“Brains” to open April 4th @ Mess Hall

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.

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6 responses to ““Brains” to open April 4th @ Mess Hall

  1. Hope you’re successful with the exhibit. I have tried to unscrew a few items re the DPC from the Newberry for inclusion in an article about Yellow Kid Weil, and the Newberry was horrible. Greedy, greedy folks, only interested in discussing licensing fees. How does it help the Newberry to keep their collections squirreled away, far from the public? I have to believe that the original denizens of the Dill Pickle would be disgusted by the Newberry’s self-defeating conduct….they’d probably hold a Free The Newberry’s Collections night!

    • the exhibit was a while ago, and it was great! i had nothing but positive experiences with the newberry. sorry to hears yours were not so good. i’ll write you an email here in a minute regarding your other inquiries. thanks!

  2. Wow….Wonderful !!
    I lived in “the Pickle” in 1969……that great old door was still there, but with a huge “Lion Head” knocker affixed, and virtually all the paint was worn off by that time.The old timers and indigents walking the alley (Tooker Place) told me numerous stories about the club. I had a sculpture studio there… “Ichabod Couplings” producing wearable ornamental metal work. Oh yes! the apparitions were there. On numerous occasions, in the wee small hours, I would see faint human images in the fumes rising from my welding bench. There was a strange and comforting warmth in the room, beside the heat of my torch.The main room had a very high ceiling, and a narrow rickety staircase hugging the north wall which led to the upper floor, and my humble living quarters, Great memories indeed!!

    • Daniel – holy shit that’s amazing. I should connect you with my friend Paul Durica – does a lot of amazing programming and would probably love connecting with you. I will send him your contact. Cheers!

  3. Marc,
    Please feel free to share my contact info with Mr Durica. I look forward to connecting with him. It is interesting that from those humble “Pickle Club” days, my little sculpture studio at Tooker Place has evolved into one of the largest Fine Art Foundrys in the world. We currently produce over 5000 casting per day.
    I have shared many interesting stories over the years with my friends and family about that year in Chicago, and that magical place. While I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, I feel very grateful that I had the experience.
    Thanks again!!

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