EXPO Chicago 2019 - Big Art Has Big Appeal review by Brent Eickhoff of works by Jim Dine, Rashid Johnson, and Zaria Forman
Walking through the various booths of the Chicago Expo may feel like navigating a maze of art and culture. Thousands of works of art must be on display throughout Navy Pier’s Festival Hall. While many stick out as you walk from one exhibitor’s booth to another, three artworks especially stood out to this reviewer,as much for their aesthetic beauty as for their sheer size. These three large format pieces from Zaria Forman, Rashid Johsnon, and Jim Dine all show how art can be larger-than-life and still take your breath away from more than just size.
Zaria Forman’s Ephemeral Landscapes at Winston Wächter Fine Art
As striking for their size as for their rich blues and stark whites, Zaria Forman’s representations of Greenland’s Charcot Fjord are a truly stunning encapsulation of natural beauty. The Charcot Fjord is one of the largest icebergs ever discovered, spanning some four and a half basketball courts, and some historians and scientists believe that the iceberg responsible for sinking the Titanic was broken off of the Charcot Fjord.
Approaching the gallery, you’d be forgiven to think that these are large aerial photographs of immense, snow-white glaciers juxtaposed with the deep, oceanic blues of the Atlantic and Arctic. However, upon closer consideration, Forman’s artistry begins to show, as you realize that the works, which measure 90x60 inches, are actually created from soft pastels. Forman’s photo-realistic works draw from aerial photographs and expeditions with NASA scientists to showcase a quickly changing natural resource. While Forman has frozen the Charcot Fjord in time with her drawings, the glaciers now may look different than they did when the artwork was completed in 2018. Seeing Earth’s immenseness and fragility so richly displayed, you may not be able to avoid thinking of the effects of climate change on the world’s natural beauty as this reviewer was.
Rashid Johnson Invites You to Take a Closer Look with “Gold Lines” from QG Gallery
Rashid Johnson’s Gold Lines is almost the same size as Forman’s landscapes. Measuring almost 73 inches tall and 50 inches wide, it hangs impressively on a wall to itself. From afar, as is the case with Forman’s work, it looks like one thing; however, upon closer inspection, you realize that it is much more a sum of its parts than you realized on first glance. A large, black rectangle with some thin, golden lines running through it, Gold Lines initially looks rather simple. Only when you get closer to it do you see the richness of mediums and materials that comprise its complex range of black textures. Johnson’s piece is comprised of black mirrored tiles, combined with other mediums like wax, soap, and spray enamel. The result is a piece which is engrossingly textured, with matte and glossy finishes blurring from one medium to the next as you trace Johnson’s gold lines vertically and horizontally throughout the piece.
Discussing his unique materials and approach to investigating racial identity through his sculptural work, Johnson shares that, “When I was younger, I would see shea butter being sold on the street, and I was interested in how people were still coating themselves in the theater of Africanism.” Reading this quote from the artist adds a whole new perspective to Gold Lines, inviting a deeper reflection on the massive piece’s historical weight and layers.
Jim Dine’s Self-Portrait Sculpture Presents A Large-than-Life Look at Its Creator
Richard Gray Gallery's booth houses a gigantic human head, sculpted from bronze and acrylic and surrounded by branches. Aptly titled, Jim’s Head with Branches, artist Jim Dine’s 2018 sculpture is more than eight-and-a-half feet tall, towering over even the tallest of EXPO Chicago attendees. Like the other works written about in this piece, Jim’s Head with Branches is immense in both scope and texture. His larger-than-life face, skull, and the branches all show great care and depth of craft, with intricately criss-crossing raised scars suggestive of a life fully lived and the impact time and experience have made on him. This writer found himself wondering whether the branches were meant to symbolize entrapment or protection.
A pop artist originally from Cincinnati, Dine first became recognized for his work creating chaotic, performance art and Happenings, created in collaboration with avant-garde composer John Cage, among others. Even in his static sculpture, Dine illustrates a capability to capture your focus and stop you in your tracks. Jim’s Head with Branches is arresting for its detail and careful execution just as much as its height.
Read more about him and other Picture this Post writers on the Picture this Post Masthead.
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