Laughing Matters: Humor In Art

Celebrated Collection

Chicago Imagists at Elmhurst

WTTW’s Chicago Tonight explores the Chicago Imagist and Abstractionist works on permanent display in the A.C. Buehler Library.

Imagists at Elmhurst

Picture This

Prospect magazine explores Elmhurst's magnificent collection of Chicago Imagist and Abstractionist work dating from about 1950 to the present.

An Exploration of Humor in American Art, 1960s and ‘70s

Hosted at DePaul Art Museum

Laughing Matters: Humor in Art was a one-day symposium that explored the role of humor in American art of the '60s and '70s. Humor is a subject that is often misunderstood and neglected when considering fine art. Laughing Matters: Humor in Art will expand the understanding of this topic and the significant role it played in American art during the mid to later part of the 20th century.

The Chicago Imagist works in the exceptional Elmhurst College Art Collection are the inspiration for this discussion. This collection, called the finest of its kind by prominent art historian and critic James Yood, has been featured on WTTW’s program Chicago Tonight. The symposium will highlight the importance of satire, irony and visual/verbal puns in seminal works by Jim Nutt, Karl Wirsum, Gladys Nilsson, Ray Yoshida, Barbara Rossi and others. Works by these Imagists will be discussed in relationship to works by other important American artists of the period.

The symposium will consist of four presentations, each addressing a different aspect of the relationship between humor and visual art. Invited scholars and other invited experts include Robert Cozzolino, curator of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; Lynne Warren, curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; artist, Karl Wirsum in conversation with John Corbett, gallerist and artist; and Elmhurst College Professor of English, Janice Fodor. Each presenter is eminently qualified to address the topic. Both Robert Cozzolino and Lynne Warren have written about and curated exhibitions at their respective institutions on the Chicago Imagists and have extensive knowledge of American Art. Karl Wirsum, in conversation with John Corbett, will shed light on the role of humor from the artist’s point of view. Professor Janice Fodor will address the topic of humor based on the course she developed titled The Many Facets of Humor, which considers the history, literature, philosophy, psychology and social ramifications of humor. In addition to these four presentations, Suellen Rocca, Chicago Imagist and curator of the Elmhurst College Art Collection, will provide an introduction to the Collection.

The symposium was held on Saturday, April 27, 2013 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.



We are very grateful to the Terra Foundation for American Art for funding the symposium and to the DePaul Art Museum for hosting this event.


Follow Us: Flickr YouTube Instagram

Elmhurst College • 190 Prospect Avenue • Elmhurst, Illinois 60126-3296 • (630) 279-4100


Undergraduate Admission • (630) 617-3400 • (800) 697-1871 •


School for Professional Studies • (630) 617-3300 • (800) 581-4723 •


Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy Admission • (630) 617-3752 •


Technical SupportPrivacy Policy