With the weather becoming increasingly inclement and pumpkins appearing on porch steps surrounded by blowing leaves, one may begin to feel either excited and/or nervous, depending on what your relationship is to the great art fair known as SOFA Chicago 2014. I am usually equal measures of both come the first week of November, as the herculean effort on the part of galleries and artists alike to pack and ship so much fragile and expensive artwork into one building is as inspiring as it is terrifying. So much creative output by so many artists -some of whose work I've admired for my entire career- collected in one space gives the show a palpable atmosphere of tension.
This year, I was given the opportunity by the Wexler Gallery to show two pieces, my large hanging Illuminated Sculpture, as well as a new installation of 16 black and clear glass objects on a shelf called Indefinite Sum #2.
What truly made the setup more fun than usual was to be able to do it with a friend, the extremely talented Joanna Manousis, whose stunning wall piece, The Dominant Sophia, was right next to mine in the booth. Between her reassuring confidence and all of the wonderful help from the Wexler crew: Adill, Nick, Chris, and Melissa, hanging a 100-part, 200 lb. glass sculpture over wealthy collectors' heads by a thin chain 60+ feet from the ceiling seemed that much less stressful.
As luck (?) would have it, both of my pieces were sold to private collectors, as was Joanna's! This seemed to have pleased Mr. Wexler, who can be seen in this short video and article on the Urban Glass Quarterly Blog: Red Dot Report: Signs of changing tastes at SOFA Chicago 2014. The article, by Andrew Page, is interesting in that it emphasizes the demographic shift that seems evident in the show's collector-base. Large sales by younger artists like myself and Joanna, which used to be much less common, seem to be becoming more so. One can only speculate as to the reasons for the post-recession interest in making what would arguably be a more risky investment, but I would argue that a new generation of buyers are intrigued by artists who are willing to take greater risks and experiment with new formats. These would be artists who conceive of work that evolves and takes on different meanings as ideas and techniques are layered into their practice, rather than being (oftentimes unfortunately) pigeon-holed into making different-colored versions of a "signature" piece. The Wexler Gallery seems to have this idea in mind, and I am extremely fortunate to benefit from their foresight and support.
The range of work presented at the show was, in my opinion, a mixed-bag. There were some examples of largesse in both size and ambition, technical tours-de-force, and also some quietly elegant works that were either humbly well-executed or deeply inspirational or both. Most of the works in the latter category seemed to be in the Heller Gallery booth, my favorite being the work of Laura Kramer. There is also, as always, some work included that leaves you scratching your head as to whether or not the cutting edge of craft and design has been adequately deliberated. There's no accounting for taste, of course...