What did artists James Falconer (BFA 1965, HON 2016), Art Green (BFA 1965, HON 2016), Gladys Nilsson (BFA 1962, HON 2016), Jim Nutt (BFA 1967, HON 2016), Suellen Rocca (BFA 1964, HON 2016), and Karl Wirsum (BFA 1962, HON 2016) have in common? All of them were determined to be shamelessly uncool. Fed up with the pretentious charades of the New York–centric art world, these six SAIC students came together to form the arts collective known as the Hairy Who.
Named after self-important art critic Harry Bouras, the Hairy Who was the antithesis of ostentation. The group’s cheeky puns and derogatory kinks were refreshingly weird and stood out against the sea of overrated coolness that the art world had come to love.
The collective’s first exhibition in 1966 at the Hyde Park Art Center kicked off a newfound swagger for Chicago’s art scene. The Hairy Who was a sensational departure from the typical sober-sided display: a comic for a catalog, sharp-
elbowed works full of the detritus of everyday life, and artists jumping into the air rather than posing for the ages.
The Hairy Who’s extravagantly installed exhibitions and free-wheeling individual approach paved the way for the works and ideas of artists Jeff Koons (SAIC 1975–76, HON 2008), Sue Williams, Gary Panter, Amy Sillman, and Chris Ware (SAIC 1991–93). Its legacy continues to inspire artists of younger generations who aren’t afraid to embrace their dissidence—all in the name of Beautiful/Work.