Suellen Rocca, a founding member of the short-lived but influential 1960s Chicago artwork group the Furry Who and a fiercely original artist whose hieroglyphic, phantasmagoric get the job done poked a finger in the eye of late-20th-century modernist purities, died on March 26 at a hospice in Naperville, Unwell., a suburb of Chicago. She was 76.
Matthew Marks Gallery in New York, which signifies her, explained the bring about was pancreatic most cancers.
At a time when the deadpan shopper imagery of Pop Artwork was offering way to the restraint of Minimalism and Conceptualism, Ms. Rocca and five former classmates from the University of the Art Institute of Chicago arrived collectively less than the sway of influences as disparate as Dubuffet, Native American artwork, hand-painted keep signals, the Sears catalog and the all-natural-historical past displays at the Area Museum to build a rambunctious variety of portray and sculpture that tacked tricky from prevailing orthodoxies.
“There is about lots of of these functions a relentlessly gabby, arm-twisting, eyeball-speaking to quality that comes as a excellent surprise in a gallery that we affiliate with the spare statements of Agnes Martin and Brice Marden,” John Russell wrote in The New York Moments in a assessment of a 1982 Tempo Gallery show. He added: “Why are they so repulsive? Are they all similarly repulsive? Are we completely wrong not to like them? These are honest questions, and they have earned an remedy.”
Ultimately the response was that their unorthodox ethos, disregarded by quite a few East and West Coast critics as a regionalist aberration, came to be embraced by younger generations who noticed them selves mirrored in its exuberance, irreverence and vernacular American overload.
Ms. Rocca and her compatriots, whose work served foment a wider movement known as Chicago Imagism, “weren’t fascinated in binary oppositions or the modernist arrow of development,” the curator Dan Nadel wrote in the catalog for a clearly show of Ms. Rocca’s work at Matthew Marks Gallery in 2016. “Art was art. This stoic, instead Midwestern philosophy would show to be foundational.”
In 2016, Ms. Rocca detailed some of the imagery that formed the lexicon of her early function, typically rendered in flat, quivery, cartoonlike strains.
“Palm trees, diamond rings, bra kinds in the Sears Roebuck catalog, dancing partners from Arthur Murray adverts and pictures of extravagant hairdos tucked into the back again webpages of publications ended up the cultural icons of splendor and romance expressed by the media that promised pleasure to young gals of that technology,” she said. “This was the society that surrounded me.” In a 2018 interview with Garage magazine, she mentioned that a great deal of her operate was a sort of image-writing, analogous to hieroglyphics, using in substantially of the same buyer flotsam that Pop artwork utilised but deploying it substantially additional subjectively.
Requested in that job interview about her tactic, she reported the brief response she favored to give was that “while New York was neat, Chicago was scorching.”
Suellen Krupp was born on Oct. 2, 1943, the only child in a center-class Jewish loved ones. Her father, Phillip, whose spouse and children experienced immigrated from Russia, worked as a salesman for a lights-gear corporation, and her mom, Mildred, a proficient beginner pianist who performed during her life, labored as a authorized secretary and accountant.
Suellen’s artwork talent emerged early and experienced propelled her by age 16 to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where by 1 of her academics was Ray Yoshida, a massively essential mentor to the Chicago Imagists who emphasised nondoctrinaire pondering and eclectic resources of inspiration.
In 1962, she married Dennis Rocca, a 3rd-technology jeweler they divorced in 1975. She is survived by her son, Paul her daughter, Lia Plonka and 3 grandchildren.
The very first Hairy Who exhibition, featuring the work of Ms. Rocca, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Jim Falconer, Art Eco-friendly and Karl Wirsum, was held at the Hyde Park Artwork Center in Chicago in 1966. (The group’s unforgettable title is explained to have been motivated by a riff on the name of a neighborhood radio individuality and artwork critic, Harry Bouras, whom the artists did not maintain in superior esteem.) Amongst 1966 and 1969, the group — which did not contemplate alone a motion or university, but just an informal selection of like-minded artists — staged five a lot more exhibitions, in Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Washington.
Ms. Rocca’s perform was involved in quite a few other reveals before she moved to the San Francisco Bay Region in the early 1970s, at which time she stopped creating art for a ten years.
On returning to Chicago in 1981, she took up instructing and began to function again, generating drawings and paintings that were emotionally darker, with titles like “Beware of My Mouth,” “Don’t” and “It’s a Magic formula.” A motif of purses and baggage that runs via her work took on a lot more unsettling implications. As she explained to an interviewer for the Archives of American Artwork in 2015: “Bags can keep issues that you really don’t want to get out. Sort of like Pandora’s box.” She additional, “I’ve normally felt that my perform is autobiographical.”
She was featured in “What Nerve! Alternate Figures in American Artwork, 1960 to Current,” an exhibition curated by Mr. Nadel at the Rhode Island School of Style Museum in Providence in 2014 and 2015 and Matthew Marks Gallery in 2015 that has been credited with igniting broader institutional interest in Chicago Imagist perform.
A survey of Ms. Rocca’s perform — which is held in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Artwork, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Artwork Institute of Chicago and many other vital museums — is scheduled to open this calendar year at the Secession museum in Vienna.