Rebecca Shore painting in Afterimage, "09"Rebecca Shore, "09", 2010, Oil on canvas 30 in x 45 in, Collection of Emmy Kondo and Daniel Rosenthal

What do DePaul University, a Chicago-based art movement, a food truck and comic books all have in common?  They are each an intrinsic part of “Afterimage ,” an exhibit featured this fall at the DePaul Art Museum (DPAM) that showcases the work and influence of the Chicago Imagists.

By including Chicago-based art and the involvement of DePaul students, DPAM reflects DePaul’s mission by encouraging the kind of educational discussion that thrives in an urban environment like Chicago.

The Chicago Imagists

“Afterimage” focuses on the Chicago Imagists, who were a group of artists working and exhibiting in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago in the late 1960s. They used magazines, personal fantasy, comics and junk to inspire a lively and irreverent critique of society’s social foibles and absurdity. Their unique spin on contemporary art is still a major influence on young artists, including Selina Trepp, a part-time faculty member at DePaul who is exhibiting in “Afterimage.”

“Living in Chicago, I think it is hard not to be influenced by the Imagists,” Trepp said. “My work, like the Imagists’ work, takes its cues out of my personal experience and seeks to find the universal within that.”

Trepp will be exhibiting a photo and performing as Spectralina, a collaborative, audiovisual performance project with her husband Dan Bitney of the Chicago-based band Tortoise.

“A hallmark of the Imagists is an interest in pop culture,” explains DPAM assistant curator Greg Harris. “Every artist in the show is young. Most are in their 20s and 30s, so these artists are not very far removed from students in the university. It’s a very fresh take on contemporary art.”

Louise Lincoln, director of the DPAM, believes it is part of the museum’s mission to exhibit young, contemporary artists like Selina Trepp, especially from Chicago.

“When people think about art history, they think about older artists,” Lincoln said. “By bringing contemporary artists [into the exhibit], we are trying to have art history become a living history.”

A Teaching Museum

The DePaul Art Museum positions itself as more than a museum. When DePaul classes visit DPAM, they are encouraged to explore the vast collections in the study rooms.

“We give students a completely different experience — unmediated access,” Lincoln says.

Some students get to handle the work daily as part of their job. Collections intern Andrea Jones is responsible for cataloguing the artwork, contacting artists, arranging shipping and permissions for the exhibits, including “Afterimage.” Jones is finishing up the fourth year of her internship and is already employed in a gallery and by a private collector. She will begin work as a contractor for one of DPAM’s upcoming winter exhibits.

“The museum gave me so much experience,” Jones says. “I don’t know anyone that has as much experience as me out of

undergrad. The museum is a different place since I’ve been here and the role of the intern has grown since we’re doing more than we’ve ever done before.” ​​

DPAM assistant director Laura Fatemi agrees. “There’s such a small staff, the interns are necessary. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to open the door.”​​​​​​​​

A class examines prints up-close in the Collection Room.

Dynamic Programming

 In the tradition of the Chicago Imagists, the programming for “Afterimage” will be participatory, much like the exhibit itself. There will be no panel discussions or lectures for the exhibit. Instead, the work will come to life with performances that are meant to be entertaining and interactive. 

“It’s another way of making the artwork accessible,” says Harris.

Program events include Chicago-based artist Richard Hull creating an abstract work in response to the Ken Vandermark quartet’s experimental jazz music, and local artist Eric May including a food truck as part of his performance, using food as his art form.

Viewers will see art exhibited in completely novel ways. After all, that’s part of the DPAM’s mission.

Lincoln smiles at the thought. “We hope that everyone who goes through the door after being here has their head turned around a little bit.”​