Cover art by Hebru Brantley, Breakout Artist 2013
By Jason Foumberg
Breakout Artists is our annual showcase of Chicago artists we think you should know. This is our eleventh edition.
There are many power lists now that permeate the art media, and readers often wonder why we make these lists, and how the lists are made. Breakout Artists is not a competition or a ranking list. Here we do not feature the most powerful, nor do we speculate who will rock the art market, nor do we tally how many exhibits they had at prestigious galleries. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Some of our Breakout Artists are big thinkers who work quietly underground. Some don’t sell things called artworks. Several are simply creative people who happen to find a happy home in the catchall “art world.”
Breakout Artists is a chance to spotlight a handful of artists who are making art in Chicago in the margins of institutional support. Often they craft their own institutions to circulate and validate art. Some engage alternative systems of value and distribution, including independent presses, the internet, public performances and open-source materials. None currently have gallery representation. This year’s bunch are notable for their ability to make meaningful art using what’s at hand.
Every year when assembling the shortlist of Breakout Artists, I dutifully count the number of woman artists, brown artists, black artists, gender non-conforming artists, artists who didn’t graduate from SAIC or any art college at all, and on through the diversity checklist. If Breakout Artists is our chance to showcase underrepresented artists, then the presentation should be inclusive. I think about diversity when considering Breakout Artists, but there is no quota to fill. Diversity plays a role here, but it does not determine the final list.
This was the first year that an artist rejected her inclusion in Breakout Artists. The artist queried the line between “emerging artist” and whatever comes after that, and she had determined she is already in the after-that phase of her career. We can publish articles about whomever is newsworthy, and don’t need participation to do so. But who has ever argued they are too famous for more press? This year I included only the people who wanted to be here. Read the rest of this entry »