Our latest episode of Fielding Practice, Bad at Sports’ special podcast produced exclusively for the Art21 Blog has just posted — you can listen to it here. This month, we talk to artists Pamela Fraser and John Neff about Spectral Landscape (with Viewing Stations), the group exhibition they’ve curated for Gallery 400 at the University of Chicago, Illinois, which is on view through June 9, 2012. Spectral Landscape explores color “as both a formal and a social force,” and arrays artworks around the gallery according to a loose color spectrum. We asked Fraser and Neff to tell us more about the concept behind this excursion into color, and as always, we bring you our picks for some of the most interesting events and exhibitions coming up this month in Chicago. So visit the Art21 blog to download the podcast and listen to the conversation. And thanks so much for tuning in!
Work by Greg Stimac
Andrew Rafacz Gallery is located at 835 W. Washington. Reception Saturday, 4-7pm.
Work by Stacia Yeapanis
Chicago Artists’ Coalition is located at 217 N. Carpenter St. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Work by Kristina Paabus and David Leggett
Hinge Gallery is located at 1955 W. Chicago Ave. Reception Saturday, 6-9pm.
Work by Olivia Valentine
Happy Collaborationists Exhibition Space is located at 1254 N. Noble St. Reception Saturday, 6-10pm.
Work by Aesthetic Apparatus, Ashkahn, Scott, Barry, Deanne Cheuk, Josh Cochran, Michael Coleman, Jim Datz, DEMO, Rachel Domm, E. Rock, Anna Giertz, J. Namdev Hardisty, Steven Harrington, Maya Hayuk, Andrew Holder, Gluekit, Cody Hudson, Imeus Design, Jeremyville, Kaleidophant, Landland, Daniel Luedtke, David Maron, Marque & Anna Wolf, Blake E. Marquis, Scott Massey, Garrett Morin, Rinzen, Andy Mueller, Chris Silas Neal, Mike Perry, Pietari Posti, Luke Ramsey, Seripop, Chris Rubino, Nathaniel Russell, Joel Speasmaker, Marcroy Smith, Andy Smith, Sonnenzimmer, Jim Stoten, James Victore, and Hannah Waldron.
Public Works is located at 1539 N. Damen Ave. Reception Friday, 7-10pm.
Last month would have been the latest round of NEXT/Art Chicago, Chicago’s annual art fair at Merchandise Mart. I say would have been, because early in February, it was announced that NEXT/Art Chicago had been cancelled. The announcement came suddenly, and on fairly short notice: we had already received our VIP invitation, and were planning on sending our students to the fair on a field trip. News of the fair’s cancellation first came to my attention via Facebook, the New American Paintings blog, and Chicago Art Magazine. By the following day the story had become the talk of the town, and WBEZ ran a story including an interview with Tony Karmen, VP of Art Chicago from 2006 to 2010, who recently left to start his own Chicago art fair, Expo Chicago.
As the dust of the announcement has settled over the past two months, we’ve been left to reflect on the potential consequences of the cancellation of Art Chicago, and perhaps more importantly, its significance as an indicator of which way the wind is blowing for Chicago’s future as an art city. At the end of that WBEZ story, host Tony Sarabia asked Allison Cuddy for her closing thoughts: “It’s a fascinating story, I think we’ll carry through the day working on the story, and think about the relevance of art fairs to the overall art scene in Chicago.”
The end of NEXT/Art Chicago and the beginning of Expo Chicago invite some speculation as to the role art fairs can play. In her recent article for FNews Magazine, Sarah Hamilton interviewed some local art world players, including Tom Burtonwood, Aron Gent, and Tony Karmen about their thoughts on the end of Next Art Chicago, and the dawn of Expo Chicago. Hamilton also cites an article by Jerry Saltz in which he describes Adam Lindeman’s view that art fairs should exist solely for the benefit of high-dollar collectors as “autocoprophagic.”
