Gladys Nilsson

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Gladys Nilsson
Born (1940-05-06)May 6, 1940
Chicago, Illinois
Nationality American
Education Art Institute of Chicago
Known for Painting
Movement Chicago Imagism
Spouse(s) Jim Nutt

Gladys M. Nilsson (born May 6, 1940) is an American artist, one of the original Hairy Who Chicago Imagists, a group in the 1960s and 1970s who turned to representational art. Her paintings "set forth a surreal mixture of fantasy and domesticity in a continuous parade of chaotic images."[1] She is married to fellow-artist and Hairy Who member Jim Nutt.[2]

Biography[edit]

Gladys Nilsson was born to Swedish immigrant parents. Her father was a factory worker for Sunbeam and her mother a waitress.[3] She grew up on the north side of Chicago and attended Lake View High School, while also attending extracurricular drawing classes. Against her parents' blue collar sensibilities, she attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she met her future husband, fellow student Jim Nutt.[3] Nilsson and Nutt married in July 1961, and their son, Claude, was born in 1962.[3] Although Nilsson originally painted with oil paints, she switched to watercolors when pregnant in order to avoid the hazards of turpentine.[3] She initially found it difficult to strike a balance between motherhood and her career in painting, though she states that she never considered giving up painting.

In 1963, Nilsson and Nutt were introduced to School of the Art Institute of Chicago art history professor Whitney Halstead, who became a teacher, mentor, and friend.[3] He introduced them in turn to Don Baum, exhibition director at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago.[3] In 1964 Nilsson and Nutt became youth instructors at the Hyde Park Art Center.[3]

Artistic Style[edit]

Gladys Nilsson's influences were far ranging and included German Expressionism, 15th Century Italian painting, Egyptian tomb murals, Cubism, and, more specifically, Whitney Halstead, Katherine Blackshear, James Ensor, George Grosz, Paul Klee, Georges Seurat, John Marin, and Charles Burchfield. The result was a style that bordered on surrealism and pop, fantasy and cartoon. She took the human figure as her main subject, magnifying, multiplying, and distorting these figures as she saw fit. Though her work is technically very accomplished, she is not as well known as some of her Hairy Who colleagues, because, art historically speaking, paper was seen as a lesser medium than, say, canvas. Also, art world bias has always been in favor of male rather than female artists. Both of these facts angered Gladys, who had a true love for paper and believed that art could not and should not be classified as either masculine or feminine.

The Hairy Who Years[edit]

In 1964, Jim Nutt and Gladys Nilsson began to teach children's classes at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago. They and James Falconer approached the center's exhibitions director, Don Baum, with the idea of a group show consisting of the three of them and Art Green and Suellen Rocca. Baum agreed, and also suggested they include Karl Wirsum.[3] The name of the group show, "Hairy Who?", became the name of the group. It was coined by Karl Wirsum as a reference to WFMT art critic Harry Bouras.[4] There were exhibitions at the Hyde Park Art Center in 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969. The 1968 exhibition traveled to the San Francisco Art Institute, and the last show, in 1969, traveled to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.[3]

At this time, Nilsson's figures appeared rumpled, fat, freckled, and often had elephantine noses. Though her watercolors were technically accomplished, the subject matter border on absurdist, with figures engaging in wild, erotic behavior in a controlled but burlesque fashion. While she predominantly worked with paper and watercolor, she did also dabble in painting on plexi glass, briefly, in 1967; these paintings are reminiscent of the work of Ubu Roi for their unbelievable juxtapositions and incongruities of our world in a slightly caricaturist style. As with most members of the Hairy Who, she used crowded imagery, there was not a corner of negative space to be found. A creeping sense of horror vacui filled these works.

Later career[edit]

In 1969, the influential Chicago gallery owner Phyllis Kind agreed to represent Nilsson and Jim Nutt.[3] In that same year Nilsson and Nutt moved to Sacramento, California, where he was an assistant professor of art at Sacramento State College.[3] In 1973, Nilsson was the first Hairy Who member to have a solo show, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Two of her paintings were stolen from the show.[3] In 1974 Nilsson and her family returned to Chicago.[3] They have lived in Wilmette since 1976.[3]

Her overall style has not shown significant development since the Hairy Who years. From the 1960s through to today, she continues to crowd her paintings with wild allegories of human debauchery that remain refined and elegant despite the wackiness of the figures. Loopy people are often woven into heterosexual pairings and though their bodies may appear to react to stimulation, it seems just as possible that the protruding genitalia and bulging breasts are more a result of the forces within the structure of the composition. There are also strong themes of human existence that range from childhood to motherhood, coming of age to female fantasies of male adoration.

Though her focus has always been watercolor on paper, Nilsson has also worked with collage, increasingly so in 2014. She admits that at a young age she loved playing with cut-out paper dolls. Sticking to her themes, she cuts out imagery from fashion magazines that relates to female ideals of beauty and makes them seemingly grotesque.

She had a retrospective of her art in the spring of 2010 at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago.

