Two of Chicago’s greatest exports, pinball and imagist painting, have an intertwined history of mutual appreciation. Arguably the world’s finest pinball machines were made in Chicago's North Side factories, and many of those were produced by Elmhurst's Gottlieb family. As those machines reached their apex of pictorial and engineering ingenuity, the artists now known as Imagists were finding their unique visual sensibilities. From pinball they drew inspiration from the game’s high contrast coloration, absurd juxtapositions, and ultra flat forms. Pinball, of course was but one inspiration for these artists, along with the city’s many color storefronts and the enormously popular Riverview Park.
In 1982, Ed Paschke, a leading imagist, curated Flip Flash! Pinball Art, at the Chicago Public Library Cultural Center. Paschke’s painting, Black Out, based on the pinball game, was prominently displayed, and the artist himself selected scores of games, most from the city, to make good on his debt to the otherwise anonymous art form. Flip Flash! was the only exhibition Paschke curated, and one of just a handful of pinball shows ever mounted at a cultural institution.
This exhibition will display a dozen pinball machines from the 1960s and 1970s, all designed and built in Chicago, along side paintings, sculptures and prints by Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Ed Flood, Ed Paschke, Christina Ramberg, Barbara Rossi and Karl Wirsum. It will also contain photographs of Chicago in those years, as recorded by some of these same artists.
Kings and Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago will reveal a new view of both the city and some of its finest exports with major works on loan courtesy of the Illinois State Museum, Elmhurst College and the Roger Brown Study Collection.
Exhibition overview from museum website