Must the merit of an art fair be determined on economic grounds alone? Who do they serve? Are art fairs a simple facilitation of the business transaction between gallerists and collectors? Not that there’s anything wrong with this; those transactions are how artists make their livings. But need this be the limit of what an art fair is?
As an educator, I had been bringing my college art classes to NEXT/Art Chicago (facilitated by the really easy access to free passes), and had been looking forward to having Expo Chicago as a Fall Semester counterpoint. Of course, the very accessibility that would have facilitated this access for my students is the antithesis of the “wall…[made] out of gold or marble,” which my friend Tom Burtonwood, in Hamilton’s article, suggests Karmen build to “keep the riff raff away.” If Karmen follows Lindeman’s advice, and Burtonwood’s, he wouldn’t let my students anywhere near the place.
It’s easy for a teacher like myself to expect art fairs to provide students with a free art-viewing experience, but if art fairs aren’t profitable, they’ll cease to exist…at least, under the current, profit-motivated model. Tom (along with Lindeman) may be right about what’s good for the art business, and if he is, access may be a zero-sum game: what’s good for the art viewing public, having art fairs serve as a traveling carnival of art from around the world for their viewing pleasure, may be exactly the opposite of the exclusive atmosphere that allows them to exist in the first place.
But, and this may just be me and a bunch of other Johnny-and-Janie-Come-Latelys trying to ride the Occupy bandwagon, we could even wonder whether art fairs could exist under other terms, which need not even necessarily be profitable. Alternative models have been tried, including the numerous satellite fairs that spring up around Art Basel Miami Beach (Aqua, Scope, Pulse, Fountain, Verge, and about a dozen others), which can be seen as symbiotic organisms whose relationship with their host may be either parasitic, commensalist (beneficial to one, harmless to the other), or mutualistic (beneficial to both). The satellite fairs may draw buyers away from the main event, they may increase the overall buzz and street cred of an otherwise conservative event, or they may pick up some table scraps from the periphery without really affecting the main fair. Satellite fairs have followed both for-profit and non-profit models.
At the end of Hamilton’s article, Aron Gent muses that the loss of NEXT Art Chicago, and the success or failure of the upcoming EXPO, is no big deal: “Maybe we don’t need to worry about having kickass fairs. Maybe we should focus on taking artists and galleries down to Miami.” As an artist, I’d love to get my work in front of a new group of collectors, and any excuse to skip out on Chicago for a few days in December is a good one. I imagine the cost, and therefore the risk, for a Chicago gallery doing a fair are much higher when the venue is out of town, though, and for a lot of them it may not be worth the risk.
A homegrown fair, whether NEXT/Art Chicago, Expo Chicago, MDW, or something new, could conceivably be a means of attracting collectors local, national, and international, to look at and hopefully collect works by Chicago-based artists worthy of an international audience, without imposing the burden on artists or dealers on traveling and shipping the work to rent a booth at an art fair in another city. The challenge, though, remains as always to convince collectors that Chicago is a good place to spend their money. I was recently fortunate enough to have one of the pieces from my show at Linda Warren Projects acquired by Howard Tullman for his collection, and so at least at the moment, I am optimistic. There are collectors who buy from Chicago artists, and whether it’s at an art fair, from a gallery, or otherwise, they are the supporters who enable artists to continue making their work.
This past weekend Frieze mounted their inaugural New York fair on Randall’s Island in an extensive, 180 gallery showcase of contemporary art. With large financial backers like the Financial Times, BMW, and Deutsche Bank, it seemed the big concern on everyone’s mind regarded the state of the contemporary market as well as whether a new fair for Frieze stateside would prove to be a good investment. For all intense and purposes, it appears that Frieze made a good bet. Covering a large swath of commercial contemporary art movers and shakers, the fair catered well to not only the blue-chippers, but also to the more independently minded. Of the artists, critics, and curators that I talked to, the general sentiment was “As art fairs go, Frieze was pretty good.” I tend to agree with this sentiment even though the abundantly transparent “safeness” of galleries dominated the conversation. As a result, work on display was often limited to paintings and sculptures that reenforced the hierarchy of fine arts over more experimental practices. That being said, there were some good moments and what follows is a rough and tumble round up of noteworthy booths.
