Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Breakout Artists 2013: Chicago’s Next Generation of Image Makers

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Cover by Edie Fake, 2011 Breakout Artist

Cover by Edie Fake, 2011 Breakout Artist

By Jason Foumberg, with contributions from Abraham Ritchie, Bert Stabler, Pedro Velez and Meredith Wilson.

What is contemporary Chicago art? What is a contemporary Chicago artist? These used to be dirty questions, ones you didn’t want to answer because they could pin you down, box and tag you, and file you away. Remember Chicago Imagism? Yeah, we can’t forget it. It’s enough to say that contemporary Chicago art is not a thing; it is an ecology. In other words, it is alive, and its diversity keeps it thriving.

This is our tenth annual selection of Breakout Artists. Each year, a handful of artists catch our eye—at exhibitions, in studios, or on the web, and we recognize something Chicago-ripened about their way of being and making. We want to press pause on the streaming channel of contemporary reality, and say, hey, this is what right now looks like. We want you to see it, too.

Breakout Artists 2012: Chicago’s next generation of image makers

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Cover by Plural, 2011 Breakout Artist

By Jason Foumberg
with contributions from Lee Colon

Breakout Artists is our annual selection of Chicago’s best emerging artists. The 2012 selection is dedicated to artists who collaborate—with the community, with other artists, and with the city itself. Their medium is ephemeral, their message is inclusive. Public and performance art practices are an exciting way to re-envision how the city operates socially, culturally and geographically.

Every week Newcity’s art section dives head first into this city’s vast art scene, but the Breakout Artists issue gives us a chance to step back, survey the city in total, and reflect on the history and future of Chicago art. The seven artists here represent the forward momentum of contemporary art, and they were chosen to offer you—reader, maker, thinker—our picture of the new.

Click the page numbers below to see each of this year’s Breakout Artists. For previous editions, click here.

Breakout Artists 2011: Chicago’s next generation of image makers

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Cover by Alex Valentine, Breakout Artist 2009

By Jason Foumberg

This is the ninth issue of Breakout Artists, our annual selection of Chicago’s best emerging visual artists. Chicago is a visually stimulating city with tons of energy and room to thrive. It’s no wonder that artists find it an inspiring place to create. This year we are expanding our own definitions to include designers and illustrators, who contribute to our visual landscape as much as gallery artists do. Breakout Artists make fresh, innovative and compelling work—see for yourself.

Newcity’s Breakout Artists are on view in booth 34  at NEXT, floor 12 of the Merchandise Mart, April 29-May 2. Read the rest of this entry »

Breakout Artists 2010: Chicago’s next generation of image makers

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Design: Ryan Swanson

By Jason Foumberg

This is the eighth issue of Breakout Artists, our annual selection of Chicago’s best emerging visual artists. This year is the first time that the Breakout Artists cover story includes an exhibition component, and since the issue always coincides with Art Chicago, it fits that our artists are showing in the fair. In years past we’ve easily showcased artists with performative and community-based projects. This year, the exhibition gives us the opportunity to focus solely on artists who are strong image and object makers, and who are committed to representing our contemporary moment through a visual idiom.

Newcity’s Breakout Artists are on view in booth 12-165 at Art Chicago, floor 12 of the Merchandise Mart, April 29-May 3. Read the rest of this entry »

Breakout Artists 2009: Chicago’s next generation of image makers

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Layout 1By Jason Foumberg

You’re not going to find an abstract painter in the bunch of this year’s breakout artists. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s getting difficult to define the value of traditional, solo practices in the age of the networked artist. Today’s image makers are less studio artists than opportunists in the expanded field, less gatekeepers of taste than trailblazers in the public sphere—“social entrepreneurs,” as Mike Bancroft calls it. The timing is just right. As this feature is printed, Chicago’s renowned but diminished commercial art fair has opened its doors to include the city’s beloved alternative, artist run and non-profit spaces. The market’s embers are cooling off, and for many that smells like opportunity. Read the rest of this entry »

Breakout Artists 2008: Chicago’s next generation of image makers

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By Jason Foumberg, with contributions from Brittany Reilly

The Department of Cultural Affairs and the Chicago Artists’ Coalition report that there are an estimated 80,000 artists and “creative types” in Chicago. So it was an exceedingly difficult decision to feature seven, or about one one-hundredth of one percent of the 80,000. The criteria for inclusion were based loosely on the notion of an emerging artist—youngish, industrious and under-recognized—but as Luke Batten of New Catalogue mentioned, artists are always emerging. True enough. The seven Chicago artists deemed 2008’s Breakouts exhibit a propensity toward change, as if a ceaseless interest in learning new things and playing with new materials are the marks of the contemporary artist. Artists are less and less becoming pigeonholed in their own practice, for everything is available, all the time. No longer is there a need to specialize, unless self-reinvention is a specialty.

Kelly Kaczynski

Kelly Kaczynski has built two mountains that will crash into each other. “I don’t make small things,” remarks Kaczynski as she modestly gestures toward her mountains, each a sixteen-foot-tall kinetic sculpture, a spiraling scaffold of raw lumber and metal armatures. Visitors to the her exhibition at Hyde Park Art Center are asked to ascend the stairs to a stage—there are two of them that face each other, each with its own mountain—and to grab a rope, and pull. Underneath the stage is a pulley system that moves these mountains, as if the person activating the rope is riding plate tectonics. A bridge of pointed arms connects the hulking, twisting mountains. These will slowly dig into each other, pushing on the opposing spines that will buckle, crack and collapse. Read the rest of this entry »

The Five-Year Plan: Breakout Artists 2004-2007: Where are they now?

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By Rachel Furnari and David Mark Wise

To mark this fifth edition of Breakout Artists, we decided to check up on the artists we’d featured in the past and see where their careers have taken them. Read the rest of this entry »

Breakout Artists 2007: Chicago’s Next Generation of Image Makers

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By Michael Workman and Jason Foumberg

It’s purely by accident that this year’s edition of our annual showcase of Chicago’s emerging artists ended up focusing almost exclusively on such “newer” art forms as photography, video and curation. Accidental, but entirely appropriate, since the newly reborn Art Chicago and associated shows at the Mart will offer no shortage of painting and sculpture as the city surges with communal art appreciation, at least for a week.
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Breakout Artists 2006: Chicago’s next generation of image makers

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By Michael Workman

Against the backdrop of a Warhol show breaking attendance records at the MCA, the desire to break down any remaining distinctions between culture and fine art, to demolish any remaining boundaries on the making of art, have never been stronger. The very idea of art as only a visual medium is no longer a given, a notion that simultaneously invigorates the practice while challenging its remaining conventions and support systems. In that light, or darkness, we offer a look at a handful of yet-unsung Chicago artists who are doing their part.
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Breakout Artists 2005: Chicago’s Next Generation of Image Makers

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By Michael Workman, with Michael Weinstein

In a year marked by the tragic death of Ed Paschke, the demise of several key galleries and the frustrating confusion of the art-fair wars, we can only take solace in the quality of the work. Chicago remains a fertile field for emerging artists. In the nurturing spirit of Paschke, here’s to doing our part for helping “emerging” become “established.”
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