Chicago Contemporary & Classic by Victor M. Cassidy
The new Chicago art exposition, dubbed Chicago
Contemporary & Classic (CC&C), opened last weekend on Navy
Pier, Apr. 29-May
2, 2005. CC&C
is an enterprise of Pfingsten Partners of Deerfield, Ill., a private equity firm whose International Art & Framing Group claims to be the
world's number one producer of art shows and art publications. Its properties
include Art Miami, which is directed by Ilana Vardy,
who also created CC&C.
CC&C says it is "reinventing the way collectors can approach
modern and contemporary art," primarily by combining dealers in art, antiques
and decorative arts into a single fair. According to CC&C, this approach
is "designed to reflect a new trend in 21st century collecting."
But when we visited CC&C on its opening day, we found just one decorative
arts dealer and no antiques.
Though well-managed, CC&C is not particularly "innovative"
-- and it does not reflect any new trends in collecting. Very likely, management
abandoned its "innovative" concepts when art dealers balked. Earlier this
year, several who had chosen to exhibit at Art Chicago in the Park told
me that they rejected CC&C because they did not want to share space
with antiques and decorative arts.
CC&C has more space than Art Chicago in the Park and (presumably)
more money. The show accommodated installations, art magazines and nonprofit
organizations, which made it feel like the art
fairs we used to have on Navy Pier. Everything was calm and orderly at
CC&C. In fact, the exposition hall was virtually deserted when we visited.
Mostly of second and third rank, the galleries at CC&C exhibited a
lot of decorative work and we struggled to find exciting art. The public
art projects were rewarding, however.
Brody and Feng Shui
When Vardy began to plan CC&C,
she decided to have project spaces, and invited Yankowitz & Holden architects
in New York to select the artists. They chose Buzz Spector,
a sometime Chicagoan who now teaches at Cornell, Dennis Oppenheim, Andrea Polli and Michele
Brody. Yankowitz & Holden also did an
Spector's sweet trifle, titled Panorama
(Forest of Signs)(2005), is
three shelves lined with old postcards that run along the perimeter of
the installation space. The artist cuts the cards to make silhouettes
of trees and vegetation, but only a few of them actually depict nature.
The artist says that the cards show urban scenes, monuments, vulgar jokes
and the words of long-forgotten correspondents.
Michele Brody's untitled installation is comprised of 15 clear
plastic tubes, suspended and lit from above, each containing a section
of bamboo that has sprouted a branch and a leaf. There is nutrient-enriched
water in the bottom of each tube and the bamboo, which gets artificial
light from the spotlights, grows during the course of her show. This installation
has an Oriental quality and the artist acknowledges Japanese and Minimalist
Brody graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
in 1994 and employed locally native prairie grass in her first living installation,
calling it an "experiment in growth." She views nature as "watching time
pass." Now living in New York, she has shown papyrus growing in
tubes, stating that this was her way of taking art (i.e., paper) off the
Brody relates her CC&C installation to Feng Shui, the Chinese art of interior
arrangement, and speaks of "lucky bamboo, a tubular plant within the tube."
According to her, the tubed bamboo suggests nature
being contained and flourishing within the urban environment.
Copenhagen's Galerie Egelund shows
works by established artists and also has a branch, Galerie Christoffer Egelund, that features work by younger artists. At CC& C, the
senior gallery had work by Niels Strøbek, a Danish realist painter who has a reputation in Scandinavia but is unknown in the U.S. Galerie Egelund also exhibited
works by Sam Francis from 1994, the final year of his life.
One highlight at Galerie Christoffer Egelund was Ghost
Dance IIby Christina Hamre, a Danish artist who has just passed the age of
30. Hamre's brightly-colored mixed-media piece
shows fantasy shoes and dancing figures surrounding a pattern with a
horse at its center.
Castillo Gallery is one of seven Chicago participants in CC&C. Castillo,
who specializes in Latino artists, showed a painted photo collage by Marcos Raya,
a Mexican-born, Chicago-based painter and installation artist. Raya as Frida(2005)
is a self-portrait doctored to evoke Frida Kahlo. Raya has made many such self-portraits and sometimes calls
himself "Man Raya."
The Gallery of Surrealism from New York showed a huge collection of works,
including Victor Brauner's 1962 engraving Codex d'un
Visage. Evocative of maps and Mayan sculpture, Brauner's codex
has four face forms drawn in simple outline with arms, bodies, and the
trademark Brauner lips.
The Chicago gallery Robert Henry Adams Fine
Art recently had an exhibition of works by George Josimovich (1894-1986),
a Yugoslav-born artist who came to the U.S. as a young man and spent much of
his life in Chicago. We liked his Reclining Nude with
Bottles(1926), a Cubist painting with a Leger influence,
particularly in the objects around the figure.
John (1876-1939), the celebrated sister
of the even better-known painter Augustus John. Gwen is said to
have had a fling with Auguste Rodin,
and she wrote him several times daily during the height of their liaison, which
may account for its brevity. During the 1920s, Gwen John lived in Meudon, a Paris suburb, and made many drawings in
a church next door to her house. The London gallery Browse & Darby brought
to the fair Gwen John's Two Women in Church, which was made at
this time. The outlines are done in crayon with flat areas of gouache
John favored a limited palette of subdued colors to which
she assigned numbers. Some of her unfinished works have just the outline
and numbers, which she planned to color over. The figures in Two Women
in Churchhave an umber hat, a violet dress, sienna in the background,
and a patch of pink on the cheeks.
With all the publicity about the "art fair" wars, it seems
appropriate to ask whether Art Chicago in the Park or Chicago Contemporary & Classic
won out. We declare a tie. Art Chicago has better galleries, but it needs
improved management, a more commodious space and some of the trimmings
that make an art fair memorable. CC&C badly needs better exhibitors.
We await the sales reports.