Greg Bogin for Leo Koenig
David Klamen for Richard Gray
Ettore Spalletti for Galarie Lelong
Tom Wesselmann for Galerie Terminus.
This being my first art fair experience, I walked into Navy Pier last Friday with a pessimistic expectation. I’ve heard tons of negative feedback about the quality of work and experience of the venue at Expo Chicago. I was ready for a Sam’s Club-like experience filled with tons of bad painting and archaic sculpture. But, after about 15 minutes of browsing I found myself pleasantly surprised by some of the work I saw. Looking past the convention center atmosphere and the false gallery booths I actually began to decipher a number of pretty arousing pieces.
Greg Bogin’s Sci Fi/Pop Artish/Post-Minimal/Color field painting (whatever category it falls in) and fluorescent urethane casted sculpture caught my eye for sure. I’ve seen Bogin’s work online but I’ve never gotten a chance to encounter it in person. It was great to see the rounded dimensionality of his wall piece and the high quality finish he uses on his painted gradients. I was particularly jazzed on the speckled black and purple border of the painting, and to be frank, it was really that fucking rad. Brought me to ruminate some of my childhood Easter experiences of eating those speckled easter egg candies.
Browsing along, sifting through the good from the bad I noticed some great late 60’s early 70’s work from John McCracken, Ed Rushca, Carlos Cruz-Diez , Rauschenberg, and Warhol. The Tom Wesselman in the Galerie Terminus booth was one of the best pieces of his I’ve seen. Bordering both object and painting, his shaped painting of a faceless nude woman drifiting back into an odd perspective is perplexing, smart, and funny. Rendered in his typical pop art palette with soft edges, air brushed gradients, and a lack of detail; this painting is sexy!
Other highlights I saw was David Klamens painting of a galaxy painting in a museum, Ettore Spalletti sliced edge wall piece, and Andreas Lolis cardboard and styrofoam objects made in marble. All in all the bad might have slightly outweighed the good, but the good was great enough to keep me in the facility for 2 hours. It was definitely exciting to see such a wide range of works in one container, regardless of how over saturated the venue was.
Andrew Falkowski and Karl Erickson. The Suburban
The space was consumed and pleasantly overwhelming. Saturated glowing colors intwewoven with barely legible text and information that was meant to invite and push the viewer away simultaneously. The History of the pattern making, that is called “Razzle Dazzle”, was to create a vibration in the visual perceception of information to distort the object. In this case the vibration was an interior space with small “Knights” helmets formed from paper that also possessed the same pattern making as the walls. The shear scale of the work consuming the space made you dizzy, not allowing your eyes to really focus on anyone particular thing, almost like a carnival attraction. The sculptures became lost in the field that was the wall conflating object and space. If you didn’t puke you had a “fun” and visually stimulating experience
A friend, who recently completed her MFA, called me up the other day worried that she had gotten dumber since undergrad. She had come across some essays from college she had written and was both impressed and concerned how intelligent she sounded-varied vocabulary, smart ideas, compelling thesis. We both graduated from strong liberal arts programs and I could immediately relate to her concern, having recently read over some old philosophy papers of my own. And it makes me consider the possible intellectual dangers of pursuing an MFA.
I have learned invaluable information since coming to art school–about the contemporary art market, about how how to talk about work, how to write artist statement, how to enter the world as an artist and theories on how to stay afloat, etc–but it is very one-sided. The pass/fail system of my program allows for a certain amount of freedom to prioritise individually, but the motivation level in classes deemed not-100%-relevant-to-studio-practice seems to suffer.
I admit to enjoying total studio-emersion on one hand, but on the other hand I miss the rigorous academic atmosphere of my undergrad where I was able to explore subjects not directly related to my studio practice (which I continue to draw influence from) without being treated as an artist. Typically non-art-related courses such as Math or Science classes geared towards art majors have the potential for not being as challenging or informative as their traditional counterparts.
As artists, we are encouraged to absorb and reflect our environments, our brains, and experiences, and if presented material which is already partially digested through the art perspective, it becomes harder to find a fresh and sincere angle. The danger of such a narrow academic environment makes me question the benefits of a BFA all-together. I think it is far more interesting to approach art-making, not as a student of art and wholly art-centric individual who re-arranging a series of art-appropriate gestures within the context of art history, but as a critical thinker and generally curious individual with a fresh perspective on the world fueled by a conglomeration of a variety of experiences who chooses to express those ideas through art.
This year’s EXPO Chicago felt much like the 2012 fair with a similar showing of galleries and the wonderful interior environment designed by Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang Architects again adding elegance to the lounge areas (love those noodle couches!). The only marked difference was the absence of Jessica Stockholder whose work seemed to be present in every other booth last year.
Here’s my top five artist picks amidst the 120 galleries represented:
There was a strange mix of wall relief pieces from 1984 to 2013, but the same wild and unrestrained signature Pfaff style unified the collection presented by Carl Solway Galleries in Cincinnati. I’ve always been a huge fan of her work and the latest pieces utilizing honeycomb cardboard and paper lanterns she found through her travels through China are full of energy and noise.
I almost mistook Woodman’s work for a Matisse cut-out (which wouldn’t have seemed out of place next to the booth dedicated to Motherwell’s collages). Instead of painted paper, she utilizes glazed ceramic slab pieces and pots as collage elements against canvas. The result is far from crafty and it should be noted that Betty Woodman was 82 when she made this piece last year…what an absolute legend!
I’m sure I’m not the only one who was intrigued by the odd yet enthralling yellow urethane sculpture on show in Koenig and Clinton’s booth by Greg Bogin. The piece is incredibly seductive and well-lit to show the slight translucency of the material. It left me wanting to see more of Bogin’s work.
Who can resist fully inflated BBQ cardboard boxes and FedEx packing? These pieces are playful yet the level of their inflation makes me uneasy; I can almost hear the explosive pop should their pressure be released. On researching more of Murphy’s work, he is certainly not a ‘one-trick-pony’ as I had suspected and definitely one to watch.
Upson’s mattress drew me into an otherwise dull gallery booth; its fleshy forms and strange rectangular impression where we would expect a soft head-shaped imprint adds to the unsettling undertone of the piece. I assume it is made of cast silicone like her other mattress pieces (the scribbled label only listed her name) and this one has an even more disconcerting feeling with its size association to cots and infants.
I recently took a trip to Grand Rapids, MI for an ArtPrize event at the UICA. Having lived in a city for the past several years, I was instantly charmed by the small town feel of Grand Rapids but the art scene had the vibrancy of a city twice its size. Recently christened “the new Austin”, Grand Rapids is quickly gathering speed on the art front–particularly since the ArtPrize started in 2009. Admittedly, few of the entries I saw there were memorable but what I took away was the sheer collective enthusiasm of the city itself.
I love Chicago but there seems to be an underlying bitterness agitated by its competition towards NYC and LA, and its struggle to keep its young artists/recent MFA grads from moving out. One of my professors suggested Chicago needs more galleries which cater to young artists and there needs to be more connections between MFA programs and these galleries to establish relationships before these artists move away.
From what I could tell, Kendall College graduates and professors seem to run the up-and-coming art scene in Grand Rapids. A young scene like this isn’t jaded yet, and doesn’t have the struggle of hierarchy within the gallery scene. It was refreshing to be among artists and gallerists with a sense of optimism. Obviously Chicago, having an established place in the art market, cannot ignore its history and cannot/should not strive for a small-town up-and-coming-at-scene attitude, but I do think that a healthy dose of enthusiasm and a good night’s sleep would go a long way.