EXPO Chicago 2022 Highlights

EXPO Chicago 2022. Courtesy of EXPO Chicago. Photo by Justin Barbin.

By CORI HUTCHINSON, April 2022

Laying vital ground for EXPO Chicago 2022, Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, South Africa and founder of RAW Material Company, Koyo Kouoh delivered a keynote speech in advance of this year’s expanded Curatorial Exchange titled “Institution Building as Curatorial Practice: How to Go From 100 Square Meters to 6,000 Square Meters,” which broadly emphasized the role of curator as active maker and steward not only of collections, but of spaces. In this address, Kouoh quotes Chimurenga magazine, founded by Ntone Edjabe: “Unless we push form and content beyond what exists, then we merely reproduce the original form—the colonized form,” and emphasizes that curatorial interests are neither purely commercial nor aesthetic. The presentation concluded with a speculative mapping of the United States, China, India, and certain European countries onto the continent of Africa, underlining a point made earlier about considering the United States, in particular, as an extension of Africa. Tony Karman, Director of EXPO Chicago, preceded these remarks with a warm welcome to the physical occasion, celebrating that this exposition would be defined by its return to in-person exchange and togetherness, and an opportunity to flex one’s curatorial and skeletal muscles once again. 

Zohra Opoku, “I am of Great Magic...”, 2022. Courtesy of Mariane Ibrahim.

With these perspectives in mind, EXPO 2022 hosts more than 140 international exhibitors clustered loosely by themes of PROFILE, solo booths defined by focused showings, EXPOSURE, a selection of young galleries curated by Humberto Moro, and longstanding galleries. Local galleries are well-represented in the roster, with standout showings including Mariane Ibrahim, moniquemeloche, and Kavi Gupta. Other highlights include Trenton Doyle Hancock’s comic work shown by Shulamit Nazarian (Los Angeles), Jeffrey Gibson’s beaded boxing bag and Clive Smith’s birds in the Marc Straus (New York) booth, Derrick Adams and Martha Tuttle by Rhona Hoffman (Chicago), Asif Hoque’s Primal Wing presented by Mindy Solomon Gallery (Miami), Marcos Castro’s hyper-gestural offerings via Machete (Mexico City), social photographs by Pixy Liao by way of Chambers Fine Art (New York), and paintings by Sally Kindberg included by Galerie Kornfeld (Berlin). 

Sally Kindberg, Into the Groove, 2020. Oil on canvas, 19 2/3 x 17 3/4 in. Courtesy of Galerie Kornfeld and the artist.

The Northern Trust Purchase Prize was awarded to three institutions toward acquiring work from the EXPOSURE section. In summary, the Pérez Art Museum will acquire a painting by Reginald Sylvester II from Maximillian William Gallery, the Portland Art Museum will acquire three paintings by Nohemi Perez from Instituto de Visión, and the Walker Art Center will acquire three works by Adler Guerrier from Marisa Newman Projects. 

John Preus, Stoop Culture, 2019. Courtesy of EXPO Chicago.

In addition to booth exhibitors and printed editions, art historian Marcella Beccaria has curated IN/SITU, an installation of site-specific, large-scale, and variously interactive sculptures throughout the exposition space.  Beccaria quotes ecofeminist theorist Donna Haraway in her curatorial statement: “These artists share an ability to stay in touch with problems and deal with ‘the trouble,’ according to a critical attitude that feminist thought has discussed as one of the possible ways to survive on this planet we have poisoned, and perhaps find a way out.” Aptly titled Rare Earths after the seventeen metallic elements mined for use in the fabrication of daily appliances, Beccaria encourages the viewer to not turn away from the entanglements that knot at the intersection of contemporary art and futurity. John Preus’s Stoop Culture (2019), situated at the heart of Festival Hall, features an installation of interactive “stoops,” yielding contact, rest, and consideration of architecture and alchemy. Generally, the smattering of Rare Earths throughout the pier serve as pillars of direction, relief, and contact. An ongoing collage mural by the late Stan VanDerBeek is transmitted via fax in real-time from the Stan VanDerBeek Archive in Brooklyn, New York and installed piecemeal in multiple sites throughout the month of April. Near the West Entrance, Naama Tsabar’s Melodies of Certain Damage #16 (2020), a deconstructed guitar, is stationed connected to a nearby amplifier. Here, possibility lies, waiting to be plucked, in ruin.

Naama Tsabar, Melodies of Certain Damage #16, 2020. Courtesy of EXPO Chicago.

The inaugural panel of the /DIALOGUES series between painter Mary Lovelace O’Neal and curator Jamillah James opened with a brief yet enriching and storied history of Lovelace O’Neal’s educational background, artist philosophy, influence of travel, community legacy, activism, and ongoing work. Notably, Running with Black Panthers and White Doves (from the Panthers In My Father’s Palace Series) (c.1989-1990) was acquired in 2020 by the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently on view in the Contemporary Art wing. Also included on the schedule are featured conversations between AfriCOBRA and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Humberto Moro and EXPOSURE artists, and more. All panels will be recorded for future viewing. 

Theodora Allen, Struck, 2021. Courtesy of Kasmin (New York). Photo by Jenalee Harmon.

An abundance of offsite events are scheduled to take place over the course of EXPO and beyond the fair dates. Skin in the Game, curated by Zoe Lukov and produced by Abby Pucker, is a recommended group exhibition running through April 24 that explores touch as sensory transmission. Hiroshi Senju’s Waterfall is a site-specific installation gifted to The Art Institute of Chicago by the artist and specifically tailored to the gallery designed by architect Andō Tadao. The environment established by Senju’s work provides a wash of quietude amid a hectic EXPO weekend. Theodora Allen’s Saturnine at The Richard H. Driehaus Museum is in delicate syzygy with motifs, symbols, and textures of the Gilded Age mansion, sharing stars with Oscar Spalmach’s sculpture of Cupid and Psyche. The Life and Death of Charles Williams is on view at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art through May 30. Art on theMART, in partnership with Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, presents a nightly public projection by Nick Cave in advance of his first career retrospective, Forothermore, forthcoming from The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. An exhibition of work by AfriCOBRA founders and longstanding members is on view at The Peninsula Chicago through mid-May in partnership with Kavi Gupta and EXPO Chicago. Additional alignments are noted on the EXPO Chicago website.  

Following the success of this year’s edition, as well as 2020 and 2021 cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the exposition has committed to return annually in April. The 10th edition will take place between April 13 and 16, 2023 at the Chicago Navy Pier. WM

Cori Hutchinson

Cori Hutchinson is a poet, watercolorist, and library assistant living in Brooklyn. 

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