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Five Prime Spots to Discover Rising Local Artists

Where to find the Chicago art world’s next breakout talent

If you’re on the lookout for rising painters, sculptors, or photographers, September’s gallery shows are a good bet. Chicago asked the city’s top curators and collectors to share their favorite hunting grounds for artists on the cusp of stardom (read: value buys). Here, the five prime spots.

Rizzo-Orr’s 'Platform for Reaching the Fruit'
Rizzo-Orr’s Platform for Reaching the Fruit, 2016, $5,000 Photo: Courtesy of LVL3

The Annual

September 16 to 29. Chicago Artists Coalition, 217 N. Carpenter St., chicagoartistscoalition.org

Track Record:Dubbed an “exhibition of new Chicago art,” this group show is the quickest introduction to the local scene in a single gallery. Produced by the artist incubator Chicago Artists Coalition, the highly curated selection has included such burgeoning stars as painter Chelsea Culp, featured in this year’s Bienal de Nicaragua.

Talent Spotting:Multimedia artist Dan Rizzo-Orr’s unusual creations made from latex, steel, ceramic tile, and acrylic paint are among this year’s favorite pieces of the Annual’s curator, Edra Soto. “I’ve never seen the combination of these materials in a sculpture,” she says. “It’s new territory, and it feels perfect.”


Walsh’s 'A History of Staring at Fires'
Walsh’s A History of Staring at Fires, 2016, $1,800 Photo: Kai Caemmerer

Ground Floor

September 4 to October 13. Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. hydeparkart.org

Track Record:Every two years, the Hyde Park Art Center skims the most promising talent from the city’s colleges for an exhibit that has proved to be a litmus test of Chicago art’s power. “The show features artists whose work speaks in a strong individual and idiosyncratic voice,” says renowned photographer and Ground Floor founder Dawoud Bey. In 2012, Bey tapped School of the Art Institute of Chicago graduate and painter Tony Lewis for the survey; two years later, Lewis was selected for the prestigious Whitney Biennial.

Talent Spotting:One standout this year is abstract landscape photographer and Columbia College grad Eileen Rae Walsh. “She is pushing photography to a very different and engaging place,” says Bey.


Burnier’s 'Sango (Hazard)'
Burnier’s Sango (Hazard), 2016, $2,200 Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Rafacz Gallery

Andrew Rafacz Gallery Booth at EXPO Chicago

September 22 to 25. Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., expochicago.com

Track Record:West Loop gallerist Andrew Rafacz helped launch the careers of graphic designer and street artist Cody Hudson and photographer Jason Lazarus, both of whom have gone on to dozens of shows across the country, including solo exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Talent Spotting:Last year, Robert Burnier’s aluminum sculptures sold out at the three-day art fair. The artist returns with a new series of bright, minimalist pieces. “They’re visually magnetic,” gushes Judith Russi Kirshner, a Burnier collector and longtime fan.


Cohen’s 'On a Good Day'
Cohen’s On a Good Day, 2016, $2,500 Photo: Eileen Mueller


Half Truths runs September 10 to October 15 at Slow, 2153 W. 21st St. paul-is-slow.info

Track Record:ACRE (Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions) “taps people right at the moment,” says Jenny Kendler, a multimedia artist so impressed with the collective that she volunteered to serve on its board. Collaborators Sarah and Joseph Belknap are among those who credit the launch of their careers to ACRE: The couple used the residency program to conceptualize the cosmic-inspired sculptures and films that landed them a solo exhibit at the MCA in 2014.

Talent Spotting:This month, ACRE opens Half Truths, an exhibit of work by 27-year-old Alex Bradley Cohen, whose poignant semi-autobiographical paintings capture the artist’s mood swings.


Wade’s 'After St. Louis (After S. Hicks)'
Wade’s After St. Louis (After S. Hicks), 2016, $2,700 Photo: Courtesy of Devening Projects + Editions

Devening Projects + Editions

Know Better runs through October 8 at Devening Projects + Editions, 3039 W. Carroll Ave. deveningprojects.com

Track Record:A painter himself, Dan Devening has built a reputation among gutsy collectors for his knack for identifying challenging, conceptual artists on the rise. “Dan has a remarkable eye,” says Shannon Stratton, chief curator of New York’s Museum of Arts and Design. One example? Alain Biltereyst, a Belgian artist who had a solo show at the East Garfield Park gallery in 2013 and has since staged nine more around the globe.

Talent Spotting:Stratton calls the work of Devening’s latest pick, and subject of the new exhibit Know Better, experimental sculptor Allison Wade, “raw. … It’s about how bodies move through the world with tenderness, simplicity, and aggression.”


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