Skip to Content
Today Open today 10–11 members | 11–5 public

Screamin' Jay Hawkins

A work made of acrylic on canvas.
© Karl Wirsum.

Image actions

  • A work made of acrylic on canvas.




Karl Wirsum
American, 1939-2021

About this artwork

After graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1961, Karl Wirsum, a pioneer of the Hairy Who, a small group that exhibited together in the mid-to late 1960s, quickly went on to develop his signature style, which combines a graphic sensibility—vivid, flat colors; bold outlines; and simplified, cartoonlike figures—with a quirky sense of humor. Inspired largely by comic book figures and popular icons, Wirsum’s high-energy paintings typically feature a central, remarkably stylized figure. This painting portrays Screaming Jay Hawkins, one of the most eccentric performers in the history of rock and roll. Anticipating the later theatrics of Alice Cooper and David Bowie, Hawkins fashioned himself as the High Priest of Voodoo Rock with his elaborate costumes and macabre performances. The frenetic lines, electric colors, and exaggerated features in this painting demonstrate Wirsum’s long-held interest in activating the abstract underpinnings of his figurative work.


On View, Gallery 289


Contemporary Art


Karl Wirsum


Screamin' Jay Hawkins


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Acrylic on canvas


121.9 × 91.4 cm (48 × 36 in.)

Credit Line

Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Purchase Prize Fund

Reference Number



© Karl Wirsum.

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions