Rarely have I felt the sting of my own digital poverty to the degree that I did today, my first day at Art Chicago, which would have been so much more pleasant had I not been lugging a flippin’ laptop around for hours (I thought they’d have Wi-Fi in the press room and I could blog every so often while on -the-go, but alas, there were no such free connections, and so my laptop was about as useful to me as the proverbial ton of bricks and quickly starting feeling that way). Rendering me even more the unwieldy dinosaur was the fact that I do not presently own an iPhone or similar small multipurpose lightweight phone and texting device that would allow me to Tweet my reactions to things on the spot, which would have saved time on the front end of things (or is that the back end? I don’t even know, I’m so tired right now) and now that I’m home I don’t have the energy to fully recap everything I saw in a manner that will do it all justice. Oh and did I mention that I also don’t have my digital camera at the moment? Yeah. An iPhone would have helped with that too.
But apart from all that I thought NEXT was pretty great, and I spent my day exclusively there on the 7th floor of the Merchandise Mart, with plans to “do” the Art Chicago portion tomorrow (the latter being the part devoted to the more established galleries, while Next focuses on up-and-comers, emerging artists, the fresh and the new, etc.).
Art Chicago is extremely well-run and I thought the floor devoted to Next looked terrific. Clean, bright, and surprisingly spacious booths for the exhibitors. I felt like I could breathe and actually look at things, tho this, as with all Fairs, isn’t the place to try and digest too many big ideas. This was my first time at Art Chicago, but they had plenty of super nice Mart employees stationed right when you walk in to guide everyone to the right place with hardly a blip of initial confusion. The first thing I did after checking in (and pouting internally about the lack of Wi-Fi) was zoom to the 7th floor to catch the first panel scheduled for that day, “Crisis and Opportunity: Programming and Exhibitions in the New Economy,” which was part of the “CONVERGE Chicago: Contemporary Curators Forum” program.
I loved the set-up for NEXT Talk Shop, the area devoted to the panels and discussions. It’s basically a lounge, with rows of chairs facing the speakers but some comfy couches and tables towards the side. It’s not in a separate room but totally open to the rest of everything else, so that it’s easy to drop in late or leave early without causing offense or undue commotion. A perfect way to stage these sorts of discussions in this context. The Crisis and Opportunity panel was great, and if I have the energy later on I’ll post bullet points from the presentations and discussion, but I would encourage everyone attending the fair to check out at least one of the panel discussions scheduled in the NEXT Talk Shop area — it’s comfy, the audio and visuals are working well, the speaker line up is fantastic, and it provides a nice sort of palette cleanser in between all the frenzy of the visual.
Except, NEXT isn’t really frenzied at all, and that’s what is so refreshing about it. I expect it will be a lot more crowded tomorrow and there were certainly plenty of people there today, but the booths were all concisely curated, and each focused on only one or two artists rather than the full slew of what a gallery has to offer. Don’t miss the Goffo section of NEXT, which had a really fun, laid-back yet energized feel to it. There were a lot of great, ultra-affordable artworks, books, prints and small editioned pieces. Also in the Goffo section was Tara Strickstein’s Jelly Roll: The Spectacle, which involved a cute girl (was in the artist herself? not sure) wrestling various volunteer (?) participants in a rubber pool filled with some type of silicone crystals. Scoops of the sweat-soaked, hair and skin-coated crystals were bottled after each performance and sold as multiples, although I neglected to ask for how much.
Once I get my hands on a camera I may go back and photograph some of the booths, but for now here are just a few of the artists whose work caught my eye in a good way, in no particular order. Consider this just a teeny slice of what there is to see (all of the images below are lifted, but these are the actual works that are on view at NEXT right now).
Ben Gest at Steven Daiter Gallery
Jesse McLean, “Somewhere Only We Know,” (6 min. video), part of Gallery 400’s special project for NEXT, “Better to light a candle than curse the dark.”
Carlos & Jason Sanchez, Light + Sie Gallery
John Sparagana at CTRL Houston (he has a piece up at Tony Wight Gallery right now, too):
Sangbin Im at Dean Project
Florian Sussmayr, Nicholas Robinson Gallery, New York