Exhibitions[edit]

Solo Exhibitions[edit]

1966

  • Gladys Nilsson, Marjorie Dell Gallery, Chicago

1969

  • Gladys Nilsson, Clay Street Gallery, San Francisco Art Institute, June 10–28

1970

  • Gladys Nilsson, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, January–February

1971

1973

1974

  • Gladys Nilsson, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago

1975

  • Gladys Nilsson, Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York

1976

  • Gladys Nilsson, Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, November 22–December 20

1977

  • Gladys Nilsson, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago
  • Gladys Nilsson, Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York

1978

  • Gladys Nilsson, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago

1979

1979–1980

  • Gladys Nilsson: Survey of Works on Paper, 1967–1979, Fine Arts Gallery, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, September 17–October 17, 1979; Art Gallery, Corpus Christi State University, Texas, January 8–31, 1980; Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, Racine, Wisconsin, February 17–March 23, 1980

1981

  • Gladys Nilsson, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, January–February

1982

  • Gladys Nilsson, Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York

1983

  • Gladys Nilsson, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, May–June

1984

  • Gladys Nilsson: Greatest Hits from Chicago, Selected Works 1967–1984, Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago, May 5–June 23

1985

  • Gladys Nilsson, Galerie Bonnier, Geneva, Switzerland, April

1987

  • Gladys Nilsson, Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, January–February
  • Gladys Nilsson, Candy Store Gallery, Folsom, California, November
  • Gladys Nilsson, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, November 20–December 15

1991

  • Gladys Nilsson, Janet Fleisher Gallery, Philadelphia, March 8–April 6
  • Gladys Nilsson, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, November 1–December 3

1992

  • Gladys Nilsson, Xochipilli Gallery, Birmingham, Minnesota, April 2–May 2
  • Gladys Nilsson, Ovsey Gallery, Los Angeles, October 17–November 14

1993

  • Sum Daze: Hand-Colored Etchings by Gladys Nilsson, Dime Museum, Chicago, September 10–October 4
  • Gladys Nilsson, Janet Fleisher Gallery, Philadelphia, November 17–December 23

1994

  • Gladys Nilsson, John Natsoulas Gallery, Davis, California, February 8–March 27
  • Gladys Nilsson, Ovsey Gallery, Los Angeles, November 19–December 23

1994–1995

  • Gladys Nilsson, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, December 2, 1994 – January 3, 1995

1996

1997

  • Gladys Nilsson: Watercolors, Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia, February 5–March 1
  • Gladys Nilsson, John Natsoulas Gallery, Davis, California, March 3–30

1998

  • Gladys Nilsson: A Print Survey, Printworks Gallery, Chicago, September 11–October 10
  • Gladys Nilsson, Jean Albano Gallery, Chicago, September 11–October 17
  • Gladys Nilsson, John Natsoulas Gallery, Davis, California, October 6–November 1

2000

  • Gladys Nilsson, Rosemont College, Rosemont, Pennsylvania, February 3–March 3

2001

  • Gladys Nilsson, Jean Albano Gallery, Chicago, October 19–December 1

2002

  • Gladys Nilsson, Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia, February 9–March 9

2003

  • Gladys Nilsson, Adrian College, Adrian, Michigan, January 6–25
  • Gladys Nilsson, Jean Albano Gallery, Chicago, October 24–December 6

2004

  • Gladys Nilsson, Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, February 13–March 13

2005

  • Gladys Nilsson, Jean Albano Gallery, Chicago, September 9–October 18
  • Gladys Nilsson, University Art Gallery, Saginaw Valley State University, University Center, Michigan, October 3–29

2006

2007

  • Gladys Nilsson: 25 Years of Watercolors, Jean Albano Gallery, Chicago, May 4–June 30

2008

  • Gladys Nilsson, Luise Ross Gallery, New York, April 17–May 31

2009

  • Gladys Nilsson, Jean Albano Gallery, Chicago, April 24–June 3

2010

2012

  • Gladys Nilsson, Jean Albano Gallery, Chicago, September 7–October 20

2013

  • Gladys Nilsson: New Watercolors, Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, June 7–July 6

2014

  • Gladys Nilsson, Garth Greenan Gallery, New York, October 23–December 20

Group Exhibitions[edit]

1966

1967

1968

1969

1969–1970

1970

  • Surplus Slop from the Windy City, San Francisco Art Institute, April 16–May 16
  • Wake Up Yer Scalp with Chicago, Richard Feigen Gallery, New York, November

1971

  • Boxed Top Art, Art Gallery, Illinois State University, Normal, April 2–30
  • Phyllis Teens, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, May–June

1972

1973–1974

1976

  • Contemporary Images in Watercolor, Akron Art Institute, Ohio, March 14–April 25; Indianapolis Museum of Art, June 29–August 8; Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, New York, October 1–November 14
  • Old and New Works by Artists from the Phyllis Kind Gallery, Foster Gallery, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, April 19–May 5

1977

  • Contemporary Figurative Painting in the Midwest, Madison Art Center, Wisconsin, February 26–April 10

1978

1979

  • Chicago Currents: The Koffler Foundation Collection, National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, June 8–August 13
  • American Watercolorists, Mitchell Museum, Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, Mount Vernon, Illinois, November 3–December 31

