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Art Sun Nov 04 2012

A Return to Form: SOFA 2012


Norman Mooney. AMBER STAR No. 2

SOFA is a fair of history. This is evident upon first entering Festival Hall at Navy Pier and was especially noticeable on opening night of the 19-year-old fair. Unlike the weariness masked as over-jubilant fervor of the inaugural EXPO CHICAGO, the spirit of SOFA (Sculpture Objects Functional Art + Design) is born out its familiarity for visitors and for collectors.

Although SOFA has spent more years on view at Festival Hall than EXPO CHICAGO, the layout of the fair felt cramped and constraining. Perhaps there was too much to be seen, but walking through the space, aisles were not configured to account for the delicacy of the works on view. Unlike traditional fine and visual art fairs, SOFA's focus on furniture and home-based sculptural work means that a certain level of consideration must be implemented in order to provide a welcoming and open space. But this is only a small point, and as a whole, the fair's most successful galleries and artists employed a knowing wink to audiences that felt charming and whimsical.

Two of the most enigmatic works at the fair were created by Sally Rogers (Riley Galleries). Axis and Daedelus's size were larger than the majority of the works on view and facilitated a commanding presence. Like many of her past sculptures, the two works incorporate a variety of different, hard, industrial materials such as copper, fabricated steel, and stone. Unlike many of the other works, Rogers' sculptures are visually imposing and physically powerful.


Artist Joan Rasmussen's installation at Next Step Studio & Gallery was a dark, seemingly fairy tale-esque series of eerie, hanging doll sculptures. Accompanying each doll was a phrase or play on a common saying. The figurines had somber, humanistic faces that were at once haunting and whimsical.


White Forest II

New Mexico's Jane Sauer gallery describes artist Leslie Richmond's works as two-dimensional, but upon seeing them in person, that description appears limited. Richmond's flat, forest-like works entice the eye from afar and reveal layers of intricacy and precision up-close. Each hanging sculpture (and sculpture feels like the only appropriate way to describe them) is densely-packed and painted in more neutral colors of white and gold, are ghost-like in their appearance, as if static in place and time.

Although many of the galleries employed unique individual artists, London's Sarah Myerscough Fine Art was one of the most consistent spaces of the weekend. On his website, Ernst Gamperl has a page called, "Wood in Progress," giving viewers the opportunity to break down and further understand his process of creation.


At SOFA, the audience was able to view this final product in the form of his oversized decorative bowls that appear more fabric-like than wooden. This is not a knock on his design, only a recognition of the skill Gamperl employs in creating his works. There is a certain level of intricacy evident not only in his work, but in the works on view and for sale as a whole that makes SOFA so enjoyable in the first place. Also on view in the space were two Bud Latven sculptures, Spiral Conic 2 and Spiral Impact 7. The works were sleek and precise, demonstrating a level of control and delicacy toward form that also resonated throughout the space.

SOFA ends today, Sunday, November 4. The fair runs from noon to 6pm and tickets are $15. Student, senior and group tickets are also available.


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