Gladys Nilsson. People Houses. 1967

Gladys Nilsson People Houses 1967

  • Not on view

Teeming with clusters of distorted humanoids and bundles of limbs, and animated by elephant trunks sprouting from the paper’s edge, the visual clamor of People Houses belies the work’s complex structural logic. Nilsson has divided this space into discrete compartments and angled planes, demarcating the tight composition with watercolor, a medium typically associated with looseness and spread. Her fantastical creatures participate in a familiar world, engaging in relationships and conducting daily activities: driving cars, strolling down streets. While these layered vignettes are both of the real world and of Nilsson’s imagination, she views them as springboards for new stories. The work “shouldn’t just be about what I’m thinking; it should also be about what somebody else brings to it,” the artist has declared.

This watercolor’s playful tenor, grotesque figures, and cartoonish forms exemplify the defining attributes of the Chicago Imagists, a group of artists working in a figurative mode that formed around the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1960s. Rejecting the approach of the New York art world, then dominated by Pop art, the Imagists looked to Surrealism’s dreamlike narratives and absurd juxtapositions and to comic books for new graphic languages. A product
of this moment, Nilsson’s vivid visual lexicon also drew from the details of her life: “I’m small scale,” she has said. “I watched little things that happened during the day on all levels.”

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Medium
Watercolor and pencil on paper
Dimensions
16 x 22 1/8" (40.7 x 56.3 cm)
Credit
Larry Aldrich Foundation Fund
Object number
4.1968
Department
Drawings and Prints

Installation views

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at digital@moma.org.

Licensing

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at firenze@scalarchives.com. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

Feedback

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.