1979–1980

  • 100 Artists, 100 Years: Alumni of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, November 23, 1979 – January 20, 1980

1980

  • Contemporary Drawings and Watercolors, Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, New York, January 19–March 2
  • Some Recent Art from Chicago, Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, February 2–March 9
  • The Candy Store, De Saisset Art Museum, University of Santa Clara, California, April 11–June 15
  • Renderings of the Modern Woman: Figurative Images of Women by Contemporary Artists, Joseloff Gallery, Hartford Art School, University of Hartford, Connecticut, October 8–November 13
  • Six Artists from Chicago, The Mayor Gallery, London, November 20–December 20

1980–1981

  • Who Chicago? An Exhibition of Chicago Imagists, Camden Arts Centre, London, December 10, 1980 – January 25, 1981; Ceolfrith Gallery, Sunderland Arts Centre, England, February 16–March 14, 1981; Third Eye Centre, Glasgow, March 21–April 30, 1981; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, May–June, 1981; Ulster Museum, Belfast, July–August, 1981

1981

1982–1983

  • Selected Women Painters, Castle Gallery, College of New Rochelle, New York, December 1, 1982 – February 18, 1983

1983

  • Nilsson, Nutt, Paschke, Rocca, Wirsum, Galerie Bonnier, Geneva
  • Contemporary Chicago Imagists, Art Gallery, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, March 1–25

1984

1985

1987

1988

1989

  • Nilsson, Nutt, Wirsum, Dean Jensen Gallery, Milwaukee

1990

  • Watercolor Alternatives: Four Chicago Artists: Gaines, Mejer, Nilsson, and Tenuta, South Bend Art Center, Indiana, July 23–September 2

1990–1991

1991

1992

  • Just Plane Screwy: Metaphysical and Metaphorical Tools by Artists, Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, Racine, Wisconsin, June 7–September 13

1992–1993

1993

  • Imagery: Incongruous Juxtapositions, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, March 5–April 6
  • Personal Imagery: Chicago/New York, Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, September 18–October 30

1994

1995

  • Housewives: A Celebration of Domestic Engineering, Xochipilli Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, March 2–31
  • Not Just Another Pretty Face, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, April 29–May 27

1996

1996–1997

  • Trends in Post-War Chicago Art, David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, December 26, 1996 – January 16, 1997

1997

1998

1999

2000

  • The Likeness of Being: Contemporary Self Portraits by Sixty Women, DC Moore Gallery, New York, January 12–February 5
  • Chicago Loop: Imagist Art, 1949–1979, Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion, Stamford, Connecticut, September 15–December 6

2003

  • The Ganzfeld Unbound, Adam Baumgold Gallery, New York, March 27–May 3

2004–2005

  • Painting the Town Red, Jean Albano Gallery, Chicago, December 10, 2004 – February 5, 2005

2005

2006

2007

  • Masterworks of Chicago Imagism, Russell Bowman Art Advisory, Chicago, February 23–April 7
  • Bold Saboteurs: Collage and Construction in Chicago, Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago, April 6–May 12
  • Celebrating a Century of Art: Teaching from the Collection, Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College, Lynchburg, Virginia, September 1–December 7
  • The Art of Collecting, Flint Institute of Art, Michigan, November 23–December 30

2007–2008

2008

  • Chicago Imagism: 1965–1985, Russell Bowman Art Advisory, Chicago, May 16–August 16
  • Hairy Who? Ha!, Art Institute of Chicago, October 7–November 3

2009

2010

  • Chicago! Chicago!, Russell Bowman Art Advisory, Chicago, November 5–December 31

2010–2011

2011

  • The Paper Show, Jean Albano Gallery, Chicago, March 4–April 17

2011–2012

2012

  • Drawings, Russell Bowman Gallery, Chicago, February 3–April 21
  • Someone Else's Dream, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, January 29–May 6

2013

  • Gladys Nilsson and Julia Benjamin, National Exemplar Gallery, New York, September 9–October 20

2013–2014

2014

  • Head, Western Exhibitions, Chicago, January 31–March 8

2014–2015

  • What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, September 19, 2014 – January 4, 2015

2016

  • 125 from the Permanent Collection, Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College, Lynchburg, Virginia, January 22–August 31
  • Chicago and Vicinity, Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago, March 5–April 23
  • Shout for Tomorrow, Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York, May 5–June 17

2017

Collections[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lisa Stein, "Nilsson's Colors Continue to Get More Intense", Chicago Tribune, Thursday, October 15, 1998, section 2, page 5
  2. ^ Barbara B. Buchholz, "Chicago's Style: Gutsy, Independent, Defiant: A New Show Captures Our Artistic Traits: Jim Nutt and Gladys Nilsson: Two from the Who's Who of the Hairy Who", Chicago Tribune Magazine, December 1, 1996, pp. 14-21
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Christine Newman, "When Jim Met Gladys", "Chicago" Magazine, Vol. 60 No. 2, February 2011, pp. 78-81,92,146-148,164
  4. ^ Dan Nadel, "Hairy Who's history of the Hairy Who." The Ganzfeld 3. New York: Monday Morning, 2003. p. 121-2.

External links[edit]