SPRINGFIELD, IL – Two of Chicago’s greatest exports – pinball and imagist painting – have an intertwined history of mutual appreciation. Arguably the world’s finest pinball machines were made in Chicago's North Side factories, and many of those were produced by Elmhurst's Gottlieb family. As those machines reached their apex of pictorial and engineering ingenuity, the Chicago artists now known as Imagists were finding their unique visual sensibilities. They drew inspiration from pinball’s high contrast coloration, absurd juxtapositions, and ultra-flat forms. Pinball was but one inspiration for these artists, along with the city’s many colorful storefronts and the enormously popular Riverview Park.
A new exhibition, Kings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago, comes to the Illinois State Museum (ISM) in Springfield as a collaborative effort organized by Jenny Gibbs, Executive Director of the Elmhurst Art Museum, Acting Director of the Illinois State Museum’s Art and History Department Robert Sill, and curated by New York curator Dan Nadel.
In 1982, imagist Ed Paschke curated the exhibition Flip! Flash! Pinball Art! at the Chicago Cultural Center. Paschke’s painting Black Out, based on pinball, was prominently displayed, and the artist himself selected scores of games, most from the city, to make good on his debt to the otherwise anonymous art form. The exhibition was the only one curated by Paschke, and one of just a handful of pinball shows ever mounted at a cultural institution.
The exhibition at the ISM in Springfield will display sixteen pinball machines from the 1960s through the 1980s, nearly all designed and built in Chicago, alongside Imagist paintings, sculptures and prints by Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Ed Flood, Ed Paschke, Christina Ramberg, Barbara Rossi, Ray Yoshida and Karl Wirsum.