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Feature Thu Sep 27 2012

Kelly's EXPO Recap (Complete with Deplorable iPhone Documentation)

crowd.JPGIn case you haven't heard by now, EXPO was good -- really good, and filled with museum-quality work. Little-seen gems by established icons hung next to ambitious new works by burgeoning talent. The overall quality of the work was astounding, as well as level of organization and class of the fair itself. I was left unimpressed by very few booths, and my only quibble is that the fair was only up a few days and I only made it there for one of them. Granted, the smell of commercialism wafted through EXPO, just like the rest of Navy Pier -- this was an art fair, after all, and it seemed that sales were ubiquitous on opening night. I enjoyed rubbing elbows with stylish, important-looking well-to-dos, and picking the goofy artists out of the crowds of goofy collectors. Make no mistake, this is great news for Chicago, and I for one am happy as hell to welcome EXPO (and the rest of the world, for that matter) to the city. We know we're awesome, but until last weekend, I don't think everyone else did.

Material-wise, paint definitely dominated the fair. I learned about a ton of new painters, saw some exiting new work by artists I'd admired long ago, and discovered some fantastic pieces I'd never seen before by legends like Phillip Pearlstein and Kerry James Marshall.


Phillip Pearlstein, "Mercury and Accordian II"


Kerry James Marshall

Natalie Frank showed arresting portraits with glassy eyeballs seemingly materializing themselves from a mess of Ab-Ex style gestures.


Natalie Frank, "Portrait 4"

Ian Davis showed a charming painting of suited men on rooftops, all pointing in the direction of an unseen phenomenon, amidst neon pink puddles of water on the roofs, seemingly reflecting a beautifully toxic sky.

IanDavis rooftopsjpg.jpg

Ian Davis, "Rooftops"

Tracy Nakayama showed moody, figurative paintings of bohemian-looking youths bathed in blue light.


Tracy Nakayama

Jason Martin focused on the materiality of the paint, creating sensual abstracts on aluminum, using only the light reflected off of the surface of the paint itself to create depth and highlights.

Jason Martin.JPG

Jason Martin, "Vices"

Trenton Doyle Hancock showed a couple charming, slightly loopy abstract collages, bringing to mind, perhaps, a 21st century Phillip Guston (whose work was also on display at the fair, if I remember correctly).

trenton doyle hancock.JPG

Trenton Doyle Hancock

Andrew Masullo (who recently had a big show at The Whitney) showed a bunch of small, colorful abstract paintings, which were playful yet compositionally mature, inciting great aesthetic pleasure in this viewer.

Andrew Masullo.JPG

Andrew Masullo

Although painting prevailed, if EXPO had a single artist star, I think it would be Jessica Stockholder (who is actually kind of the star of Chicago right now, if you consider her wildly popular "Color Jam" installation downtown this summer).

I've always liked Stockholder's work, but had no idea how influential she's been on contemporary sculptors (see: Veronica Bruce, for one) until I visited EXPO.

Maybe it has something to do with her relocating to Chicago recently, maybe not. In any case, her work was all over EXPO, in the booths of several galleries, and it was clearly catching people's eyes. As I frantically ran around on opening night trying to see everything in an hour, I heard several murmered mentions of her between collectors. I only regret I didn't get a decent picture of a single one of her pieces.


Jessica Stockholder, Untitled, photo courtesy of

Also on the sculpture front, Clemencia Labin showed some quirky little "wall blobs", as I like to call them.


Clemencia Labin, "Pulpa Cubo Pura"

Deborah Kass' neon "Enough Already" caught my eye and made me smile.

Deborah Kass.JPG

Deborah Kass, "Enough Already"

David Hammons' "Basketball Installation" filled out David Zwirner's booth nicely, the dirty basketball smudges on the wall reminding me that the fair is about the art just when I was beginning to think it was all about money.


David Hammons' "Basketball Installation", photo courtesy of Newcity

A rare (and damn funny) text-based piece by art star, Rikrit Tiravanija hung just around the corner from a few other texties (as I like to call them) by Mel Bochner.


Rikrit Tiravanija, "All You Need is Dynamite"

One thing the fair did seem to be lacking was good photography. Of course there was some, like Lori Nix's large-scale, breathtaking photographs, but not a whole lot.


Lori Nix, "Botanic Garden"

My guess is that photographs are harder to sell. And that's what EXPO is really for -- selling. And my guess is that a lot of selling went on, by Chicago standards, at least. My guess is that our art market is on its way up, and EXPO Chicago was a big boost in the right direction.


*Make sure to check out Britt Julious' EXPO coverage as well!

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

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