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MCA Talk: Karl Wirsum, Gladys Nilsson, and Robert Storr


Digitally restored by Pentimenti Productions, Suzanne Simpson's Karl Wirsum is a little-known 1973 film that peeks into the sun-dappled California studio of a young artist as he embarks on an extraordinary career. Wirsum's psychedelic marionette sculptures still dazzle today, while his narration and a mind-bending soundtrack draw viewers into his process and personality.

Following the screening, a discussion with Karl Wirsum and Gladys Nilsson, moderated by Rob Storr, focuses on the historical, personal, and philosophical connections between the visual art scenes of Chicago and Northern California in the 1960s and 1970s. The artists, both of whom are famously associated with the Chicago Imagists, also spent time in Sacramento and surrounding areas, providing them with a unique vantage point on this cross-country connection.

A grainy video image of a person riding a bike in front of a white picket fence.

Suzanne Simpson, still from Karl Wirsum, 1973

About the Artists

Karl Wirsum and Gladys Nilsson are artists living and working in Chicago. Both attended the School of the Art Institute and subsequently became inaugural members of the Hairy Who in the 1960s. For more information about Karl Wirsum and Gladys Nilsson's work and exhibition history, please visit Corbett vs. Dempsey and Garth Greenan Gallery, respectively.

Robert Storr is an artist, critic, curator, and former Dean of the Yale University School of Art.


This program is made possible through support from the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Gloria Brackstone Solow and Eugine A. Solow, MD, Memorial Lecture Series. Presented in partnership with Pentimenti Productions.