of works by Chicago Imagist and Abstractionist artists focusing on artists working in Chicago between about 1950 and the present. The full collection is housed in the A.C. Buehler Library on the Elmhurst College campus.






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Play pinball on vintage machines surrounded by art inspired by it

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