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Karl Wirsum—former member of Chicago’s artistic group The Hairy Who and current professor at School of the Art Institute of Chicago—has been creating peculiarly playful art with a dose of humor since the mid 60s. Through the use of acrylic paints, colored pencils and lithographs, he’s brought to life highly imaginative, cartoon-based pieces which have been showcased nationally and abroad throughout the years.

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One pair of otherworldly creatures figure in “Taffy Pull Tilt-a-Whirl,” while a redheaded, dress-clad female appears in the brightly-colored “Throw a Wait Line Proof of Purse Chase.” His penchant for witty titles is evident; just one example being his “Alien Dating Service Portraits” collection which depict headshots of unusual entities. He’s also featured square-headed robotic characters in pieces like “Grape Drape” and “Oops Goops.” Nods to pre-Colombian art can be seen in the profiled baseball player in “Looking at a Curve Ball in Cuernavaca,” and through the complex beast of “Wingtips for Tuning Fork,” whose features are semi-reminiscent of Aztec art.

Amusing and fantastical, it’s a view of another world that’s as unique as it is smile-inducing.

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karl wirsum taffy pull


-Natacha Pavlov

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