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Kirk Pedersen
Florence, 2005
Acrylic tape, paper on canvas
Courtesy Atrium Gallery, St. Louis

Art Chicago 2009
May 1-4, 2009

The Merchandise Mart
222 Merchandise Mart Plaza
Chicago IL 60654
tel.: 312.527.3701
hours: Friday, May 1, 11 am - 7 pm
Saturday, May 2, 11 am - 7 pm
Sunday, May 3, 11 am - 6 pm
Monday, May 4, 11 am - 3 pm

Art Chicago has returned, intelligently balanced and chock full of good things. The international fair of contemporary and modern art and its concurrent offerings at the Merchandise Mart have reached a far better ratio this year. That's a good thing, making it less of an endurance test and more of a pleasure. Most importantly, you can take time to imbibe the art.

It's still of formidable size, with 110 national and international gallery participants, as well as the accompanying NEXT fair of emerging art. Plan on a long pleasurable day, if you really want to stop and take things in when paintings hit your fancy. Thursday's preview gave a first glimpse at the range and scope of 2009's fair. The galleries provided a very strong showing this year, with figurative art and fine art photography continuing to make a compelling presence, and much that is serious and worth seeing.

Ann Nathan Gallery (Chicago) and Arcadia Fine Arts (New York) are high on the list for the most compelling collections in a single gallery. Recommended at Ann Nathan Gallery are the landscape paintings of Deborah Ebbers, awash in radiance and color; Mary Borgman's portraits, monumental in size and deeply expressive of the personalities of her subjects; and the architectural paintings of Enrique Santana, in which golden light and play of shadow capture the expressive planes and spatial constructions of Chicago's buildings. Much more, naturally -- do check it out.

David Kroll
Swallows and Grapes, 2008
Oil on linen
Courtesy Zolla Lieberman
Gallery, Chicago

Arcadia Fine Arts (New York) is another of those showing Art Chicago's 2009 trend in serious figurative art that fascinates and satisfies. Catching the eye were clever, somewhat surreal imagery in oil by Michael Chapman; figure paintings by Michael Klein and Joseph Todorovitch; the crisp, yet lavish portrayals of flowers by David Sprick; and curious narratives by Aron Wiesenfield.

Likewise Forum Gallery (New York). Forum represents 30 artists in the field of modern and contemporary figurative art, among them the always oddly compelling, yet somehow unsettling Odd Nerdrum, here with the enigmatic oil painting Horse Bath (n.d.).

Further offerings worth seeking out:

Antonio Carreno's large abstract work Ciudad de Luz (City of Light) (2008) at G.R. N'Namdi Gallery (Chicago). Bounding, vivacious and energetic, Carreno's earthy abstraction, here inspired by the City of Chicago, carries on a sprightly non-representational dialogue of shifting color planes and simple, yet mysterious hieroglyphic markings.

Jules de Goede's constructivist abstractions at Broadbent (London). Black and white, strongly defined, triangles and arcs in dialogue hearken back to the earliest movements.

At Galerie Bhak (Korea), artist Purume Hong shows the continued vitality of the simplest of media, ink painting with brush. The black trail of the brush invokes negative space, and creates complex landscapes of shimmering light in these recent yet timeless works from 2009.

If you enjoyed Michael Wolf's two exhibits of large-scale architectural photographs in (and of) Chicago earlier this year, several works by Wolf are featured at Stephen Daiter Gallery (Chicago).

David Kroll's oil paintings of lavishness, whether bird, vase, or luxuriant nature, are at Zolla Lieberman Gallery (Chicago).

Cartoons by Jules Feiffer and Bill Mauldin are among the many selections at Jean Albano Gallery (Chicago). Not merely a pleasure, but a reminder that the eye of a good cartoonist remains a relevant and timely commentary.

Shigeno Ichimura
Relations #15, 2008
Industrial paint on canvas
Courtesy Base Gallery, Tokyo

Not to miss is the Buckminster Fuller 24-Foot Fly's Eye Dome (1976-77) in the South Lobby of the Merchandise Mart. Photos don't do justice to the grand spatial reality of this vintage creation by the groundbreaking American inventor. It is vast, spacious, and -- originally designed as an ecologically-minded, resource-efficient home -- certainly the base for something livable. The effective use of materials is evident in the spareness of the fiberglass panels when compared with the size of the structure they create and its obvious stability. Just a stack of identical panels, some bolts, and voila! The creation has a self-sufficiency and a grandeur all its own. The dome is an original prototype and was the only 24-foot dome produced. Presented courtesy of the Max Protetch Gallery, New York and the Buckminster Fuller Institute, it is tangible evidence of that elusive quality Fuller called 'synergy'. The dome complements the currently running exhibited dedicated to Fuller at the MCA, Buckminster Fuller: Starting With the Universe, showing through June 21, 2009. If you've seen one, you should definitely see the other.

We'll be back on-site Friday reporting on more Art Chicago and some must-see from NEXT, the concurrently-running art fair of emerging art. Both fairs, and the accompanying Merchandise Mart International Antiques Fair, run through Monday, May 1.

More information on Art Chicago and its accompanying fairs may be found at:
Art Chicago, www.artchicago.com.
NEXT, the invitational exhibition of emerging art, www.nextartfair.com.
The Merchandise Mart International Antiques Fair, the Midwest's premiere exhibition of antiques and fine art, www.merchandisemartantiques.com.

--Katherine R. Lieber

Katherine R. Lieber has edited ArtScope.net's Visual Arts reviews since 1998. Ms. Lieber is Editor and Associate Producer for ArtScope.net.

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