Monthly Archives: September 2016

Installing Sabina Ott’s Work at Expo Chicago: A Consideration on Commerce in Art

Written by Cassie Kise


It began with an ordinary dull moment, scrolling mindlessly through my Facebook feed–a pause in the downwards motion of my thumb. I stopped and skimmed over a friend’s check-in at Mana Contemporary Chicago. Pictured was my friend, Anna, arms-deep in a mammoth amount of foam. Alongside the image a caption reads, “just had a wonderful day of working on the lovely Sabina Ott’s piece for EXPO chicago!” The entire scene looked rather outlandish and Anna looked like a little kid posing for her Mom–and as dorkish as it felt, I also wanted to be knee deep in the embrace of an absurd amount of foam. I emailed Anna, and was able to get in contact with Sabina and help with her EXPO install.


A couple weeks later, I found myself lost on Navy Pier, surrounded by the same tourism ethnoscape that exists along travel destination waterfronts throughout the U.S. Sabina had instructed that I meet her at “entrance b,” which seemed unlikely to exist in the same realm as Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Giordano’s. Eventually, I saw her outside, flailing in her arms in the same fashion that my grandmother does when we drive away from her home each summer.


I entered the convention center and Sabina led me upstairs to check-in. I received a florescent yellow name tag indicating that I was part of the Wednesday set-up crew. People scurried in and out of the convention center; speaking in a plethora of languages, and in a range of emotions. Many were wearing black pants, white shirts, with their iPhones glued to their ears as they hurried about; navigating around other individuals on power lifts, pushing carts, and wearing white gloves for handling precious cargo. It felt like living within Andreas Gursky’s photographs of the New York Stock Exchange.

A thought occurred to me as I watched the scene unveil before me; that many artists and visitors that attend EXPO every year critique EXPO for feeling like a garage sale, or a marketplace instead of focusing upon the art. Yet, after witnessing the energy and logistics of the set-up and the context of the Pier, it seemed as if it could not function as anything but a place of exchange.


After checking in, we tracked down some black coffee in small white paper cups, and I was introduced to others who were helping to complete the finishing touches. These individuals were folks that install shows in various parts of the city and they were busy running extension cords across the top of the sculpture, searching for remotes and Windex, sweeping up debris, and other silly odds-and-ends jobs that seem symbiotic with any small business. I ended up with one of the most crucial and banal tasks of all; scrubbing foam off the floor.

One of the wonderful aspects about having to do monotonous task is that it allows for a ton of time to focus on a subject. So while I wore the sponge to bits, I thought about the facade of the event in relevancy to the effort that is put forth to create such an event. As I felt myself trying to flush through my personal sentiments on the subject, Sabina would unknowingly pull me away from this inner dialogue of theory, asking if I needed more coffee, or a new sponge, and where I had learned to clean so well. I laughed, and answered “my mother”, tabling my seriousness and built-in critique mind set.

I ended up making it to the last couple hours on the Sunday of EXPO weekend. It was jarring, in the difference of energy, and in the contrast to my experiences of EXPO years prior. The involvement I had had with Sabina and the community of construction seemed to melt away the unapproachability of work I had felt during prior shows. In past years, I had felt the frustrations of balancing ideologies of how art should be versus commercial production and sales. Now it seemed out of necessity–in the realm of the Art Fair at least–that they must be one and the same, shattering a belief system priorly held. After such involvement, it seems that now I cannot help but lend my critique not of the specific works on view, but on the system that has been created to house such pieces of cultural commodity.




Expo Chicago: Review

Author: Nicholas Giorgini

Expo Chicago was something I had not experienced before.  I had heard so much about the Expo since I’ve lived in Chicago for over a year now.  It was not at all what I had expected.  From the walk all the way through Navy Pier’s mall, up to actually entering the Expo was an extremely odd experience.  The journey into the fair set a very peculiar frame for Expo that felt consumer centric.  The entire atmosphere of the fair was perplexing.  It’s rather odd as an art student, to go to a fair like the Expo, which is primarily for dealers and collectors.  As a student, most of the dealers felt unapproachable, they seemed to be mainly concerned with the potential collectors.  While very understandable, as it is a fair for dealers and collectors, it was an odd area for me to be in.  The food and drinks were overpriced as well.  Bottles of water were $5, while wine was $12 a glass or more.  The fair as a whole had the feel of a high school art show blown out of proportion, where the art is actually selling for large sums of money and the food and drinks are overpriced.  The event really seemed to be for the wealthy, students like myself would have to go back downstairs to Navy Pier’s shops to get food and drinks.

The art itself ranged from extremely uninteresting to very interesting.  There was so much work that was uninteresting that it’s fairly hard to remember the work I was interested in.  There was a particular German booth I was interested in with bronze and ceramic wall pieces, as well as oil and acrylic paintings.  When I inquired about these pieces the dealer just gave me a pamphlet which I looked at later.  The pamphlet was in German and I don’t speak German, so I was rather discouraged.  I don’t know if it was because I was obviously a student and not a buyer, or if she just didn’t know much about the artists and work she was showing, but I didn’t get much information from her either way.

There was a particular piece that puzzled me not as the viewer but as the person watching the people looking at it.  It was a cylindrical wall piece that had a mirrored back and mirrored interior walls.  The piece created an infinite visual space within it that just kept seemingly receding to the viewer.  People were absolutely amazed by the piece and even looked around the other side of the wall to check that it didn’t actually go through the wall.  I knew how this piece worked and was rather amused by their astonishment.  However, upon further thought, I realized that this is probably how the public views a lot of art.  As an artist I sometimes forget that I study and understand art differently than the general population, not in a snobby way, just in a practical way.  The one thing I really took out of Expo was this event.  I usually experience art in a gallery setting with other artists and other people interested in art.  A fair like Expo, really does have a wider scope than a regular gallery setting.  I suppose it’s rather disappointing that all I took from Expo was a changed perspective, I hoped that at least one piece would catch my eye.

Ear Taxi Festival


A music festival celebrating Chicago’s new music scene with a number of events including; concerts, lectures, marathons, webcasts and artist receptions.  For more information visit:

Harris Theater
205 E. Randolph Drive
Chicago  Illinois  60601

Painting in Time: Part Two



Distinguished Alumni Lecture Series

Founded by artists Warren Fischer (SAIC 1991–93) and Casey Spooner (SAIC 1989–93), Fischerspooner is an ongoing project about the relationship between art and entertainment.

September 21, 6 pm
SAIC Auditorium


Laurie Simmons lecture

Laurie Simmons

September 20, 6pm
Society for Contemporary Art
AIC, Rubloff Auditorium


Shannon Finley Opening at Carrie Secrist Gallery


Shannon Finley

September 17 – November 5, 2016

Opening, Saturday, September 17

Samantha Bittman Opening at Andrew Rafacz Gallery


Samantha Bittman
Picture Structure

September 17 – October 22, 2016

Opening, Saturday, September 17

Diane Simpson Opening at Corbett vs. Dempsey

Diane Simpson
September 9 – October 15, 2016

Opening, Friday, September 9, 6-8pm


Ben Rivers, Urth, Opening at The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago

Ben Rivers

September 10 – November 6, 2016

Opening, Saturday, September 10, 5-8 pm
Artist’s talk at 6pm