One thing that immediately struck me about Frieze was the amount of work on display from non-major player and specifically those considering themselves emerging art spaces. Galleries like Seventeen (UK), Tanya Leighton (DE), Bartolami and Team Gallery (both NYC) represented well, although again banking on somewhat safe measures. I wasn’t thrilled with what Team was showing, considering that they had a large corner booth right in front of the main entrance. A Banks Violette sculpture of #88 that Dale Earnhart Jr. drives in Nascar dominated a lot of attention in their space, but didn’t really hold up much beyond being a big metal sculpture. Tanya Leighton and Seventeen both showed work by Oliver Laric – Seventeen focusing more on wall pieces, and Tanya Leighton emphasizing more his exploration of variations in sculpture and rapid-prototyping with long time collaborator Aleksandra Domanovic. Tanya Leighton’s space was certainly popular and by Sunday it seemed as though they had sold a good portion of the show. I’d argue that these works are actually not the best pieces of these artist’s repertoire, but in the context of this fair they served as very acute examples of how to move a traditional fine art conversation into more digital, research based, experimental directions.
Where Tanya Leighton only showed these two, Seventeen showed a bit more of their stable crew. One work that really stood out to me was a series of pieces by Kate Owens called The Speaking Exercise. This series comprises of backwards facing, cheaply framed “poorly” (according to Seventeen manager Tim Steer) reproduced works by High Modernist masters like Josef Albers and Barnett Newman. The works are then tilted upwards against the white wall creating a saturated aura that speak to the original paintings. Although one would argue that this might appear to be a rather tired combination of cheap materials with canonical art history, the experience of the glow of these works is what propels them beyond being a simple one-liner and into elegant comments on the metaphysical materials of the avant-garde.
Bartolami’s booth, although slightly inconsistent for my tastes, had some fantastic works by Ben Schumacher that delicately tight-roped the line between very salable and very contemporary works in that they clearly evidence a need for reconsidering material, surface, and painterly form. The three gray works by Schumacher used a foamy and artificially rendered surface that seemed to seep through or over an infrastructure of mesh that covered the under layer of this “painting.” These works almost appeared as if rendered through the use of some preset glob brush in something like z-brush or mudbox, but the subtitles of patterning and flecked paint show a hand of the maker in what could otherwise be considered a personality-less work.
Besides some of these emerging spaces, some of the “bigger guns” of the fair also had good showings. Although mega-galleries like White Cube (UK) and Gagosian (Everywhere) basically acted like micro-museums/retrospectives, some of the other larger booths did display some worthwhile works and at times risky choices. One such large booth that I particularly liked was Contemporary Fine Arts from Berlin that showed about a handful of large mixed media works by Anslem Reyle. The combination of humor, high craft, and play on monumental tackiness mixed together well, however I thought that the more evident displays of the artists hand with purposeful sloppiness that existed on the outside of the booth were more interesting. The coldness of the interior pieces were certainly worthy of attention, but I felt like the humor of those works could’ve transcended the simplicity of their formal considerations if buttressed with pieces that more deliberately referenced painting, craft, and the artist at work.
Lisson (UK) was also one of those blue-chip galleries that had some fairly interesting artists on display. A plethora of experimental sound, electronics, and installation work from Haroon Mirza interspersed the space to create a sonic interjection into a primarily “silent” fair. Their decision to even display work of a non-traditional variety – albeit Mirza is one of the most digestible artist of this ilk – was a relatively gutsy move, particularly when juxtaposed with several large sculptural works by Ai Weiwei. This obviously attention seeking interruption worked in Lisson’s favor as I noticed that both times I thoroughly walked through this space I had to navigate troves of visitors and spectators. This is not to congratulate Lisson too much, but their effort to expand the fair out into mediums that rarely get proper displays within this context was definitely something that stood out within the fair.
