Abstractions & Social Critique | Chicago: six must-see exhibitions

Clare Voon, Art Basel, December 18, 2021


From blue-chip spaces to artist-run apartment projects, galleries in Chicago are back in full swing. Current and upcoming exhibition highlights in this midwestern arts hub will take visitors to West Town, which in recent years has gradually cemented its status as the city’s unofficial gallery district. Much of this route can be walked, but it’s November in Chicago – bundle up.


Abstractions & Social Critique
Kavi Gupta
Through December 18, 2021


The premise of this group exhibition is, on the surface, quite simple: Sprawled across Kavi Gupta’s Washington Boulevard location, it explores how 14 artists have heeded the enduring call of abstraction. Notably, the show’s focus is also on intergenerational dialogue, illuminating connections between artists working across media ranging from ink paintings to NFTs. The oldest represented is Oakland-based artist Raymond Saunders, who, with his work Untitled (n.d.), layers newspapers with an elegant chalk drawing and boisterous eruptions of paint. The collage is both diaristic, reflecting Saunders’ material environment, and suggestive of sociopolitical realities in its choice of headlines; like a jazz composition, its narrative remains stubbornly open-ended. Among the youngest artists is Cameron Welch, whose painted mosaic of marble, glass, ceramic, quartz, and stones explores the power of myths to record and reimagines Black identity. One immediate through line of this show is the total freedom found in the ambiguity of abstraction; another is the genre’s boundless potential to exude more than visual intrigue by carrying personal, social, and political narratives – and respond to, or subvert, the then and now.

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