Local Artists Featured at EXPO CHICAGO


The 140 galleries participating in EXPO Chicago this year showcase a range of established artists from across the globe. But the exposition of contemporary and modern art also provides opportunities for a select group of local artists to exhibit their work to an international audience. Jenny Kendler, John Preus, and Erik Peterson are three Chicago artists whose work is highlighted at this year’s EXPO at Navy Pier.

Kendler is the first-ever artist-in-residence for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Her EXPO installation Tell It to the Birds (2014) fills the entire NRDC exhibitor booth and vibrantly reflects issues surrounding dwindling biodiversity and the conservation of species. You can read more about Kendler’s installation in a previously published Chicago Gallery News article, Realizing Human Relationships with Nature through Art.

Above: images from Kendler's NRDC installation.


Until recently, Preus (rhymes with “choice”) was the lead fabricator for artist and activist Theaster Gates and the creative director of Gate’s Rebuild Foundation. Given this background, it’s not surprising that Preus fabricates many of his works from found objects. For EXPO Preus was invited to create a series of installations using discarded furniture from Chicago Public Schools. Collectively titled Social Furniture (2014), these works address last year’s closing of 54 Chicago schools and bring attention to what Preus sees as waning support for public education.

John Preus's installation at EXPO


Peterson, a recent “graduate” of the Chicago Artists Coalition BOLT residency, creates works that explore the dichotomies between “space and surface, luminescence and reflectivity.” His neon sculptures grabbed the attention of EXPO officials during a recent tour of the CAC’s artist studios; Peterson was subsequently invited to create a site-specific piece for EXPO. Titled Seep (2014), this pink neon sculpture activates a dark—and rather challenging—outdoor space at the lower level entrance to EXPO. True to its name, Seep “spills” from its brick wall base onto the sidewalk, blurring spatial boundaries, a trademark condition of Peterson’s sculptures.

A second site-specific work by Peterson titled Indulge Your Every Whim (2014) is located in the Chicago Artists Coalition booth inside Festival Hall (EXPO's main exhibition space.) This piece was selected from a dozen other proposals by Kate Nesim, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. Similar to SeepIndulge You Every Whim is created from pink neon tubing and designed to fit its space. Peterson calls the two works “fraternal twins.” Both use neon in what Peterson calls a “mannerist way,” where the medium is manipulated and transformed from its original function as signage material into a more expressive mode.

"Seep" by Erik Peterson


Says curator Nesim of Peterson’s installation “[It] struck a compelling balance between, on the one hand, contributing to the sense of spectacle or visual dazzle in a fair environment, and, on the other hand, arresting the viewer—providing a space in which optical disorientation and ultimate orientation are explored both playfully and thoughtfully.”

The works of Kendler, Preuss, and Peterson are on view at EXPO Chicago from Friday, September 19 through Sunday, September 21. 


For images and posts from EXPO all weekend, follow CGN on Twitter and Instagram