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Barbara Rossi (born 1940) is a Chicago artist, one of the original Chicago Imagists, a group in the 1960s and 1970s who turned to representational art. She first exhibited with them at the Hyde Park Art Center in 1969. She is known for meticulously rendered drawings and cartoonish paintings. She works primarily by making reverse paintings on plexiglass that reference lowbrow and outsider art as well as a personal vernacular.

She is a teacher at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.[1] Her works are in several permanent art museum collections.


Life and careerEdit

Rossi was born in Chicago in 1940, and lives in Berwyn, Illinois. She received her Bachelor of Arts from St. Xavier College in 1964.[2] Rossi’s drawing style began to emerge in 1967, during a Saturday course at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She exhibited a drawing in the 1968 Chicago and Vicinity exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, and later that year, she entered the Master of Fine Arts program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, graduating in 1970.[2] She met and was soon exhibiting her work alongside other Imagist artists.[3] Curated by Natalie Bell and Organized by the New Museum,her artwork, Poor Traits, was the first solo exhibition in Chicago by this pioneering artist.[4] Rossi was awarded an Artist's Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1972.[5] Rossi's art created in the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s had themes of abstracted and stylized inner bodily awareness and mediums included paintings on Plexiglass, small drawings in graphite and colored pencil, quilts and quilt pictures. This more internally focused work shifted to a more external viewpoint in the late 1970s, including situational images and whole figures. Her work in the late 1970s also switches mediums to paintings on Masonite and occasionally canvas. In 1983 Rossi started traveling to India and making elaborate colored pencil drawings with Persian and Indian themes.[6] She also spent several years as a Catholic nun before pursuing her career as an artist Rossi also curated a traveling exhibition about Indian art, From the Ocean of Painting: A Survey of India's Popular Painting Traditions, 1589 A.D. to the Present and wrote the accompanying catalog.[7]

Rossi Articulates her work with no planning ahead what-so-ever. She simply paints what she feels and “allows her drawings to emerge one form at a time.”[8] Many people thought of Rossi's art as odd and grotesque, and most of her paintings appear to be body parts from the inside out, often looking like knobs or folds of skin.[9] Ken Johnson calls her paintings "X-rays revealing subdermal viscera," which he suggests resemble "churning inner souls".[10]

Select exhibitionsEdit

  • Barbara Rossi: Poor Traits. New Museum NY (16 September 2015 - 3 January 2016)[1]
  • Meanwhile in Lonesome Valley. Loudhailer Gallery LA (20 June - 1 August 2015). Group exhibit.[11]
  • Barbara Rossi (21 April - 4 June 1995) Tarble Arts Center Eastern Illinois University[12]
  • Barbara Rossi Selected Works: 1967-1990 (13 January - 24 February 1991) Renaissance Society, University of Chicago[6]
  • Some Recent Art from Chicago. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (10 February - 2 March 1980). Group exhibit. Works exhibited: Viking Smoking (1970), Shep and Poor-Self Trait, (1970), Curls and Poor-Self Trait (1970), Quilt (Male of Sorrows) (1971), 3-D Do (1973)[13]
  • Who Chicago? an exhibition of contemporary imagists. London (10 December - 25 January 1981). Group exhibit. Works exhibited: Poor Self Trait 3 (Curls) Diptych (1970), 3-D Do (1973, Shep Step II (1973), Fishing Picture (1975), Quick-n-Quack (1975), A Bark Drawing (1976), Waveland (1977), De Risen (1978)[14]
  • XII Bienal de São Paulo: Made In Chicago (1973–74) Museu de Arte, São Paulo, Brazil[15]
  • Twenty-Fourth Illinois Invitational Exhibition (1971) Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IL
  • Seventy-First Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity (30 March - 12 May 1968) Art Institute of Chicago

Select Permanent CollectionsEdit


  1. ^ a b "BARBARA ROSSI: POOR TRAITS 09/16/15-01/03/16". New Museum. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b Rossi, Barbara. "Faculty Profiles". School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  3. ^ McCracken, D. (February 10, 1991). "Drawing Power: Barbara Rossi and Her Life with the Hairy Who". Chicago Tribune. ProQuest. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  4. ^
  5. ^ National Endowment for the Arts; National Council on the Arts (1973). Annual Report 1973 (PDF). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 101. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b Dennis, Adrian (1991). Barbara Rossi Selected Works: 1967-1990. University of Chicago: Renaissance Society.
  7. ^ Rossi, Barbara (1998). From the ocean of painting : India's popular paintings 1589 to the present : [based on an exhibition presented by the University of Iowa Museum of Art ... during 1994-95]. New York [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 0195111931.
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  11. ^ "Barbara Rossi featured in group show, Meanwhile in Lonesome Valley at Loudhailer Gallery". Corbett vs. Dempsey. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  12. ^ Barbara Rossi (exhibition brochure). Eastern Illinois University: Tarble Arts Center. 1995. p. 1.
  13. ^ Keefe, Katharine Lee (1980). Some recent art from Chicago. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: The Museum. pp. 76–77.
  14. ^ Knipe, Tony (1980). Who Chicago? : an exhibition of contemporary imagists. Sunderland, England: Ceolfrith Gallery, Sunderland Arts Centre. pp. 212–213. ISBN 0-904461-66-1.
  15. ^ Catálogo da 12ª Bienal de São Paulo. 1973. pp. 102, 103, 105, 454. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  16. ^ "Rossi, Barbara | The Art Institute of Chicago". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  17. ^ "MMoCA Acquires the Bill McClain Collection of Chicago Imagism | MMoCA". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  18. ^ "Sea-n-Cipher | Milwaukee Art Museum". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  19. ^ "MCA – Artists: Barbara Rossi". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  20. ^ "Barbara Rossi". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  21. ^ "Collections - Smart Museum of Art - The University of Chicago". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  22. ^ "Barbara Rossi | Smithsonian American Art Museum". Retrieved 11 March 2017.

External linksEdit