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Art Chicago

ArtNexus #54 - Arte en Colombia #100
Oct - Dec 2004

Art Chicago

Marisol Martell

Art Chicago opened its 2004 edition with the presence of 153 galleries, in contrast to the previous year, when it accommodated 183 galleries. Although it is normal for an art fair to see some spaces leave and new ones come in, the absence of some galleries was significant given what we have grown used to seeing, and that have helped establish the presence of artists from Latin America. In that sense, the most noticeable absences were Jacob Karpio from Costa Rica and Miami-based Diana Lowenstein. Nevertheless, we were surprised by the presence of Latin artists in American galleries. In that sense the most fortunate, perhaps also the best-known, were Fernando Botero, Guatemalan photographer Luis González Palma, and Brazilian artist Vik Muniz. Botero¿s sculptures impressed everybody in several booths, such as Jonathan Nova Contemporary Art/Los Angeles, where they shared space with works by Henri Matisse, Jean Dubuffet, Nikki de Saint-Phalle, and Frank Stella; or at James Goodman/New York, where Botero¿s paintings were also on bien. Similarly, González Palma¿s and Vik Muniz¿s works were seen in galleries devoted to photography, where they were the sole Latin American representatives. Even more surprising was to find young Latin artists in American galleries, which bespeaks the artists¿ integration into the international context through non-Latin American spaces. Such is the case for Gabriela Morawetz, from Venezuela, represented by Chicago¿s Maya Polsky; Gabriela Machado, from Brazil, with a beautiful and suggestive red piece from her series ¿Red,¿ at Neuhoff Gallery/New York; and Cuban-American Enrique Martínez Celaya, at Paulson Press/Berkeley. The presence of galleries from Seoul, South Korea, was renewed this year. Alongside several Chicago galleries, they displayed a large selection of works by Asian artists. Among them were Keum San Gallery/Seoul, entirely devoted to Asian art and whose three spaces reflected a curatorship that sought to integrate different aspects of that art. One of them was given to Park Young-Seun with Enchanted Garden, comprised of bronze pieces that worked as comfortable benches or tables, and at the center of which a peephole let the viewer see water and a plant. Using form and texture, each piece invited meditation and tranquility. Another space characterized by an excellent curatorship was Neuhoff Gallery/New York, with impressive pieces by Fletcher Benton, whose work is essential in the context of American abstract geometric art. Anne Wilson¿s video-installation at Roy Boyd Gallery, originating in her series ¿Errant Behaviors,¿ was among the best projects at the fair. The idea began with her work with images in movement, through frame-by-frame manual animation. In this case, the artist used a ball of yarn and a needle as her subjects; due to their movements and situations, they suggested relationships of humor, play, and cruelty, as well as behaviors related to aggression, accidents, and inappropriate conduct. The scarce hispanic presence was ameliorated by Spanish galleries, which have found their space in this fair. Isabel Ignacio, from Seville, repeated its participation, devoting space to Antón Patiño, Menchú Lamas and Celso Román, among others. Their works move within the territory of abstraction and well within the bounds of North American taste in painting. Galería Aletxerri, from San Sebastián, presented works by Carmen Calvo, in which the artist drew children carrying weapons, cats, and hares atop letters and documents, in an obvious denunciation of violence against children. Galería Tinta, from Galitzia, included in its usual roster of artists the work of Jorge Barbi, an excellent piece in wood whose composition resembled the course of a river. Also at the fair were Galería Metta and Nieves Fernández, both from Madrid. Only six galleries representing Latin American art were present in this edition of Art Chicago. Praxis Mexico and Praxis International¿the latter including the Miami and New York spaces¿were there with their usual artists. At Praxis Mexico the standout was the work of Sergio Payares, with very clean paintings displaying an excellent draftsmanship in the service of an intimate discourse filled with the artist¿s personal experiences. From Argentina, Via Margutta devoted its space to the work of Raúl Díaz, an artist whose works on wood are of a very high quality, with a very poetic visual charge. One of the best situated spaces was that shared by Galería El Museo and its Madrid affiliate, Galería Fernando Pradilla. The expanse of their booth made it possible to enjoy each work, as in the case of Mariana Monteagudo¿s sculptures. Executed in ceramic and mixed technique, each piece responds to a particular imaginary created by the artist; her figures are the result of an interest in different cultures, intermingled so that the actual origin is difficult to establish. Another highlight artist at this space was Monica Van Asperen. In the special section devoted to guest galleries we found La Casona/Cuba, with a space dedicated to recent works by Alexis Leyva¿Kcho¿specifically, an installation of a set of furniture typical of Cuba¿s grand old houses, mounted on very large oars, once again alluding to the issue of migration. The booth also exhibited works by Roberto Fabelo, Moisés Finalé, and Roberto Diago. The latter presented several lightboxes where the central topic of the photographs is contemporary Cuban reality. Parallel to the fair, and in an attempt to redefine it, for the past two years Thomas Blackman and Associates has presented its Stray Show. It was conceived as a space for alternative and transgressive proposals by galleries, institutions, artists groups, and curators who gather together to present young and emerging art from all over the country. In the present edition, most exhibitors defied conventional art manifestations and offered provocative projects based on simple materials and audiovisual media that dynamize artistic concepts. Several of the artists presenting their projects were of Latin origin, youngsters who studied in the United States and now live there. Two projects integrated mostly by these youngsters were Worm-Hole Laboratory, from Miami, and Polvo Art Studio, from Chicago. Worm-Hole Laboratory presented Dr. Moreau Explains, inspired by The Island of Dr. Moreau. Curated by Carlos Díaz, this space recreated the moment when the doctor reveals the secret behind each creation. As part of the project, the artists¿Jen Denike, Pepe Mar, Cristina Lei Rodríguez, and Diego Singh¿worked from their own artistic discourses to integrate and challenge the nature of art with works filled with sequins, feathers, and colors, creations that would follow their own paths, independent of their creators. Chicago¿s Polvo Art Studio is operated by Polvo, an artists collective created in 1996 that also publishes a magazine about art and culture, maintains a website, and recently opened its own space. Manitas, by Saúl Aguirre, commented on the use of hand signing as a form of communication. The usefulness of signs and hands was explored through their meaning in different countries, and the way in which concepts can change according to the region, the dignity of many images, and the emotions they represent. Some of the spaces in the ¿International Invitational¿ within the fair were previously at Stray Show, and today are part of the main event with proposals that respond less to the fair¿s commercial nature, and enrich it with works that are formally and conceptually riskier. ¿



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