The Big Dig: Karl Wirsum • Sketchbook 1966

July 9, 2020

Karl Wirsum sketchbook, front cover

Press Release

To view The Big Dig: Karl Wirsum • Sketchbook 1966, click this link.

The Big Dig: Karl Wirsum • Sketchbook 1966 presents a pivotal moment in the artistic life of Karl Wirsum (b. Chicago, 1939) as reflected in one sketchbook. Wirsum's career was already budding in 1966 when he joined a merry band of fellow School of the Art Institute of Chicago grads for a group show as Hairy Who, catapulting themselves into local legend and art history. This edition of Corbett vs. Dempsey's online exhibition series The Big Dig excavated a profoundly generative period in Wirsum's work. Presenting the entire sketchbook in sequence allows the viewer to watch images morph as they approach and depart the landmark Hairy Who opening, to explore the trajectory of major paintings in relation to their sketchbook companions, as well as images in the first Hairy Who comic book which germinated in the sketchbook, in the process uncovering a previously unexamined aspect of Wirsum's use of seriality. Augmented by rarely seen exhibition documentation dating back to Wirsum's first solo show in 1963 (often left out of his narrative arc) and a new essay an interview with the artist that help place the sketchbook in the context of his practice.

Born of nerdy fascination, each edition of The Big Dig descends into the rabbit-hole of a tight curatorial concept, excavating a body of work, a thematic idea or a particular medium, a new development or a historical moment. Exclusive images, interviews and essays provide works the kind of rich sense of context that ethnographers refer to as "thick description."

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