Karl Wirsum

Baker Boy, 2001

American, 1939

Karl Wirsum’s drawing, Baker Boy, is a study for a large-scale, outdoor, metal and enamel sculpture commissioned by Dawn Foods, a commercial bakery located in an industrial park in Munster, Indiana. Drawn in his characteristically cartoonish style, Wirsum created an enthusiastically manic figure of a chef wildly spinning two circles of dough. Rendered in a flat, patterned, starkly outlined manner, Baker Boy contains the element of humor so prevalent in Wirsum’s work.
A lifelong love of comics and a fascination with the ephemera of popular culture (mass produced toys), objects from the carnival and circus, as well as an exploration of the visual forms of Mayan, Aztec and Native American art have all inspired Wirsum’s unique creativity

Imagist painter, printmaker and sculptor, Karl Wirsum was a member of the legendary “Hairy Who” exhibition group of the 1960s and has produced other public sculptures such as the mural Plug Bug, a favorite downtown landmark painted on the outside of the ComEd building in 1991 and a large mural at Midway Airport made of glass panels that celebrates a child’s fascination with flight.

The artist’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian American Museum, Washington, D.C., and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Wirsum has four other works in the Elmhurst College Collection: Click, 1971, Skull Daze, 1971, Ice Pick Nick Fisherman, 1979 and Bucky Cortez Meets Downtown Roberto, 1984.

Donated by Mel Theobald, 2005