From 1966 to 1969, the Hairy Who, an artist-organized exhibition group, mounted six shows of their provocative and experimental work—three in Chicago and one each in San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC. Their unconventional displays of bright, bold graphic work garnered local and national attention, transforming the artistic landscape of Chicago and influencing subsequent generations of artists around the world.
The Hairy Who consisted of six artists, all recent graduates of the School of the Art Institute: Jim Falconer (1943–2022), Art Green (born 1941), Gladys Nilsson (born 1940), Jim Nutt (born 1938), Suellen Rocca (1943–2020), and Karl Wirsum (1939–2021). Although the members of the Hairy Who were determined to make names for themselves as individuals, they decided that the best way to gain recognition was to join forces and exhibit together. The sensational success of their first three exhibitions, all mounted at the Hyde Park Art Center on the city’s South Side in the mid-1960s, led to three further presentations of their work on the East and West Coasts.
A 2018 exhibition at the Art Institute—the first-ever major survey dedicated solely to the Hairy Who—showcased each individual artist while also exploring the far-reaching influence of the group’s distinct aesthetic.