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Your Guide To The Ultimate Art Weekend In Chicago, From EXPO To Special Gallery Shows

By Carrie McGath in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 14, 2017 10:15PM

Last night we got a peek into the city’s major annual contemporary art fair, running through Sunday in Navy Pier’s Festival Hall, and it did not disappoint. Expo Chicago hosts hundreds of galleries from around the country and the world as they showcase the works of artists they represent. The diversity of medium and styles throughout the fair is apparent, but some galleries really stand out this year, presenting artwork that is timely to our current political climate, or offering simply beautiful works that catch the eye. Here are just a handful of galleries that truly shined at the preview and should not be missed this weekend.

Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago (booth 257): This established River North gallery devoted to contemporary fine art photography never disappoints, and this year was no different. Sandro Miller’s rich multi-paneled work, My Hair, My Soul, My Freedom shows Miller’s deft ability to convey texture, drama and meaning through documentary photography. With his subjects emerging out of colorful and dimensional backgrounds, it is clear this work is a celebration of the beauty, creativity and power in the sculptural elements at work in each woman’s hairstyle. Each of the 13 photographs show an African-American woman embracing her individuality and her power through, as Miller says, her personal “hair story.” The result is not only a completed work that draws in the viewer immediately, but also comments on the suppression and prejudice African-American women deal with in relation to their hairstyles. From the appalling practice of shaving African women’s heads during American slavery, to the prevalent belief that African-American women should conform to European beauty standards, to girls being sent home from school and women losing their jobs in the present day because their hair has been deemed “inappropriate” or “unprofessional.” Miller sheds a light on this issue while empowering his subjects as they look into the lens with a potency and defiance that highlights their beauty. The remaining work in this booth is also highly affecting, particularly with the arresting work of Omar Imam.

David Nolan Gallery, New York (booth 306): What made this gallery’s booth so appealing was works on paper such as Pink Cut-Out by Neil Gall and Mel Kendrick’s incredible trio of paper casts called, Gasket Drawing (zz); (jj); (bb), respectively. The highly impactful acrylic work by Jonathan Meese only furthered this gallery’s electrified excitement. Reese’s DR. KNACKPUNKT: DORT IST DE LARGE KINDERLEIN "KOMET" IM NÄHRRAUM "HAL", from 2016 is an eruption of color creating an abstract form that has a bodily appearance of a torso and groin. Meese’s process is clear in the work with the heavy globules of acrylic that create both a multi-dimensional surface and a kinetic feel that is at once chaotic and wholly considered.

Marc Straus, New York (booth 261): The politically-charged work by Doug Argue is a stark contrast to the soft, poetic works by Sandro Chia and the colorful architectural works by Ulf Puder. Argue’s 2017 painting, Trump Tweets depicts Donald Trump with a cartoonish appearance as his hands move about as it shows the controversial campaign moment when Trump mocked a New York Times reporter’s disability. Swirling about him are tweets from his garish Twitter account such as “I’ve made a lot of sacrifices” and “Mexico will pay for the wall.” Nearby, Chia’s The Wayfarer With Penguins and Seals gives the viewer a reprieve from the brightly-colored Argue works with its quiet yet bold brush strokes showing a man in the center of seals and penguins. The animals look up to him knowingly and with trust as he hovers amid an Arctic-like environment.

Sapar Contemporary, New York (booth 463): Works on paper by Czech artist, Kristof Kintera and textile work by Azerbaijan artist, Faig Ahmed make this booth stand out. Kintera’s use of a mixture of media on paper creates these abstract and emotive “portraits.” Untitled from 2016 has a melancholy malaise that contrasts nicely to 2015’s Drawing where anger is exuded from the abstract figure. Ahmed’s textile work, Virgin hangs nearby appearing as an unraveled rug that is transformed into a wall piece. The fiery red of the freed threads moving toward the floor evokes a feeling of unbridled passion breaking loose from a more traditional pattern. A domestic constant like a rug becomes a sculpture that looks to almost be alive as it hangs on the wall.

Zolla/Leiberman Gallery, Chicago (booth 661): Jamie Adams’ oil painting, Water Kiss is a standout in this booth as it sweetly quotes the art historical canon and brings artists such as John William Waterhouse and Dante Gabriel Rossetti to mind. The familiar plot of lovers kissing in a pool of water is updated by Adams as the lovers are surrounded by other swimmers, implying a public pool setting instead of the solitary allegorical paintings by the aforementioned Waterhouse and Rossetti. John Fraser’s Consortium is also on display showing the breadth of this gallery’s aesthetics. This work is minimal, sculptural, conceptual as old books are opened wide and pageless, resting on a mantlepiece. The visual result harkens a skyline as the naked inner spines of the books reveal an inky blur that gives the work a haunting quality signaling a loss.

Other Must-See Booths:

Must-See Art Exhibitions Outside of Expo:

The Ed Paschke Art Center: Now on view is a retrospective of Paschke's work titled, Ed Paschke: Visionary from Chicago, 1968-2004.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago: Through September 24th, be sure to catch the much-loved exhibition of work by Takashi Murakami titled, The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg and the exhibition of work from the MCA's permanent collection titled, We Are Here.

Zg Gallery: See work by Amy Casey called, Critical Mass as well as new work by Gregory Jacobsen.

Gallery Victor Armendariz: The Figure 8 exhibition showcases figurative works by artists such Rose Freymuth-Frazier and Caleb O'Connor.

Carl Hammer Gallery: Work by CJ Pyle comes together in Another Slipping Glimpser through Oct. 28.

EXPO Chicago takes place at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall through Sunday with events and panels in addition to the booths throughout the fair. See the Expo website for more information including ticket prices, hours, and event schedules.