Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

EXPO Insider Photo Diary

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By Pedro Velez

During Artforum’s dinner party on Thursday night at The Publican, renowned dealer Christopher D’Amelio told me that for EXPO Chicago to succeed it must attract an army of unidentified collectors from all over the Midwest. At least that’s what everyone is hoping will happen on Saturday and Sunday, since sales were kind of slow on opening night. After all, what does it mean when the biggest art brokers at the Vernissage were art critic Jerry Saltz and the mayor of Chicago, and not Mr. Cash?

Lauren Adams’ agitprop installation “We the People” (detail) in which she fuses slogans by the Tea Party and Occupy movements to create an anachronistic view of American politics

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EXPO Chicago Report: The Message from Vernissage

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By Robin Dluzen

“It feels like the old times,” former Chicago art dealer Melanee Cooper told me last night at EXPO’s Vernissage, “but it feels fresh at the same time”—a sentiment I heard echoed almost word-for-word throughout the opening night. In many opinions, Tony Karman and his fair have already succeeded on a number of fronts: EXPO’s Studio Gang interior is beautiful, the art is amazing, the food rocks and the people came. The galleries, many of whom haven’t been to Chicago in years, decades or even ever, brought with them the best of what they have.

The press rolled into Vernissage around 3pm, followed at 4pm by the “patrons” at $400-$600 a ticket, and while the aisles felt rather empty for the first few hours, I was repeatedly assured that the folks with money indeed were here, and presumably the money and art were changing hands. Some EXPO dealers were happy to announce sales in these early hours, like Chicago’s Corbett vs. Dempsey; some were optimistic about the feedback, like The Green Gallery from Milwaukee (in the fair’s Exposure section for emerging galleries); while a few other out-of-towners seemed less confident. Read the rest of this entry »

Old Glory: EXPO Chicago Plans to Return Chicago to the Art Fair Majors

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Tony Karman

It’s been some time since Chicago was a major player on the international art fair scene. First the International Art Exposition and, later, Art Chicago, were standard-setters in the eighties and nineties, though as Art Chicago moved out of its longtime home in Navy Pier’s Festival Hall, a gradual decline led to its cancellation, under the name Next Art Chicago, earlier this year. EXPO Chicago, the product of longtime Art Chicago administrator Tony Karman, is now attempting to tap some of Art Chicago’s early prestige with a return to Navy Pier and a set-up that is, as Karman says, “respectful to the work that’s put in it.”

“Festival Hall at Navy Pier was built in large part because the art fair meant so much there was no way they could replace it,” says Karman. “So with that as a foundation there’s a way to tap a bit of nostalgia and to put a new varnish on what an art fair or an art exhibition looks like for 2012 and beyond.” Studio Gang, the architecture and design studio of MacArthur “genius grant”–winner Jeanne Gang, has designed an interior for the festival that is modeled off of the city’s urban grid, with the 120 booths of participating galleries bisected by walkways and a wide diagonal “avenue.” Karman says that capping dealers and galleries at 120 was done to maintain “quality over quantity” and prevent EXPO from turning into a mega-fair. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: GLI.TC/H Festival

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Nick Briz

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Spinoza and Heidegger made similar points, illustrated with a hatchet and a hammer respectively, that a tool, subsumed in its utility, only truly becomes an object when broken—as do, by implication, our brains and bodies. At the end of Peter Greenaway’s 1985 film “A Zed And Two Noughts,” twin veterinarians obsessed with making time-lapse films of decaying animal corpses finally euthanize themselves before their automated camera—which ceases to function when the room is overrun with snails attracted to the rot. The malfunction, the glitch, breaches the thin line between the ideal, virtual form or function, and the electrified molecules comprising its material substance—and thus, new forms and functions arise. Read the rest of this entry »

411: The Coyote Howls Again

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“It’s an eclectic good time,” says Charlie Rees, a member of the Flat Iron Artists’ Association (FIAA) and an organizer for this year’s Coyote Art Festival. In its second year, Coyote will bring more than 140 artists of everything from music to poetry to visual arts to Chicago’s Near Northwest Side.

Wicker Park/Bucktown used to be the home to the Around the Coyote festival and arts organization, which would draw thousands of visitors yearly for a weekend festival in September. The organization eventually chose to leave their home neighborhood and hold a more curated event, but shortly after making the change both organization and festival disappeared. A few years later, the FIAA decided to start their festival borrowing the Coyote name, one that returned to the original idea of a neighborhood-based, uncurated event.  Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Fair Enough

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Ryan Duggan at Johalla Projects

By Damien James

“It’s the same old shit punctuated by happ­iness and tragedy,” read Ryan Duggan’s screenprint for Johalla Projects, a statement that aptly encapsulated 2011’s Artropolis. That happiness is the piece causing you to gape in wonder, the rare work you can’t tear your eyes from, while the tragedy is everything else on display, reiterating the fact that you can show art wherever you want if you’ve got the money.

What’s been true of Artropolis in the past still stands: NEXT continues to excite more than Art Chicago; people-watching is worth the price of admission; and the entire fair is becoming smaller, evidenced by joint tenancy on the twelfth floor of both NEXT and Art Chicago, which only sharpens your focus to the difference between the two. The energy of NEXT is undeniable, where art spreads itself across more forms; it rolls, spins records, hacks itself to pieces, stretches across rooms, flashes and sings at you, and even makes you want to take a bite out of it. Art Chicago, on the other hand, exists mostly in squares and rectangles on white walls.

