Expo Chicago: Exhibits To See Away From Navy Pier

By Carrie McGath in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 18, 2014 6:00PM

Expo Chicago at Navy Pier officially ushers in Chicago's fall art season. Artists, galleries, and curators from all over the world will arrive in town, and no matter your feelings about these big art fairs, it's a great time to learn about new artists, look for current art trends and perhaps even throw us a hint about where it is all moving.

Today, I will focus on must-see exhibitions taking place at museums and art centers throughout the city, many with openings this weekend.

While Expo envelopes and rollicks Navy Pier, there are many other concurrent exhibitions to head over to this art-steeped weekend in Chicago, and it looks like the weather will cooperate through most of it. As far as museums and art centers, here are a few to absolutely check out. There will also be a shuttle service available to take visitors to many gallery districts and museums in the city.

The Art Institute of Chicago's "Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938" is a solidly-curated and large exhibition of one of the most important artists of the 20th century. It is hugely popular and with good reason: his work is appealing to the eye and the imagination, its surreal backbone and intentions are fully realized and demanding the viewer to "Unthink" (to borrow from the museum's marketing campaign) just about everything. (111 S. Michigan Ave. Through Oct. 23.)

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) will be welcoming the highly-anticipated Bowie Is exhibition on the 23rd, but until then enjoy the other marvelous exhibitions on view now. "Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo" is a wide and engrossing exhibition illustrating an array of important contemporary artists who deal with the themes Kahlo, one of the most well-known artists in the world, worked with so beautifully in her work. A lot of the work is confessional like Kahlo's, also dealing with gender and sexuality and deep political commentary. This is also a great time to see the new installation in the plaza by London-based artist, Yinka Shonibare. (220 E. Chicago Ave. "Unbound" runs through Oct. 5 and "Bowie Is" opens on Sept. 23.)

The newly-opened Ed Paschke Art Center is dedicated to Chicago's art darling who will always be a central figure to the city's art historical canon. On view now is "Warhol, Reed, and Bowie," an exhibition of photographs by the profoundly important photojournalist, Steve Schapiro. He has been on the front lines of major historical moments in political and cultural history including the Civil Rights Movement, photographing Coppola's The Godfather, and numerous portraits of key figures of modern times. This will no doubt be a highlight (and a nice companion to the upcoming MCA "Bowie Is" exhibition) of the fall art season and Expo weekend. (5415 W. Higgins Ave. Through Nov. 15.)

The Renaissance Society on the campus of The University of Chicago is a steadfast gem of the city with a constant flow of challenging and intense exhibitions. Josef Stau's "The New World, Application for Turtle Island" opens on Sunday the 21st and is a great way to close out Expo weekend. This is the artist's first solo exhibition in the United States and contains sculptural and text-based works created in Mexico City. As with most of his work, this exhibition continues his theme of intervention with his quiet and lovely work. Here, he expresses his thoughts on the relationship between Europe and the New World, including accompanying publications that read like adventure novels. With this being his first solo show in the United States, The Renaissance Society should absolutely be a stop this weekend. (5811 S. Ellis Ave. Through Nov. 9. )

Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art should be frequented anyway, but the current exhibitions on view this weekend make it a must-do. Eileen Doman's "Past Perfect" is simply wonderful with incredibly engaging portraits by an artist who one day picked up a brush and started painting. Her innate talent for her medium and for capturing so much in the faces and body language of her figures is nothing short of amazing and should not be missed. In addition to this show, "Collective Soul" will be opening on Friday and is a compilation of work by essential and significant Outsider Artists including Henry Darger, Bill Traylor, Martín Ramírez alongside oft-overlooked artists, David Butler, Aldo Piacenza and Lanier Meaders. Always deep and diverse, Intuit is an essential stop this weekend. (756 N. Milwaukee Ave. "Past Perfect" through Sept. 27 and "Collective Soul" through Dec. 27.)

The Sullivan Galleries at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) should always be on art lovers' radar, consistently displaying the work of SAIC students, emerging artists, as well as established ones. Opening Friday the 19th with a reception from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. is "A Proximity of Consciousness: Art and Social Action," an exhibition that explores the notion of artists as the game-changers of society. This group show explores the extensive history of artists in Chicago working for social change and features work by Jim Duignan, Paul Durica and Heather Radke, Laurie Jo Reynolds, Temporary Services, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and others. Check out the link to attend several talks that accompany this exhibit in the coming months so that this notion can be mined and ideas exchanged and action developed. SAIC is known for their unique exhibitions and this one will not be an exception. (33 S. State St. 7th floor. Through Dec. 20.)

Hyde Park Art Center's (HPAC) "The Chicago Effect: Redefining the Middle" features work that ponders the literal and figurative idea of "the middle," a space that is rife with potential and meaning. This year marks the HPAC's 75th anniversary and this exhibition demonstrates and solidifies this center's tireless dedication to community, artists, and academics in order to pose questions and entice discussion. This group show's musing of "the middle" draws on abstract ideas of this space, as well as socioeconomic and political realities with work by Marissa Lee Benedict, Robert Burnier, Jan Tichy, Assaf Evron, and others. (5020 S. Cornell Ave. Through Nov. 23.)

Tickets to Expo Chicago are still available.