Sunday, September 27, 2015

chicago :: expo chicago + chicago gallery weekend

I like to think of Chicago as where my career in the arts began.  When I was in college there, I interned for several months at Christie's Auction House in their midwest office.   I also helped a gallery man their booth at the old Art Chicago, which was during the 80s and 90s considered to be one of the top art fairs, second only to Art Basel in Switzerland.   Additionally, it was my first real exposure to the "gallery world" as I used to love to peruse the neighborhood where the Christie's office was and visit galleries. And as an undergrad, I frequented the Art Institute as well as the original Museum of Contemporary Art.  So being in Chicago last weekend for a couple days of intense art viewing felt very organic.  Even though I travel to Chicago on a regular basis, I usually don't have the time to see much art when I am there - aside from the Block Museum in Evanston.

The occasion this time was the 3rd annual EXPO Chicago art fair and the ever-growing Gallery Weekend Chicago. Both events highlight the world-class culture and increasingly important art scene in Chicago.  Mostly focused on Contemporary art, the events drew art connoisseurs from across the nation as well as from international destinations.  Having been unable to attend the first two years, I was thrilled to be in attendance this year.  My friend Tony Karman has really hit the ball out of the field with EXPO and the fair seemed to be as flawless as one can be.  I also appreciated that the focus was on EXPO itself rather than on some of the satellite fairs that pop up during Art Basel Miami and Frieze in NYC.   Roughly 140 esteemed international galleries were represented, up from 100 last year, including 30 younger galleries that made up the fair's EXPOsure component.

Upon my arrival in Chicago, I dropped my bags and headed straight to Navy Pier for the EXPO Vernissage and to meet up with Block Museum Director Lisa Corrin and some of her amazing staff and catch them on the end of their walk-through.  Lisa is always bound to introduce me to someone fabulous, who I should know but haven't yet met.  As well as to share new art and artists to me.  Below are some of my favorite pieces from EXPO.

Samuel Jablon, Freight + Volume
Toshio Miyaoka

Mika Tajima, 11 Rivington Gallery
Jung Liu, Nancy Hoffman Gallery
Jorinde Voigt, David Nolan Gallery
Wayne Thiebaud, Allan Stone Gallery
Sam Messenger, Maxwell Davidson Gallery
Lisa Corinne Davis, Zolla/Lieberman Gallery
Yayoi Kusama
Chantal Joffe, Galerie Forsblom Galerie
 After the Block Museum crew left, I met up with my friends David and Vanessa and walked the aisles of the grand exhibit halls at the end of Navy Pier.  The opening ended at 9 o'clock and we made our way to one of Chicago's oldie but goodies, Le Colonial where we feasted with some other friends on French-Vietnamese fare in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood.
After dinner we popped around the corner to Nico at the Thompson Hotel to see some old college friends who were also in town for the fair.  They had been dining at Nico is one of my fave new spots in Chicago.  They have some of the best Italian crudo I've ever had.

The next morning I took advantage of a special VIP EXPO breakfast at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Surprisingly, I had not yet seen the new modern wing but I was also eager to see the Charles Ray exhibition that was installed on it's 2nd floor overlooking Millennium Park. This was the first major retrospective for the Chicago-born, Los Angeles based sculptor since 1998.

The real treat of my morning was skipping the breakfast part of the event and being the first and only one in the galleries.  It was me, the guards and the art.  It is such a rare experience to have an exhibition all to one's self.  Other folks started to wander in just as I was leaving.  Luckily when I went to the 3rd floor to see the Modern works from the permanent collection, the galleries again were vacant of other visitors - so I was alone with Matisse, Picasso, Joan MirĂ³, Brancusi, et al.
Pablo Picasso, Nude Under Pine Tree 
Henri Matisse, Interior At Nice
Brancusi, Golden Bird

Joan Miro, Woman
Roy Lichtenstein, Ohhh... Alright...

