As a high schooler in Suburban Atlanta, David Heo had an atypical extracurricular activity: He apprenticed at a tattoo shop, where he developed his love of drawing. “That was my only formal art education then,” says Heo, who now lives in Wicker Park. “I mentored with a guy named Dusty, and he taught me about line work and color combinations.”
Heo, 27, no longer inks. But his paintings and collages employ the airy gestures of a tattoo sketch, with lines emphasized in crayon or colored pencil. His tender portraits of young Asian Americans are intimate musings on everyday life: friends exchanging looks, a couple on the dance floor, a lone CTA rider. Several of these pieces will be on display as part of David Heo: Leviathan, his solo show at the Morgan Park gallery Boundary.
While studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he began unpacking the complexities of being the son of South Korean immigrants but feeling “way more American than Asian,” he says. “I always had the hardest time articulating my identity.” Recently, Heo has been depicting animals that symbolize racial or ethnic tropes, such as snarling dogs, a common feature in images tied to white supremacy. These works, which will also be represented in the show, seem much tenser than his earlier pieces. They carry a deliberate sense of danger. “I’m interested in depicting either the moment right before or after a violent act. We’ve grown so desensitized that it’s not even a shock when we hear about it.”
Five More Things to See
1 Early Civilizations, Remixed
Sept. 28–June 13
To celebrate its centennial, the Oriental Institute invited contemporary artists to reinterpret Middle Eastern artifacts from its prized collection. Look for the re-creation of a missing fragment of an Assyrian relief that Chicago-based Michael Rakowitz made using Iraqi food packaging and newspapers.
2 A Japanese Artist’s Bitter Visions of Society
Oct. 3–Dec. 14
Tetsuya Ishida’s paintings are surreal metaphors for the grim realities of his native Japan. This exhibition at the Lincoln Park gallery Wrightwood 659 is the late artist’s first U.S. retrospective, where 70 works serve as windows into a mind brimming with despair at contemporary life.
3 Goldfinger Meets Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe
Head to nearby Plano for this installation at the Farnsworth House, courtesy of the artist duo Luftwerk and architect Iker Gil. Laser beams will shoot through rooms, forming a glowing red grid that traces the composition of the famous house and its surrounding topography.
4 Andy Warhol Pops at the Art Institute
Oct. 20–Jan. 26
Consider this a chance to reacquaint yourself with an icon. Informed by writings and critical studies that have appeared since Warhol’s death in 1987, the retrospective goes far beyond a display of greatest hits, featuring such unexpected pieces as screen prints of sunsets and self-portraits in drag.
5 Hebru Brantley Builds a Playground
You’ve likely seen his aviation-goggled Flyboy murals all over town, but now the local artist is creating a Flyboy city. For Nevermore Park, Brantley will construct a nearly 6,000-square-foot installation in Pilsen meant to serve as the “hometown” of his iconic characters. — C.V.