To delay the onset of bleary-eyed, sensory overload, I have adopted the 'trawling' technique for navigating large art fairs: moving at a brisk pace, I scan without trying to take it all in and see what jumps out at me.
Certainly, knowing the artist catches my attention.Theodore Boggs and Russ White were showing work with Jettison Quarterly and Brent Houston had a piece in the Swimming Pool Project Space, all part of the NEXT show of emerging galleries.
Generally it is color or unusual abstract forms or interesting surfaces that make me circle back for a second look. And there were two highlights for me at Art Chicago this year. First, I discovered Alex Couwenberg. Couwenberg's compositions are spare with midcentury influences apparent in his forms and precision painted lines. I am always drawn to an artist who has achieved this level of fluency with an abstract visual vocabulary. Couwenberg constructs ordered but complex and vibrantly layered images. Reading up on him, I found that he mentored with Karl Benjamin. Benjamin is associated with the California hard-edge painting, concerned with economy of form, fullness of color, neatness of surface and nonrelational arrangements of forms on canvas.
I was literally scanning the last aisle of Art Chicago when I came across Rex Ray's work. I have only seen his work online and it was great to see his massive, spectacularly detailed canvases up close. This is another artist with an extensive design-influenced abstract visual vocabulary. There's no artist statement on his site, but I've read elsewhere that he creates images that he finds beautiful. Love that.
I am still thinking about the extraordinary craftsmanship of both these artists. I need to research the California 'finish fetish' of the 1970s--the 1970s car culture of Alberta has to be relevant here. And, I will continue on my quest to expand and clarify my visual vocabulary. While forms are evolving, my need to make logical relational arrangements of forms remains central to my work, suggesting that while I have moved away from clinical work based on an intellectualist linguistic model, I am nevertheless still searching for syntax.