The energy was palpable in the Windy City during the lead-up to the latest edition of Expo Chicago, the city’s decade-old anchor art fair.
In full post-pandemic swing, the city is hosting a wide range of programming, including artist-led talks and tours, museum shows, satellite fairs (such as the artist-run Barely Fair), public art installations (including Art on the Mart), and pop-ups like the popular roving Art in Common show, which opened to crowds in the Fulton Market neighborhood last night.
As Expo Chicago throws open its door on Navy Pier today for a VIP preview, we highlighted just a few of the most buzzed-about artists to watch at the fair this year.
Who: A Brooklyn-born, Haitian American artist who digs deep into his family history to create evocative portraits that explore issues of migration. While the portraits are specific to Eugène’s Haitian ancestry and his many relatives who came to the U.S. in the 1960s and ’70s, his work reflects universal themes that are just as urgent today.
Based in: Atlanta, Georgia
Showing at: Mariane Ibrahim Gallery in Chicago in the solo show “Patrick Eugène: 50 LBS.”
Prices: $10,500 to $48,000
Why you should pay attention: The title of the the artist’s first solo show after recently signing with Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, “50 LBS,” is a reference to the weight limit of checked bags for air travel at points of departure. It played a significant role in his family members’ journey to the U.S. from Haiti in the 1960s and ’70s, periods of political unrest and economic volatility at home. “How do you carry your whole entire life in what almost feels like an emergency situation, when it’s unexpected?” Eugène wondered to Artnet News at the opening of the show.
The arresting portraits that populate the gallery do not necessarily represent particular people. “They’re mostly made up in my mind, but I focused on that era of the ’60s and ’70s,” he said, noting that when people made the voyage from Haiti, they tended to wear their best outfits. “I wanted to make sure there was a certain level of elegance in all those images.” As an homage to his mother, who came to New York when she was just 12 years old, Eugène has showcased the orange dress she wore on that momentous day in a glass vitrine alongside photos of her in the dress.
Notable résumé line: After participating in a group show in 2021 at Gallery 1957 in Ghana, Eugène paused for a beat to think about what work he wanted to “put out in the world.” Around the same time, he met gallerist Mariane Ibhrahim and participated in a two-artist show at her Paris gallery this past December. This marks his first solo show at the gallery since signing with Ibrahim soon after.
Who: A Brazilian artist whose grand and intricately detailed depictions of interiors and historical figures offer subtle critiques of power structures and the deliberate falsehoods that often attend them. Griffo’s work invites the viewer to pay attention to the most minute of details.
Showing at: Galeria Nara Roesler, Brazil and New York, at Expo Chicago
Prices: $30,00 to $60,000
Why You Should Pay Attention: Among the works on display at Expo, the painting is part of a series anchored in the Gallery of Providers of Santa Casa de Misericórdia do Rio de Janeiro, which displays the portraits of its benefactors from the early 19th century to the present. Some were later charged with unjust enrichment and the ownership enslaved people, and in some cases for receiving political favors. Griffo’s work casts a critical eye on this small group that set up a charitable system with its own rules and policies and which, due to its longevity, has been able to set its own system of ethical values and promote the interests of a portion of Brazilian high society.
“The inversion in scales, whereby painted portraits are much larger than the human figures in the composition, can be understood as an analogy for a narrative of oppression, as the enslaved are unable to stand up against the archaic and weighty tradition in which they are inserted,” according to a statement from the gallery.
Notable résumé line: Griffo, who holds a degree in architecture and urbanism, uses his background to create spaces where references to both historical and contemporary settings coexist.
Up next: Griffo is scheduled to have a solo show at the Casa Museu Ema Klabin in Rio in 2024. In addition to working on opening a cultural space in Rio with artist Marcia Falcão, he is working on an upcoming book about his work, edited by Act Editora and set to publish in September.
Who: An artist whose paintings display a mind-jolting mashup of styles from digital imagery to elements plucked from nature and body parts that seem to exist in otherworldly landscapes. The result is a compelling hybrid of the abstract and representational, or what one gallery described as residing “in a world of multiplicities.”
Based in: Los Angeles
Showing at: Miles McEnery Gallery, New York, at Expo Chicago
Prices: $9,500 to $55,000
Why you should pay attention: Lapin’s philosophy is encapsulated perfectly in this recent painting Fall(s), made especially for display at Expo. According to the artist: “I imagine painting not as a representation of a place or thing, but rather an image of our longing to understand our world, which builds on and defines itself over time, like the contours of our historical narratives and myths.”
Lapin, who received her MFA from UCLA, moved around quite a bit during her youth. She was born in Washington D.C, spent a good part of her childhood in Kentucky, and later moved to Japan at the age of 16. The question of “What is reality?” consumed her thoughts and influenced her art making.
Up next: A solo show at Miles McEnery in fall 2024.
Siji Krishnan, Moustache Family (2019). Image courtesy the artist and Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles.
Who: A Kerala, India-born artist whose work evokes the perennial Upanishadic dictum , meaning “the world is one family.”
Based in: Kochi, India
Showing at: Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles, at Expo Chicago
Prices: $60,000 to $80,000
Why you should pay attention: Krishnan makes her sought-after works by meticulously preparing canvases with layers of fine rice paper and numerous watercolor washes that result in a supple and singular patina. According to the artist: “I often feel the pale and permissible surfaces are akin to many layers of our own memories.”
Notable resume line: In 2019, Krishnan was an artist in residence at Koganecho Art Center in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.
Who: A contemporary Belgian artist who is inspired by the work of Flemish painters from the 1920s such as Jean Brusselmans and Gustave De Smet, as well as James Ensor, Otto Dix, and Georg Grosz.
Based in: Antwerp, Belgium
Showing at: Nino Mier, Los Angeles, Brussels, New York, and Marfa, at EXPO Chicago
Prices: $12,000 to $30,000
Why you should pay attention: Jennes’s intriguing figurative paintings are at once playful and ambiguous, filled with oversize, almost cartoonish figures and symbols that suggest a deeper open-ended narrative. (The artist counts African masks and folklore, as well as the cinema of David Lynch and Werner Herzog, as sources of inspiration.) The artist will have a solo spotlight at Nino Mier’s Expo booth.
Up next: A solo show at Gallery Sofie Van de Velde in Antwerp, Belgium