Review: Angel Otero in Conversation at Soho House Chicago

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Chicago’s private and exclusive membership club hosted a panel discussion last Friday night in conjunction with Angel Otero’s opening at Kavi Gupta Gallery. Julie Rodrigues-Windholm (MCA) and Erin Dzeidzic (The Kemper Museum) joined artists Angel Otero and Jose Lerma in the club’s music room for a discussion on process, Puerto Rico, and craft cocktails. In fact, most of the audience had slithered into a state of disillusionment once the conversation hit hour two. The question and answer portion was just sloppy.

CBJQRw4UgAA8Gp5Twitter pic by Expo Chicago https://twitter.com/expochicago

Organized by Kavi Gupta Gallery, the panel’s introductions were brief and informative. Each member spoke to parts of Angel’s professional trajectory: his undergraduate and graduate career here in Chicago at SAIC, his 2009 and 2014 selected group exhibition at the MCA, Otero’s inclusion in the Gautreaux Collection and The Kemper’s current show, and furthermore as a Kavi Gupta gallery artist. Also on the panel was Chicago’s own master chef Michael Kornick, who crafted the signature jungle juice.

In 2009, Rodrigues-Windholm boldly placed Otero’s Exquisito in a “grouping” with Sigmar Polke’s Ashes to Ashes in the MCA painting show Constellations. Angel’s sculpture Trophies was most recently on view at the MCA in Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo in 2014. The artist and curator spoke to the shifting modalities of 2D and 3D art making processes and where the artist’s memory of life in Puerto Rico exists in his work. Angel’s preference for creating large-scale, mixed media work, of which encapsulate moments of his life on the island, push the materials to the forefront of the conversation through non-objective imagery. Working on oil skins, Angel’s work is saturated with gestural mark making, specifically of red and black in Gupta’s current exhibition Lavo.

Unfortunately, Dziedic and Lerma barely spoke during the two-hour event- as sharing corded mics can get technically complicated. While the front row-ers stuck it out in their plush leather seats for the talk’s entirety, most of the fashionable crowd lingered around the punch bowl, taking selfies. I even think Angel’s over-served BFA studio mate was there.

Can we really meaningfully engage with artistic practices at a venue that fosters trendiness over critical thinking? I’d skip Soho House’s attempt for art programming and head to Kavi Gupta’s gallery to view Angel Otero’s work.

11102769_10100952835302607_3024535435384893152_nFolks celebrating Otero’s opening at Kavi Gupta Gallery on 3/28/15

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