This past weekend saw the seventh edition of Expo Chicago return to the iconic, picturesque lakefront festival hall Navy Pier. The event offered the finest stock of modern and contemporary art from 135 galleries representing 63 cities in 27 countries, including the United States, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and Zimbabwe — but our entirely biased view is that the extensive L.A. gallery contingent won the day.
But you don’t have to take just our hometown-booster word for it — Los Angeles painter Amir H. Fallah (represented by Shulamit Nazarian Gallery) is the 2018 winner of the Northern Trust Purchase Prize and thus his exquisite painting “Calling on the Past,” part of his series of pattern- and detail-festooned, likeness-free portraiture, has been acquired for the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago's permanent collection.
Other unique approaches to L.A. gallery presentations included Ojai-based painter Ruth Pastine, who designed her solo presentation for the Edward Cella Art + Architecture booth as a site-specific chromatic gradient; Royale Projects and Charlie James Gallery joining forces to present a compelling group show drawn from both their programs in one of the fair’s most exciting and salient presentations; and Philip Martin Gallery co-presenting a show of paintings by Tomory Dodge along with the artist’s New York Gallery, Miles McEnery.
A special section of large-scale sculptural installations called “In/Situ” was curated by Pablo de la Barra; it featured a massive, diaphanous house sculpture by Carmen Argote and a series of text-based lightboxes by Sam Durant, who also showed with L.A.’s Praz-Delavallade Gallery. 1301PE artist Diana Thater was a featured part of concurrent but unrelated off-site program Art on theMART, in which a months-long program of projected digital media lights up the nights across the impossibly vast riverfront facade of this Chicago landmark.
EXPO also included a robust series of panels, talks and presentations, most notably an interview with the three curators of the next edition of Desert X, which returns to the Coachella Valley from February through April of 2019. A lively conversation with the team of Neville Wakefield, Amanda Hunt and Matthew Schum was moderated by critic Christian Viveros-Faune, touching on topics from land art to community engagement, social practice and systems culture, and the challenges and inspirations facing the project in its return. Described by Hunt as “more like a paradox the deeper we go into it,” and by Wakefield as a program to “seek freedom and create enclosures with it,” their approach to liminal and occupied places will be informed by an acknowledgement of indigeneity, with a leader of the Agua Caliente tribe seated on the Desert X Board.