On Artists, the Absurd, and the Sublime: Cristin Tierney Gallery at Expo Chicago

This September, New York’s Cristin Tierney gallery returns to Expo Chicago for the gallery’s third showing at the fair. The gallery’s booth brings together nine artists (including one duo) from Tierney’s stable of mid-career and underrepresented artists. The gallery’s program focuses on critical theory and art historical themes, and the presentation in Chicago highlights the breadth it represents. Among the pieces on display are a wide range of sculpture, painting, prints, and photographs with an equally broad range of subject matter and conceptual impulses.

One of the prominent connections in this grouping is between artists Joe Fig and Alois Kronschlaeger, both of whom reference other artists in their works. Fig’s artistic shoutouts range from the straightforward (a portrait of Tony Oursler in his studio) to the more crafty (a miniature, mixed-media representation of Kate Gilmore’s studio). Kronschlaeger, meanwhile, takes a more distanced approach. In two works at the fair he presents portraits of the artists Marcel Duchamp and Walter Gropius crumpled up and distorted, as though their influence were diminishing through the distance of time. He is also among select artists who have been invited to present site-specific installations in Expo’s IN/SITU section. There, he presents a starkly different work, Grid Structure #1: Configuration 2 (2014), a tower of 22 vibrant mesh cubes, which explores perception and light, and exemplifies the artist’s interest in spatial relationships and the intersections of art and architecture.

Against these works, others shine in their simplicity or even in their absurdist approach, like artist Malia Jensen, whose contributions include Midlife (2013), a tiny, hyperrealistic wax-and-paper sculpture of an overripe and sprouted head of garlic, and Atlas (2008), a trompe l’oeil brick made from paper. Painter and printmaker Joan Snyder takes a different approach to paper, creating exuberant floral images in Cherry Tree II (Series III) (2011), a hand-painted monoprint over woodblock, or Totem Dance (2013), an elegant piece made entirely from colored paper pulp. 

The pieces that stand out the most, however, are those created by the collaborative team of Canadian artists Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins. These minimalist paintings in acrylic and oil stick, with their clean, circuit-like lines, provide a palate cleanser that’s always a welcome break amid a crowded art fair.

Heather Corcoran