Encompassing an exhibition of 1910s-1920s hobohemian ephemera, an accompanying publication and an events series, Brains, Brilliancy, Bohemia connects Chicago’s long tradition of non-tradition with the work of contemporary artists and activists. The exhibition is the first known overview of visual culture produced during the hobohemian era, a precursor to present day cultural resistance.
Material from the exhibition draws heavily from the archives of the Newberry Library, whose collections chronicle Chicago’s legendary but ill-forgotten Dill Pickle Club. The Dill Pickle provided a forum for free speech and the meeting place for many of the city’s most famous authors, intellectuals and radicals, including Carl Sandburg, Sherwood Anderson, Floyd Dell, Clarence Darrow, Lucy Parsons, Ralph Chaplin, Ben Hecht, Harriet Monroe and Vachel Lindsay. Included in the exhibition are photocopy reproductions of letterpress and woodcut handbills, fliers and posters announcing and advertising numerous lectures, readings, parties, plays and other regular activities.
In a video installation will be Marc Moscato’s The More Things Stay the Same, a short documentary examining the life and world of Dr. Ben Reitman (1879-1942), known in his day as “the Clap Doctor”, “King of the Hoboes” and “the most vulgar man in America.” Often best remembered as press agent and lover to anarchist Emma Goldman, Reitman’s work as caretaker for hoboes, prostitutes and the underclass continues to resonate with social and political relevance.
Also included in the exhibition are photocopies from 1910s pulp novels by A-No. 1 Tramp (Leon Ray Livingston), illustrations by Ernie Bushmiller, Franklin McMahon and Herman Rosse, and photos and ephemera from the Ben Reitman and Hull House collections at the University of Illinois. An audio interview with Studs Terkel and biographer Roger Bruns on Dr. Ben Reitman will also be available.
The exhibition will have an accompanying 60-page catalog/ pamphlet that includes an essay by the curator and reprints of Dill Pickle Club materials and features a letterpress cover.