Kings and Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago

Kings and Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago

Elmhurst Art Museum, Elmhurst, IL: February 25 – May 7, 2017.

Elmhurst Art Museum presents Kings and Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago, an examination of the intertwined histories of two of Chicago’s greatest exports: pinball and Imagist painting. Curated by Dan Nadel, this interactive exhibition invites guests to play pinball on Chicago-designed and built pinball machines from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s—including machines manufactured by Elmhurst’s Gottlieb family—alongside paintings, sculptures and prints also made in Chicago in the same period. Kings and Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago will feature works by Roger Brown, Ed Flood, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Ed Paschke, Christina Ramberg, Suellen Rocca, Barbara Rossi, Karl Wirsum and Ray Yoshida; pinball machines including Kings & Queens, Old Chicago, Fireball, Duotron, Gorgar, and Blackout, featuring art by the likes of Roy Parker, Gordon Morison, Dave Christensen, Doug Watson and Constantino Mitchell, who will also exhibit original pinball backglass paintings, some for games never produced.

Most of the world’s finest pinball machines were made in Chicago’s North Side factories, and many of those were manufactured by Elmhurst residents, the Gottlieb family, and designed and illustrated by local Chicago artists. As those machines reached the apex of pictorial and engineering ingenuity, the artists now known as the Imagists 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. Kings and Queens is inspired by Imagist painter Ed Paschke’s 1982 pinball exhibition, Flip! Flash! Pinball Art!, at the Chicago Cultural Center, which featured a wide selection of pinball machines from previous three decades.

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 that focuses on artists working in Chicago between about 1950 and the present, with a special focus on the Imagists. The full collection is housed in the A.C. Buehler Library on the Elmhurst College campus.

Kings and Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago reveals a new view of both the city and some of its finest exports with major works on loan courtesy of private collectors and institutions including the Illinois State Museum, Elmhurst  College and the Roger Brown Study Collection.

Exhibition and poster design by Ethan D’Ercole.