EXPO CHICAGO 2018: The International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art Review – Searching for Figurative Realism

Editor's Note:   Read more about 2018 EXPO CHICAGO in these related stories--

EXPO CHICAGO Review- Three Highlights


EXPO CHICAGO presents /Dialogues: Art Critics Forum – Pros and Cons of Memes and More

Needle in a haystack?  A rose among the thorns?  Where’s Waldo?  Browsing EXPO CHICAGO 2018 for figurative realism is not for the faint of heart.  We are looking for paintings (no lithography or photographs) that feature a person you can recognize as an individual—what you might see at the Art Institute exhibition of Sargant’s Chicago portraits, or in a more contemporary piece by Lucian Freud. We did find roses and needles, but not Waldo.

EXPO CHICAGO 2018 Presents an Unresolved Mystery

Our first encounter was a tryptich, Platon’s Hoelle, composed of two unidentified super-realistic paintings.  We can guess at the subject matter—a view through a curved hand to the sky, a hairy human part—but there are no titles and no artist.

Platon’s Hoelle

These are “found art” and no one has stepped forward to acknowledge them.  The third piece of the tryptich is a short essay about the impact of language upon art—how our perception of a piece changes when we know the name of the artist or the piece’s title.  The art has intrinsic value or not that is distorted by identification.  In this case, with no identification, the value was set at $75,000 for the three.  Platon’s Hoelle was represented at EXPO 2018 by Art & Language.

Mugshot Portraits: Women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Lava Thomas

Graphite and Charcoal Portraits

There were several large portraits drawn in graphite and charcoal. Mugshot Portraits: Women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Lava Thomas featured a graphite drawing from the original mugshots taken as these women were arrested.  Like most women in the civil rights movement, their stories are lost to history.  Resurrecting their images, offers homage to the legacy. Her three-dimensional pieces show themes and collections like Chicago African-American artist Nick Cave.  Lava Thomas was represented at EXPO by RENA BRANSTEN GALLERY, San Francisco


Rishora's eye closeup
Rishora by Clio Newton

Rishora by Clio Newton is as glamorous as Thomas’s Mugshot is plain.  Newton works in compressed charcoal, female figures only. You feel her subjects are good friends who stopped by for coffee.  Notice in the close-up photo of Rishora’s eye that you can even decipher the reflection of the image at which she is looking.  Clio Newton was represented at EXPO by Forum Gallery, New York.

Harrossie by Stephanie Conradie

From South Africa to EXPO CHICAGO 2018

From South Africa, the Gallery Momo featured multi-media works by Stephanie Conradie.  Harrossie pictures a colored child surrounded by a thoughtful frame of small objects that might reflect her interests or her status.  That many of the objects are small vessels—egg cups, creamers, tea cups, a miniature tankard, a soap dish—seemed to identify the open, receptive nature of the young girl.  The combination of two and three dimensions is compelling and a treat for the eyes.

Kehinde Wiley - Charles I
Kehinde Wiley St. Francis Contemplating a Skull

Kehinde Wiley, Perhaps the Best-known Contemporary African American painter

Kehinde Wiley, White House portraitist for President Obama, was represented by two galleries:  Roberts Projects in San Francisco has been representing Wiley since 2002.  Their painting, St. Francis Contemplating a Skull is part of a large exhibit that will premier at the St. Louis Art Museum in October.  It features involved men and women from Ferguson, MO.  Rena Bronston Gallery exhibited Charles I, in the manner of a portrait of the king from the 1600s, but clearly a young woman.  In this writer’s view, Wiley is a compelling artist combining figurative realism with highly detailed background patterns that can seem both contradictory and complimentary simultaneously.


There were other compelling examples of figurative realism.  Forum Gallery’s exhibition was titled, Artists by Artists: The Artist as Subject.  It featured artists from J.S. Sargant to Clio Newton depicting artists from Andrew Wyeth to Harold Rosenberg.  We lingered and absorbed the beauty.


You can find more information and images by these various artists at:

the Lava Thomas website,

Clio Newton website

And the Kehinde Wiley website.

Bookmark the Expo Chicago website for  more information on the 2018 show and early news of the 2019 event.

Photos: Photos by Edward Cheknis;  all slider photos courtesy of EXPO CHICAGO

Editor's Note:   Read more about 2018 EXPO CHICAGO in these related stories--

EXPO CHICAGO Review- Three Highlights


EXPO CHICAGO presents /Dialogues: Art Critics Forum – Pros and Cons of Memes and More

Ann Boland
Portrait by Paul Sierra

Reviewer Ann Boland is committed to Chicago theater. Involved in the audience since the early 80’s, she’s witnessed firsthand the rise of our theater scene, our exceptional local talent, and the vigor of each new generation.  Ann handles public relations for authors and works on programs to help seniors with neurological movement disorders.  Please visit her website for more information.  


Click here to read more Picture this Post reviews by Ann Boland.

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