Not that Art Chicago is bereft of enjoyment, though if you pulled the Ed Paschke’s down the overall temperature would’ve grown tepid. All of the Shepard Fairey’s sold, which makes Santa Monica’s Robert Berman Gallery the big winner, but Hammer Gallery stood up for Chicago by releasing a $75,000 Roger Brown painting into the world, along with a lovely Karl Wirsum. Carl Hammer himself said that the weekend was moving slower than in past years, but that he was pleased with how his space came together. If I had Chris Ware and Henry Darger on my walls, I’d be pleased too. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Fair Play

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photo by Marian Frost

By Laura Fox

In a day and a half in Bridgeport last weekend, connections both professional and personal formed between local art groups and artists. The catalyst was the new MDW Fair.

The fair’s genesis itself is a bit of a feat in community-building. In February, Ed Marszewski, the founder of The Co-Prosperity Sphere, Version festival and Public Media Institute, asked threewalls and Roots and Culture if they wanted to help host an art fair focused on Chicago artists and art organizations. In two months and with less than $10,000, the three partners recruited sixty-plus exhibitors to fill 25,000 square feet of exhibition space in the Geolofts warehouse, plus a separate sculpture garden. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Fair Enough?

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Dayton's Castleman, showing at the MDW fairBy Monica Westin

As we look ahead to an overhauled Art Chicago fair next month, some local art galleries are quietly planning alternatives. Unlike the dozens of satellite fairs in Miami and New York, a new crop of Chicago art fairs aren’t poised to coincide with the behemoth fair on the last weekend of April, but they do stand to be competitors of sorts. The new MDW fair, which focuses on “local art ecology,” appears to be something of a DIY one-off affair with an impressive list of gallery exhibitors and cultural programs: threewalls, Roots and Culture, Theaster Gates’ The Dorchester Project, Ed Marszewski’s Reuben Kincaid gallery project, Ebersmoore, Antena, SAIC’s Ox-Bow, The Suburban, ACRE, Iceberg Projects, and The Post Family. Several of these galleries participated in NEXT in the past; only a couple will be returning this year.

The MDW fair, pronounced “Midway,” is named for Chicago’s other airport, the one “people forget about sometimes,” says Ed Marszewski of the Public Media Institute (of the Lumpen family), who is producing the fair as a part of his long-running Version festival, along with threewalls and Roots and Culture. MDW hopes to be another kind of visual arts landing in Chicago, using GeoLofts’ (The Iron Studios) 25,000 square feet of exhibition space, and with an additional 10,000-square-foot sculpture garden, all featuring work by Chicago artists. Marszewski admits that the fair’s dates, April 23-24, in part don’t coincide with Art Chicago because they “don’t necessarily have the apparatuses to reach out to that audience,” but there is also an element of wanting to “contrast what’s happening with the more independent art scene versus what’s happening at the Merch Mart”—as well as not wanting to compete with or undermine local artists going to NEXT. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Fair Thee Well

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Olof Olsson, The Suburban's booth at NEXT. Photo by Paul Germanos.

By Jason Foumberg

This year I had a bit of a different perspective on the art fair. It was the first time that Newcity exhibited our Breakout Artists, and in addition to selecting the artists for the cover story, I installed their art in our booth, on the twelfth floor, in Art Chicago. During installation, gallerists scrambled to unpack crates, boxes littered the hallways as rock music spread over the speakers, carpenters and electricians with handcarts scuttled about the booths like bees in a hive. Some booths, reserved by galleries from farflung locales, remained volcano-delayed and empty until the zero hour when their crates finally arrived. Bulbs were screwed into place, sculptures dusted, the music turned off, and then there was an eerie calm. The gallerists sat down at their tables, applied lipstick, straightened ties, and waited. Although I’ve installed exhibitions before, it was a humbling experience to see hundreds of galleries prepare for a massive opening in tandem. I wanted them all to succeed.

For as much hope as the art fair stirs in me, it delivers an equal amount of dread. Though we were a show booth only, and not set up for sales, manning the booth recalled my days working at a commercial gallery, and by instinct I started flashing my waxy grin to stoic faces. And who were all those faces? Go to enough gallery openings in Chicago and you’ll recognize the same twenty people, but here were streams of strangers, all apparently interested in viewing contemporary art. Was this their annual art pilgrimage, like attending church on Christmas eve? Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Just Passing through Achim Zeman’s Site-Specific Installation

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In a Northwest-facing corner on the twelfth floor of the Merchandise Mart, German artist Achim Zeman perches near the top of a blue-and-yellow ladder with a tape measure in one hand and, in the other, a precisely cut strip of vinyl tape so red it buzzes. He pauses to inspect the color-coded printout of the master plan for his installation. “Insight on site” is a vertiginous use of electric red vinyl tape applied directly to the wall in ambling lines. Zeman makes a mark on the wall, leans down to pick up a level, peels the back off the vinyl tape, drops the curled backing to the floor and presses the tape to the wall. He smoothes it flat and parallel to the twenty-seven other vibrant red horizontal lines affixed there.

Scattered around the room, eight volunteers work similarly and in silence doing the same, over and over. Each devises their own way to place the vinyl tape properly and track which lines remain to be taped.

Nominally, Zeman is an installation artist, and this red-striped piece he’s working on is located in the main speaking venue on the Art Chicago floor of Artropolis, an enormous contemporary-art-cum-antique fair taking place this weekend at the Merchandise Mart. The formula for his work is color, provided by electric red vinyl tape, and geometric pattern—in this case, lines. These two visual elements he adapts to highlight some aspect of the room in which they appear. Here, he explains, it’s all about the corners and creating graphic discontinuity that doesn’t line up with the three-dimensional features of the wall. Read the rest of this entry »