With the second edition of EXPO CHICAGO taking over the city's Navy Pier, Baibakov Art Projects founder and Artspace strategic director Maria Baibakova provides a guide to her favorite artists—and artworks—coming to the fair.
1. ZHAO ZHAO
This is an artist I was only introduced to recently, during a January trip to Beijing where I attended the opening of “ON I OFF: China’s Young Artists in Concept and Practice,” featuring the most promising new talent in China, organized by the visionary Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in the 798 District. At 31 years old, Zhao Zhao stands out as one of the most intriguing figures from the scene of the next generation of Chinese artists. A former collaborator of Ai Weiwei's, Zhao has also faced persecution from the state, which is partially why he is only now claiming a place on the international stage. I am very interested to see how his work develops in the coming years.
2. DANH VO
Danh Vo is an artist who has mastered the poetics of deconstructing history (or rather, its relics). His simple gestures—scattering cast pieces of the Statue of Liberty, or disassembling tiered chandeliers—are both beautiful and devastating, prisms through which we can look at our recent past. While his works rarely sugar-coat the issues they deal with, I think that the very edges that make the pieces uncomfortable are what make them so important.
I fell for Marine’s work through her series of newspaper collages, which turn front pages of historical newspapers into mini-mass-media Mondrians by covering the photographs with paint. The results insist on the historical context of the images, even as it seems to void them. One time I tried to help Marine source some newspapers from the time of the perestroika and the putsch in Russia (1990-1991) for a new series about the ending of the Soviet Union, but no matter how hard we tried we couldn’t find the newspapers we needed to create the pieces! Marine's more recent works are moving in different directions, format-wise, but continue the artist's negotiation of content, context, and composition.
Michael Rakowitz's The Breakup (2012) is easily one of the most engaging works I've seen in a while. The impossibly catchy 10-part radio show spliced little-known recordings of the Beatles' 1969 disbanding with insights into the relations between Israel, Palestine, and the greater Middle East. Rakowitz followed this up with What Dust Will Rise? (2012), his thoughtful contribution to Documenta last year. Conflating the histories of the 1941 bombing of Kassel and the 2001 demolition of the 6th-century Buddhas of Bamiyan, the artist commissioned stone books, hand-carved from Bamiyan stone, to replace the destroyed books from Kassel.
5. RUBEN OCHOA
I first encountered Ruben Ochoa's work in 2010 when Baibakov Art Projects served as one of the partner platforms of the Pinchuk Art Prize. Ochoa was nominated, and eventually showed a work both in Kiev and a special presentation in Venice. His installations turn ordinary construction materials into wry commentary on issues of class and socio-economic divides.
6. ANNE COLLIER
I was fortunate enough to get one of Anne Collier’s multiples which read “I Married an Artist!” as a gift, and have loved her work ever since. There is something really addictive about Anne’s aesthetics. Her images are razor-sharp, both in composition and conception. Her simple, staged imagery seems to exceed the reality it's governed by, offering a kind of hyper-focus on the medium of media.
Jessica Stockholder just knows how to make an impression. Every object, every eye-popping color palette—it just all comes together, quite powerfully, whether it's a wall-mounted work or a room-sized sculpture.
8. IDRIS KAHN
I know Idris’s work quite well, as we included it in our "Natural Wonders" exhibition at Baibakov Art Projects, which brought 22 London-based artists to Moscow in 2009. Most recently I was floored by the new body of work he showed at Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde in Dubai. His works are palimpsests, in the most literal sense of the term, and are very poetic. The Eternal Movement series references a particular section of the Haj pilgrimage called the Sayee, when pilgrims must walk back and forth seven times between the mountains of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah.
Monir Farmanfarmaian is approaching 90 years old, and yet her work feels as fresh and contemporary as that of 30-year-old artists. This fact becomes all the more jaw-dropping when you consider what upheaval this artist, born in northwest Iran in 1924, has lived through. Her mirror mosaics and reverse glass paintings revive traditional Persian patterns, mixing in references to Islamic art and architecture alongside some pointed nods to High Modernism. She is truly a living legend.
10. GLENN LIGON
Glenn Ligon has an astounding way of taking on very difficult subjects—homophobia, racism, class divides—in sneakily stunning compositions.
11. ALEXANDER CALDER
Alexander Calder is without a doubt one of my favorite artists of all time. Calder was at once a sculptor, a painter, an engineer, and a stage designer, all the while having strong senses of composition and motion. His work is subtle yet extremely powerful and has a way of dominating the room. I've been to a lot of fairs and countless museum and gallery shows and I've seen a lot of art, but I have to say, works by Calder always make me stop and catch my breath.
12. AARON YOUNG
Aaron’s motorcycle drawings are now a classic work of the late 2000s. To create the works, he lines large floor areas with wood or metal panels, covers them with multiple layers of paint, and asks his motorcyclist friends to ride around on the panels, sometimes spinning their wheels or doing tricks. The tires erode the paint surface, revealing layers of color that are at once both an elegant abstraction and a carefully-thought-through science experiment. After doing his first performance in the Park Avenue Armory in September 2007, entitled Greeting Card (from which I purchased a set of six panels), Aaron wanted to do a project in Moscow by the invitation of Gagosian Gallery, which I helped pull together at the Red October Chocolate Factory parking lot in September 2008. I bought another four-panel set from that happening as well.