‘Laughing Matters’ Symposium Explores Humor in American Art

April 15, 2013 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

Humor is a subject that often is misunderstood and neglected when considering fine art.

But it was a significant influence in American art during the mid to late 20th century.

On Saturday, April 27, Elmhurst College will present Laughing Matters: Humor in Art, a one-day symposium that explores the role of humor in American art of the ’60s and ’70s. Funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art, the symposium will be held at the DePaul Art  Museum in Chicago.

The symposium is inspired by Elmhurst College’s Chicago Imagist collection, described by prominent art historian and critic James Yood as the finest of its kind (and recently the subject of a profile on the Chicago Public Television program Chicago Tonight).

Discussions at the symposium will highlight the importance of satire, irony, and visual and verbal puns in seminal works by many of the artists featured in the Elmhurst College collection, including Jim Nutt, Karl Wirsum, Gladys Nilsson, Ray Yoshida, Barbara Rossi and others.

During a series of presentations, several scholars and experts will discuss works by these Imagists in relationship to those by other important American artists of the period. The experts include Robert Cozzolino, curator of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; Lynne Warren, curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago; artist Karl Wirsum; gallerist and writer John Corbett; Elmhurst College English Professor Janice Fodor; and Suellen Rocca, a Chicago Imagist and curator of the Elmhurst College Art Collection.

Cozzolino and Warren, who have extensive knowledge of American art, have written about and curated exhibitions on the Chicago Imagists at their respective institutions. Wirsum and Corbett will discuss the role of humor from the artist’s point of view. Fodor’s remarks will draw from her course The Many Facets of Humor, which considers the history, literature, philosophy, psychology and social ramifications of humor. Rocca will provide an introduction to the Elmhurst College collection.

*Registration to attend the symposium is currently full, however, please visit the registration page to add your name to the waiting list. Also, check the “Laughing Matters” website on April 27 for details on how to participate via live Internet streaming. Laughing Matters: Humor in Art will be held on Saturday, April 27, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the DePaul Art Museum (935 W. Fullerton Ave., Chicago). It is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Suellen Rocca at srocca@elmhurst.edu or (630) 617-6110.

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