Khadafi, Virgin Islands

Two bonus exhibitions that had just opened were the The Architecture of David Adjaye - appropriate to be on view in Chicago - and Deana Lawson's Ruttenberg Contemporary Photography Series.
David Adjaye
After my splendid morning at the Art Institute, I went to meet a friend and photographer Suzette Bross for lunch at one of my new favorite spots in Chicago's West Loop off of Randolph and near the happening Fulton Market area -- the Soho House Chicago.
Image result for soho house chicago
The roof boasts incredible city views and the club space is many times that of it's sister House in NYC.

From there Suzette took me to the Chicago Artist Coalition, which was only a few blocks away. The CAC is a non-profit whose mission is to "build a sustainable marketplace for entrepreneurial artists and creatives."  The CAC has gallery and exhibition spaces as well as studio space in the basement for artists who have applied and received residencies funded by CAC.  It has become a sort of spring board for artists giving them support in getting their careers off the ground.
After visiting Suzette's studio, I raced back to the Gold Coast to the established Richard Gray Gallery on an upper floor of the John Hancock Building, where I joined a gallery tour arranged with the EXPO. The gallery had two exhibitions on view: Bethany Collins' Inquiry's End and Evelyn Statsinger's A Gathering.

 I was mostly impressed by Collins' work and her obsession and play with language and text.  Much of it identifying with her southern african-american roots.

From there we hopped on a shuttle bus and traveled west to Corbett vs. Dempsey in Wicker Park. Established in 2004, Corbett vs. Dempsey is one of Chicago's most important new galleries and houses a record store on the ground level.  We were lucky to view a beautiful exhibition of works on paper by painter Terry Winters.  This exhibition from the NY artist grew out of a conversation about the relationship between the visual arts and music with Corbett and Dempsey - and spans the years 2006-1014.

Our next stop was to moniquemeloche.  The gallerist is actually the founder of Gallery Weekend Chicago.  We were honored to have the artist Ebony G. Patterson there to talk to us about her work and the current exhibition unearthing treez.   
Patterson is a Jamaican born artist whose work - mostly embellished tapestries - dissects the "paradoxical relationship between Jamaica’s traditional expectations of manhood and the flamboyant aesthetics of its dancehall culture" which are such a prevalent part of Jamaican society.  Also on view was an exhibition of bronze plated shoes by artist Kendall Carter titled WE, shown below.  
The third artist at the gallery was a text based artist Joel Ross, whose body of work EVER is part of a public art initiative and displayed on bus stop benches around Wicker Park and Bucktown.

Steve Ruiz
Our final stop was to Roots + Culture, a non-profit exhibition space that also incorporates cooking and food into their experience.  Roots + Culture had a group show with works by Alex Bradley Cohen and Steve Ruiz.  I particularly loved the works by Steve Ruiz, most of which were sold.  The gallery focuses on cutting edge emerging artists in Chicago.
Alex Bradley Cohen
Alex Bradley Cohen

Steve Ruiz
The last exhibition I got to see while I was in Chicago was Geof Oppenheimer's Big Boss and the Ecstasy of Pressures which just opened at the Block Museum of Art in Evanston.  The exhibition was composed of two installations of new works commissioned by  the Block.  One is a sculpture installation Civil/Evil, which is anchored by three large cinder block walls creating distinct spaces in the gallery each with a isolated object: a photo of a victim of a terrorist attack, a steel frame with a bell and chain  hanging and a painting.  

The installation down stairs, DRAMA, is of five large video screens set on rolling stands that are on constant and staggered feed of two men in a stale office space.  It is a critique on business and the exchange of wealth in finance  - a "ghost story of capitalism."  Both pieces leave a feeling of void and a commentary of institutions.  

It was really wonderful to get to see so much art in Chicago and really reconnect with the city and it's deeply seeded art culture.  I truly felt like I had come full circle.  Yet there is so much more to see - I didn't even make it to the MCA this time.  But it gives me reason and inspiration to see more when I am back in the windy city.