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Expo Chicago Preview Part Two: Our Gallery Picks

By Carrie McGath in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 19, 2014 7:00PM

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. Three-day passes are $30 and a day pass is $20 and tickets are still available. It is a reasonable price for that much art in one place, but there are also scores of art openings and events throughout the city.

In Part 2 of my Expo Preview, I will focus on galleries by district within the city. On Friday, the "Art After Hours" event encourages visitors to visit art spaces around the city. Here are just a few I think will be highlights, but check out the full list here. A free shuttle will be available for transport to several districts with openings (most open until 9 p.m.) including the Loop, River North, West Loop, and the Wabash Arts Corridor. [See part one of our preview here.]

River North

After 33 years, Carl Hammer Gallery  is an institution in and of itself in the city and a staple to any visit to the River North gallery district, and this weekend is no exception to it being a must. Eugene Von Bruenchenhein's "The Age of Colored Stone and Steel" is on view now and is an exhibition of a decidedly significant and prolific artist who created work using an amalgam of materials and dabbled in several genres. A self-taught artist, he used bone for some of his sculptures and the clay he used for his ceramics were often created out of clay found around construction site. He created thousands of pieces in his small home, but was never known to the art world until after his death in 1983. This exhibition will showcase the tireless passion Von Bruenchenhein had for his artwork, one of his only true catalysts for contentment during his lifetime along with his wife, Marie. (740 N. Wells St. Through Oct. 25. )

Ann Nathan Gallery is another River North constant, in operation for over 30 years. The African Tribal art collection is impressive and extensive while the gallery also represents and exhibits established and emerging artists. The current exhibition is a group show of a diverse group of artists including the realistic yet surreal portraits by Rose Freymuth-Frazier, the theatrical vignettes of Bruno Surdo, and the poignant photographs by Art Shay. Also included in this exhibition is Mary Borgman, Jim Rose, Deborah Ebbers, and more. Exhibits are always well-curated and work is hand-picked by the talented and industrious gallery owner herself, Ann Nathan. (212 W. Superior St. Through October. )

The small but mighty Zg Gallery is a gallery representing a manifold of artists, speaking to the gallery's unwavering passion and constant search for artists. Jackie Tileston's "Field Guide to Elsewhere" is on currently on view and is a show that is playful while being deeply philosophical. Tileston's knowledge of the East and her love for it is apparent on her canvases where many materials mingle resulting in works that are chock full of motion. Her use of dry pigment, oil, spray paint, Conté crayons, and even negative space as her media all combine to make meditative yet pyrotechnic moments of motion. (300 W. Superior St. Through Nov. 1.)

West Loop

Even after 20 years, Carrie Secrist Gallery in the West Loop remains steadfast in representing and exhibiting both emerging and established artists working in all media. New paintings by Whitney Bedford will be on display at the gallery as well as at Expo along with other artists of Carrie Secrist Gallery including Anne Lindberg, Andrew Holmquist, Paul Anthony Smith, and Michael Robinson. The Bedford show at the Washington Boulevard gallery will no doubt demonstrate her remarkable ability to convey such a physical maritime landscape with layers of palpable emotive prowess. The stories at work in these paintings are ones of danger and death while a freedom and serenity sometimes bubbles to the surface, offering a glimmer of hope. (835 W. Washington Blvd. Through Nov. 15.)

Kavi Gupta Gallery opened in 2000 in Chicago by the gallerist whose focus and eye for contemporary art is apparent in his gallery's exhibitions and in his consistent presence on the international art stage. His Berlin gallery opened in 2008 only further illustrating the gallery's footing the world over. An installation by Jessica Stockholder will be at Navy Pier gracing the Expo while the gallery hosts Mickalene Thomas' "I was born to do great things." Her acrylic and sparkle-studded works are immediately eye-catching and gilded, giving pop cultural figures a regal treatment. The new work in this exhibition will likely be quieter since it is a meditative body of work inspired and appropriated from the liveliness of the artist's late mother, Sandra Bush, resulting in a study of womanhood, motherhood, and wisdom. (835 W. Washington Blvd. Through Nov. 15.

Pilsen / Bridgeport

Antena is right off the ever-growing 18th Street and is a spot that should be frequented thanks to the owner and art guru, Miguel Cortez. The exhibitions here are often rooted in technology or the notion of the archive in some manner and the video work by Cara Megan Lewis and Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera continues to fuel this aesthetic. "A Home coming" takes each artist down a different road to their resulting work with the common goal of musing about ideas about comfort and its association of home. They also collaborated on a video, "Cul de Sac," furthering their study of the ideas of home while the whole of the exhibit plays with voyeurism, the concept of space, and each artist's appropriation of old home videos. There is a layering of the reality of the action on the tapes while the artists build on that narrative and complicate it. (1755 S. Laflin St. Through Oct. 11.

Founded in 2004, Project Onward continues to foster its mission to give artists with mental and developmental disabilities studio and gallery space, showcasing the innate talents of every individual. Friday the 19th will mark the opening for two exhibits. "Fashion Form," a show with work depicting the ways fashion informs art and art informs fashion in the work of several gallery artists using everything from collage to fabric work and beyond. Also opening is "Grit and Glamour," a joint exhibition showcasing work by Sereno “Glitterman” Wilson and Michael “Culture Man” Bryant. Each artist has their individual attraction to issues they address in their work, so the resulting exhibit will be a nice juxtaposition between the glamour of pop culture icons and the grit of societal and urban decay. (Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St. 4th Floor. "Fashion Form" runs through Nov. 8 and "Grit and Glamour" through Oct. 11.

Wicker Park / Logan Square

Defibrillator (DfbrL8r) Gallery is one of the only spaces devoted purely to performance art. The calendar is always full here and the performances never dull. Top performance artists come here from all over the country and abroad. The next two weekends will be no exception with Chicago's Zephyr Dance Company performing "The Balance In Between." There will be performances throughout the weekend showcasing this prelude created over three years. (1136 N. Milwaukee Ave. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, September 19-21 and Sept. 26-28 at 7:30 p.m.)

Galerie F fits right in along the burgeoning 2300-block of Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square. A steady mix of gig posters, street art, and fine art prints give this gallery a uniqueness. The exhibits here are infectious and openings in the space only compounds that fun-loving feel. The current show is "Alphabet Soup 2," and presents the work of influential graffiti writers from Chicago and abroad. The show is cohesive even though the work is very diverse—some colorful, some cheeky, some macabre, some subdued in color. The sheer distinctiveness of the gallery is a draw to this busy and equally-infectious area of the growing neighborhood. (2381 N Milwaukee Ave. Through Oct. 8.)

If you're looking for another art adventure, Adventureland Gallery is a place to visit this weekend to see the work of Robin Dluzen. Her exhibition, "Poetry is Practical" is a study of home and time using lovely "canvases" that are materials usually cast-off such as lawn waste bags and cardboard. The work seems about memory in a sense, too, as well speaking through a kind of stream of consciousness doodling reminiscent of her father's, or the use of power lines and towers inserted into a landscape evoking the surroundings of her Michigan upbringing. (1513 N. Western Ave. Through Sept. 26.)