press release

Monster Roster considered one of the most important Midwestern contributions to the development of American art

(December 1, 2015) The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, 5550 S. Greenwood Avenue, will mount Monster Roster: Existential Art in Postwar Chicago, the first-ever major exhibition to examine the history and impact of the Monster Roster, a group of postwar artists that established the first unique Chicago style, February 11–June 12, 2016. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue are curated by John Corbett and Jim Dempsey, independent curators and gallery owners, with Jessica Moss and Richard A. Born, Smart Museum Curator of Contemporary Art and Senior Curator, respectively. Monster Roster officially opens with a free public Reception, Wednesday, February 10, 7:30–9pm. The Monster Roster was a fiercely independent group of mid-century artists, spearheaded by Leon Golub (1922-2004), which created deeply psychological works drawing on classical mythology, ancient art, and a shared persistence in depicting ‘the figure’ during a period in which abstraction held sway in international art circles.

Monster Roster examines not only the complex aesthetics and personal styles of Golub and his compatriots—including Cosmo Campoli, June Leaf, Dominick Di Meo, Seymour Rosofsky, and Nancy Spero, among others—but also uncovers the Monster Roster’s relationships with preceding generations of Chicago artists and influences on the well-known Chicago Imagists who followed. Monster Roster brings together over 60 major paintings, sculpture, and works on paper from the Smart Museum and other major public and private collections in order to provide the authoritative account of the movement, from the formation of Exhibition Momentum in 1948 to the group’s dispersal in the mid-1960s.

Monster Roster includes works by artists Robert Barnes, Don Baum, Fred Berger, Cosmo Campoli, George Cohen, Dominick Di Meo, Leon Golub, Theodore Halkin, June Leaf, Arthur Lerner, Irving Petlin, Seymour Rosofsky, Franz Schulze, Nancy Spero, Evelyn Statsinger, and H. C. Westermann.


John Corbett and Jim Dempsey, independent curators and gallery owners, with Jessica Moss, Smart Museum Curator of Contemporary Art, and Richard A. Born, Smart Museum Senior Curator, serving as coordinating curators.

Monster Roster will be accompanied by a comprehensive publication—the first of its kind—that includes an introductory essay by critic and collector Dennis Adrian; an overview of the Monster Roster by John Corbett; a discussion of Monster Roster prints; and an introduction to the historical context surrounding the group’s emergence in the 1950s. The publication will also contain full-color reproductions of all work on view in the exhibition, a detailed timeline and exhibition history, and extensive reproductions of ephemera and historical photographs. The book will be distributed by the University of Chicago Press.