Work by Jacob HashimotoWe’ve been talking about Expo for a while now, and last night the art fair finally began in earnest. In celebration (and curiosity), a handful of Chicago staffers showed up for Vernissage, the premiere Expo event. Also in attendance: Penny Pritzker, Jeanne Gang, Sam Zell, Michael Sacks, Shane Campbell, and Florian Pfahler. Between the gorgeous space (kudos, Studio Gang), incredible art (and people-art—it was one good-looking, well-dressed crowd, if you ask us), and the palpable excitement, Navy Pier was the place to be last night. Here is a roundup of our favorite works from the night.
Cassie Walker Burke
The London-based artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE, had a series of exhibitions around 2009 (including one at the MCA), but his work hasn’t been shown in these parts since. I was thrilled to see, courtesy of James Cohan Gallery (booth #406), three new prints—all part of his newest series Fake Death Picture, which is pretty much what you’d imagine it to be. And there’s one super cool “sculpture,” Revolution Kid, 2012, which reminded me of Wes Anderson’s Fabulous Mr. Fox, only this fox is dressed to the nines and packing heat.
Robert Koch Gallery (booth #703) has at least two photographs from Michael Wolf’s Transparent City series, taken in Chicago in 2009 when the German photographer spent time here. For the unfamiliar, Wolf often turns his lens on modern architecture but manages to show more than the right angles and sleek lines; he captures the casual moments of the people living inside. It’s voyeuristic, and fascinating.
I think any photography lover would be remiss to skip out on the Stephen Daiter Gallery’s (#614) collection of vintage photographs at this exhibition. There are some great finds here, including some great black and whites by Robert Frank and Aaron Siskind.
Roberts & Tilton. I have an enduring soft spot for the Beautiful Losers generation of artists—including Ed Templeton and Barry McGee, exhibited by this LA-based gallery (Booth #210). Maybe it’s ’90s nostalgia—or maybe it’s that a DIY, inclusive, fun approach to art-making doesn’t get old.
Michael Eastman at Barry Friedman, Ltd. The photographer’s 2010 series of quiet, grand portraits of Cuba’s empty theaters, ballrooms, and parlors seem to say more about beauty’s endurance than its decay (Booth #613).
I’ve said it before, but I love Mickalene Thomas’s gaudy pieces (as seen in Rhona Hoffman’s booth #403). From her bright, patterned palettes to provocative images of women, her work is a fascinating take on female power and sexuality. I just can’t get enough of this lady!
Another favorite of mine, Jacob Hashimoto, was just kiddie-corner from Thomas’s work. The Japanese artist, also in Rhona Hoffman, uses fishing wires to string together small pieces of rice paper. There is an inherent positivity to Hashimoto’s gorgeous installations—perhaps it’s because they evoke memories of kite-flying and long summer days.
I was also really drawn to Eclectic Coherence at the Hyde Park Art Center booth (#218), an installation curated by the Chicago-based photographer Dawoud Bey. It is a vibrant, energetic show featuring ten Chicago artists. Laura Letinsky’s two photographs were a standout for me. Her quiet images capture a messy (even rotting) decadence reminiscent of 17th century Dutch still-life paintings.
Megan Lovejoy Deja
I loved the exhibit on Gordon Parks. He is one of my favorite photographers and I was happy to see his work up in the Weinstein Gallery booth (booth #712).
There were several galleries I wandered into during Expo that I really enjoyed (Barry Friedman’s, for instance, featuring Ian Ingram’s charcoal-on-paper Monk, or Kavi Gupta with Melanie Schiff’s quiet but thoughtful works), but I was most drawn in by an exhibit in Leslie Tonkonow’s gallery (booth #600). Agnes Denes has done incredible work with ionized lucite and light panels that is both soft and mesmerizing. Many other galleries made use of lights (neon signs at Roberts & Tilton, electric paintings at Galerie Daniel Templon), but Tonkonow’s was my favorite.
Of course, I spent a fair amount of time scouring Navy Pier for Mayor Emanuel, who showed up for a quick look at the visiting galleries. I finally found him as he was walking out. He unfortunately hadn’t bought anything yet, but reminded me that he and his family were avid photography collectors. If you come back this weekend, Rahm, there’s plenty of great photography to find.
Photograph: Megan Lovejoy Deja