Art Chicago kicks off on May 1st, and with it comes a stupefying list of events: a lecture series, an outsider art fair, an antiques market, a student show. Our pick for the best way to spend your time is NEXT, the up-and-comers exhibition. It’s the place to meet emerging talent such as Angel Otero, a 27-year-old Puerto Rican–cum–Chicagoan whose sudden popularity has startled even him. His work is selling; gallerists are calling; visitors keep tromping through his tiny ten-by-ten foot studio at the School of the Art Institute, where the young painter is a master’s degree candidate. “Having people respond this way is intense,” says Otero, whose soothing accent grows stronger when he talks about Bayamón—his hometown—and the grandmother who raised him there. His grandmother influences many of his abstract expressionist canvases—a wad of oilskins compose her dining table in one; her fabric sofa pops out of another. The paintings will be on display at NEXT, which coincides with Otero’s graduation. His present to himself? A larger studio, he says, adding, “This is my moment.”


Photograph: Saverio Truglia