Expo Chicago, Sept 18-21, is the “Back-to-School fair” for the art world. First up following the summer season, it’s not a primary event, but one that is useful and certainly offers highlights. Exhibitors hail internationally to serve an audience that is primarily Midwestern. A great city to visit, Chicago is a first-class destination for architecture, ranks at the top for outdoor, public sculpture and boasts some truly inspiring private collections. I visited five of them while I was in town and they were memorable.
The afternoon of my arrival, I had just enough time to make a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art. I was happily greeted by Los Angeles-based artist, Amanda Ross-Ho’s inaugural public outdoor art project. Titled “The Character and Shape of Illuminated Things”, the work explores how photography mimics the ways in which we see. The artist has turned the entire plaza into a photography studio, complete with color calibration card.
The key exhibition inside the Museum is “Theaster Gates: 13th Ballad”. This presentation is an extension of “12 Ballads for Huguenot House” which was one of the most applauded installations at Documenta in Kassel, Germany, last summer. Gates is a deeply emotive artist and brings his authenticity to each sculpture, performance and urban intervention that he creates. Chicago-based and internationally acclaimed, his work was also presented by Kavi Gupta Gallery in a one-person exhibition.
The Fair has made a welcome return to Navy Pier. Now in its’ second year, management has rallied the community and is making a noble effort to ensure continuity. The afternoon preview allowed spacious and relaxed viewing. There was nothing too surprising but the caliber was solid and there’s always something to learn and a few jewels to find.
David Zwirner brought a tour de force painting by Lisa Yuskavage in three panels measuring about 15’ long. It’s first public viewing, the artist had withheld the piece in her studio since 2010. Matthew Marks offered a significant sculpture by Robert Gober. Susanne Vielmetter featured a strong presentation for painter, Monique Van Genderen. Barbara Mathes put together another beautifully curated booth spotlighting Jack Pierson. Chicago’s Alan Koppel Gallery showcased an excellent range of work from refined photography by Hiroshi Sugimoto to contemporary sculture by Rebecca Warren.
A section of the Fair titled “Exposure” was dedicated to participation by newer galleries who have been in operation for seven years or less. Each highlighted one or two artists from their program. The standout installation was presented by Jessica Silverman Gallery of San Francisco with her artist, Shannon Finley, who lives and works in Berlin. The paintings are acrylic on canvas backed by wallpaper also created by the artist.
It’s hard to resist a walk through Millenium Park on any visit to Chicago. Anish Kapoor’s sculpture dazzles the crowd and Jaume Plensa’s heroic fountain continues to thrill as his object sculpture proliferates around the globe. Millenium Park was completed in 2004. In 2009 the Nichols Bridgeway was opened which connects the park to the third floor of the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, both of which were designed by Renzo Piano. Striding the 620’ long bridge to the doorstep of the Art Institute is to transit from one great treasure to another.