Leslie Ferrin reports from Chicago, November 2014
Returning from SOFA Chicago this year, I was asked again and again, “How was it?”
Now in its 21st year, people wanted to know about the sales, attendance, and, of course, what was being shown. My reply, “Indeed, the show does go on.”
High Octane Redhead — You are a force of nature! @hioctaneredhead Thanks for all you did. Your new studio and gallery space in Evanston is a great thing #sidetracked More from “scene and seen” last week in Chicago #ferrincontemporaryontheroad photo posted by Leslie Ferrin (@leslieferrin) on Nov 11, 2014 at 3:40pm PST
#Susan Beiner one of the #ceramictop40 artists showing @sofachicago #ferrincontemporaryontheroad A photo posted by Leslie Ferrin (@leslieferrin) on Nov 11, 2014 at 10:38am PST
A photo posted by Leslie Ferrin (@leslieferrin) on Nov 11, 2014 at 9:58am PST
Robert Arneson paired with Jacob Lawrence. Chicago dealer Ann Nathan has an extraordinary eye. #ferrincontemporaryontheroad A photo posted by Leslie Ferrin (@leslieferrin) on Nov 11, 2014 at 9:55am PST
A photo posted by Leslie Ferrin (@leslieferrin) on Nov 11, 2014 at 5:03pm PST
SOFA Chicago continues to be a gathering place for people in the field of contemporary decorative art and studio craft, despite the fair’s reduced scale and lack of diversity. Opening night, as always, is about the people: artists, longtime friends, colleagues, curators, and collectors. A wonderful whirlwind of meeting and greeting that makes it challenging, if not nearly impossible, to actually see the artwork on view.
As a former exhibitor, it is with some poignancy that I return to SOFA. First at New Art Forms in 1983 and then at SOFA from 1989 to 2011, Ferrin Gallery presented hundreds of individual artworks in curated group and solo exhibitions that included career highs for many of our artists. Now, only three years removed from that time with SOFA, the changes to the event seem significant. Only a smattering of works by the artists who once commanded the aisles appeared to be on view. The fair, now functioning under new management and ownership, is much smaller in scale and fully dominated by an overwhelming quantity of glass, shiny and heavily lit. Largely unedited, but still highly sought after, glass fills the floor plan, overflows walls, and hangs from above – making this fair still the best place in the world to see a full range of contemporary glass – blown, polished, cast, with or without videos – for sale.
For other media, however, there has been a marked attrition of American dealers. Gone as well, are the familiar clusters of British and Australian galleries that formerly presented large selections of clay sculpture, furniture, art jewelry, mixed media objects, and studio pottery have dwindled. The galleries that remain are to be commended for continuing to provide the opportunity for those attending the fair to view and experience works “in person” rather than as digital images. The not-for-profit exhibition by Anderson Ranch, celebrating its 50th anniversary, picked up some of the slack by showing and selling single works by their esteemed teaching faculty.
Walking the aisles, I did enjoy seeing artwork by some of the artists from Ceramic Top 40: Susan Beiner, Andy Brayman, Cristina Cordova, Leopold Foulem, Rain Harris, Steven Young Lee, Lauren Mabry, and Jason Walker as they were presented by various galleries.
The special presentation of works by the recently passed Kirk Mangus at Mindy Solomon Gallery, accompanied by a lecture and book signing for MOCA Cleveland’s “Things Love” exhibition of Magnus’ works, were of particular sentimental significance.
Also of note was Michael Strand’s NCECA (the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) sponsored lecture “Across the Table: Craft Practice Beyond the Object.” It examined the role of objects in the 21st century as catalysts for community building and social change through past, present, and future projects. The lecture was presented as part of SOFA’s always engaging lecture series.
Beyond SOFA, gallery hopping in Chicago included visits to Perimeter Gallery to take in selected works from Sergei Isupov’s solo exhibition Promenade, as well as a serene installation of contemporary ceramics by masters of the medium. Also on view were paintings by Christian Vincent at Ann Nathan Gallery and Kahn Selesnick’s Truppe Fledermaus project (previously exhibited as part of COVET back in 2012) at Carl Hammer Gallery .
A studio visit with Dana Major and Rodrigo Lara Zendejas gave me the opportunity to see Mana Contemporary Chicago, a large, renovated industrial building filled with artist studios as well as exhibition and presentation areas. Seeing this building provided a moment of comparison to our own industrial-building-turned-art-space project: Independent Art Projects (IAP). IAP is a collaborative art space, co-founded by Ferrin Contemporary and CYNTHIA-REEVES in June 2014, and located in building 13 on the MASS MoCA campus. IAP features ongoing installations of works from our current projects. Visting Mana afforded me the opportunity to imagine what our nascent project may someday evolve to be. Click through to read more about expansion projects at MASS MoCA profiled in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Boston Globe.
#FERRINCONTEMPORARYONTHEROAD is a visual photo stream diary of people and objects related to ceramics, both historic and contemporary, as seen in both private and public collections and at fairs and galleries. The images, photographed by Leslie Ferrin, are generated through Instagram as she traverses the world and sends images wherever wifi and phone service permit. Find related content on Tumblr, Facebook, and FerrinContemporary.com.
Follow along. Questions and comments are very welcome.