Each year, the highlight of Art Chicago is its younger, edgier companion fair, NEXT, populated by cutting-edge galleries from around the globe. Here, three emerging Chicago artists exhibiting at NEXT share the story behind something they’ve created that is striking a chord with the art world.

'Behind the Door' by Chinatsu Ikeda

Gallery: Nicole Villeneuve
Backstory: This School of the Art Institute grad mixes Old World ideas with dashes of the quirky and contemporary (monsters, robots). Inspired by images from her native Japan and impressionism, her surreal oil and watercolor paintings range from dreamlike to vibrantly strange.
On Behind the Door: “I was struck by a Matisse painting of a black French door [at the Art Institute last spring], as well as a print by 19th-century Japanese printmaker Utagawa Kuniyoshi that depicts a monster playing Japanese chess,” says Ikeda. “I wanted to blend those two together and make a domestic environment that blends outside and inside.”inspiration “Abandoned houses I see on walks, the grass, sunlight, Kurosawa’s films that influence my ideas about life and boundaries, dark and light, [Chicago outsider artist] Henry Darger.”
Inspiration: “Abandoned houses I see on walks, the grass, sunlight, Kurosawa’s films that influence my ideas about life and boundaries dark and light [Chicago outsider artist] Henry Darger.”

'Listening Chamber' by Juan Angel Chavez

Gallery: Linda Warren
Backstory: His murals, sculptures, and 3-D collages have graced public spaces in Los Angeles, Denmark, and Chicago. Influenced by both his childhood in Mexico and his teenage years in Chicago, the SAIC sculpture teacher (and former SAIC dropout)—a prominent player on the local public arts scene—is now turning his interest to audience-activated installations.
On Listening Chamber:Listening Chamber is actually a response to another interactive installation I made based on an ice-cream truck going through a neighborhood like the Pied Piper,” says Chavez. “The first piece was loud, so I wanted to make a piece that was completely the opposite. Visitors go into the piece and listen to the ambient sounds that exist within any space.”
Inspiration: “Natural development and growth in urban settings.”
Up next: In its Nature Unframed exhibition, up mid-May to fall, the Morton Arboretum displays a Chavez sculpture based on huts, homeless shelters, and silkworm cocoons.


'Untitled (Yellow)' by Angel Otero

Gallery: Kavi Gupta
Backstory: Since his days as an SAIC grad student, this Puerto Rican artist has been creating unique 3-D oil paintings that consistently land him on shortlists of artists to watch.
On Untitled (Yellow): “I make oil paintings on big sheets of glass, and then later I scrape the image off in sheets and collage them together. [The method] contains reference to painting history, something like Richter’s squeegee. [The abstract artist Gerhard Richter uses paint-loaded squeegees to create scraped, layered textures.] They can begin very figurative or representational, and after the process of scraping, that totally disappears. I never know how it’s going to turn out when I’m done.”
Inspiration: The Chicago artist Kerry James Marshall and Chicago imagists.
Up next:Bienal, a group show at El Museo del Barrio in New York in June.

GO Art Chicago and NEXT run April 29th to May 2nd at the Merchandise Mart; artchicago.com, nextartfair.com.