One of my favorite booths was without a doubt Elizabeth Dee (NYC) due to their very well rounded display of historical and contemporary works. The standout here was the six TV screens displaying a recent compilation of rarely-seen early video works by Adrian Piper. In a fair almost completely devoid of media works, Elizabeth Dee’s decision to show works that not only require headphones and a certain attention span, but also works intended for museum collection was a bold move. These videos were then nicely paired with some delicate painted pieces by Mark Barrow and a stunning optical wall piece by Philippe Decrauzat.
There were other notable statements from international booths, including a superbly put together booth by Galeria Vermelho from São Paulo, a great Chris Burden mock-up by Wien based Galerie Krinzinger, as well as some nice photographic works by Willie Doherty presented by Kerlin Gallery in Dublin. That being said, I was disappointed by the majority of the Frame project spaces for galleries established less than six years ago. These spaces, situated in the middle of the fair, were almost too safe by either showing conservative work or else relying solely on spectacle. That being said, 47 Canal‘s booth displaying work by Michele Abeles stood out amongst these spaces. The digital collages that blended scraps from previous works seemed both dense and flat at the same time. This series of roughly ten works created a tension showing an active (almost impatient) mind, willing to spread images and ideas evenly to sort through a personal past.
As stated above, the general sentiment of Frieze was both jolly and practical. Amidst the crowds of art enthusiasts one could find enjoyable work in regular frequency, and booths devoid of interested audiences were few and far between. Even though I would have liked to have seen more experimental work, the understandable need for predictability within the contemporary art market didn’t prove to make for a bland experience. See below more images of noteworthy works and booths of last weekend.
Work by Tim Piggott, Daniel G. Baird, Michael Una, Adam Farcus, E. Aaron Ross, Thad Kellstadt, Alex Bradley Cohen, Nick Peterson, Jim Zimpel/Anna Reich, Miguel Cortez, Kevin Jennings, Edra Soto, Jake Myers, Mathew Paul Jinks, Jourdon Gullett, Brian Wadford, Jerimiah Hulsebos-Spofford, Andrew CopperSmith, Rebecca Beachy, Frank Van Duerm, and Phil Parcellano.
TERRAFORMER is located at 3216 S. Morgan St. Reception Sunday from 4-8pm.
SMALL Showroom Opening Party at 3219 S. Morgan St. Reception 5-10pm
Dusty Groove Records Party at 755 W 32nd St. Reception 7-9pm
Enoch’s Donuts + Kevin Heisner’s Tool Party at 755 W 32nd St. Reception 6-9pm.
Paratext Bookstore at 755 W 32nd St. Reception 6-9pm.
Bridgepop SpringPop at 3143 S Morgan St. Reception 6-9pm.
Ray Emerick Studios Opening at 3149 S. Morgan St., #1. Reception 6-10pm.
Research House for Asian Art at 3217 S Morgan St. Reception 6-9pm.
All receptions on Friday between 5pm and 10pm.
Curated by Liz McCarthy. Work by Sarah Mosk, Caroline Carlsmith, Rebecca Beachy, Lauren Edwards, Sophia Cara Dixon, Emily, Lauren Beck, Robin Hustle, Ellen Nielsen, Meg Noe, Jenny Kendlre, Melissa Demasaukas, Alex Chitty, Megan Diddie, and Caroline Picard.
Roxaboxen Exhibitions is located at 2130 W. 21st St. Reception 7-10pm.
Work by A. Laurie Palmer.
Threewalls is located at 119 N. Peoria St., #2C. Reception Friday from 6-9pm.
Work by Shelby Lee Adams.
Catherine Edelman Gallery is located at 300 W. Superior St. Reception Friday 5-7pm.