A Chicago artist represented by a Berlin gallery. A Chicago gallery representing a New York artist. Growing global connections punctuated the dizzying network of art, artists, collectors, curators, gallerists and art enthusiasts that converged on Chicago’s famed Navy Pier for the fifth edition of EXPO Chicago, the city’s world-class art fair.
With two site-specific sections IN/SITU and EXPO Projects, as well as EXPO Video, an emerging gallery area, exhibitions and performances organized by local, national and international curators and artists, and a special display and symposium on Art & Language, EXPO spotlights a fascinating cross-section of contemporary art and ideas. In particular, this year’s EXPO did an excellent job of showcasing Chicago-based artists, galleries, and arts institutions, presenting local artists to the global art world and reinforcing the importance of Chicago as a cultural center.
Chicago artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle exhibited Cloud Prototype #2 and #4 at the Berlin-based Thomas Schulte Gallery. Their curving silver forms suggest a biomorphic plant/animal hybrid by way of a 3D printer. Sensuous, dazzling, and timeless in their appeal, they fit the fair’s aesthetic while hinting at ever-present concerns about the encroachment of technology on the natural world.
Anna Kunz, a Chicago painter represented by McCormick Gallery, showed a brilliantly colored abstract geometric painting, folded and crumpled into a three dimensional object. Her work interrogates the nature of color, the act of painting and the experience of visual pleasure. In EXPO Projects, she presented a large ceiling-hung painting, Warp (2016).
Nnenna Okore’s round floor-to-ceiling screens, titled Onwa N’etilu Ore, are woven of found and natural materials. Mounted on the glass window fronting Lake Michigan, they bring the spectacular lakefront setting into the show. Okore is among artists and curators exemplifying the current trend to embed culturally specific materials, traditions, and histories in global contemporary art contexts.
Chicago-born, New York-based artist Rashid Johnson showed an installation consisting of shea butter and chairs in the Monique Meloche Gallery space. A sly homage to (or revision of) Joseph Beuys’ Fat Chair (1985), the work references the all-but-forgotten airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper, a folk hero from the pre-9/11 era.
ART & LANGUAGE, among the ambitious special exhibitions on view, revisits work made between 1965 and 1972 by conceptual artists Mel Ramsden and Michael Bochner. Part of a private collection in Switzerland and unseen for forty years, these key works from the early history of conceptual art eschew aesthetics for a rigorous exploration of semiotics.
Partnering with local museums, galleries, arts institutions, and commissioning public installations, EXPO engaged with the art scene and the public sphere in Chicago. One of the charms of the fair was its location in the Festival Hall on Navy Pier. In a venue vast enough to hold the entire sprawling fair, EXPO saved some spots for fairgoers to gather, converse and connect.