This weekend is SOFA, the Sculptural Objects and Functional Art fair at Navy Pier. It serves as a counterpoint to Art Chicago, like the Summer and Winter Solstices of Chicago’s art world. While Art Chicago includes Next (dedicated to emerging artists) and the Antiques Fair (self-explanitory) as well as the more blue chip Art Chicago itself, SOFA covers an entirely different band of the spectrum. Two, actually: SOFA itself is dedicated to those types of art generally classified (and all too often, dismissed) as “craft.” This includes woodcarving, furniture, glass, ceramic, jewelry, and metalsmithing.
SOFA also incorporates Intuit, an exhibition of folk and outsider art. This can include Darger’s fantastic drawings, vintage sideshow posters, carvings by self-taught woodworkers…basically anyone who didn’t go to art school, and is or was more or less self-taught and outside the mainstream art historical canon. As the canon expands to appropriate and include more and more non-Western, self-taught, or anti-academic art, the boundaries of what is and is out “outsider” art can be blurred. Certainly the Ghanan movie posters exhibited by Primitive at Art Chicago as well as at the Chicago Cultural Center would be at home at Intuit, and Darger is well-known enough to be embraced nearly universally. Nevertheless, Intuit (produced in cooperation with the local museum of the same name) provides a unique opportunity to see an assortment of works of this type gathered together in one place.
SOFA and Intuit bring in galleries from all over the nation and the world, but also provided an opportunity for some of Chicago’s galleries to show their artists to a new audience. Some of our local favorites showing this year are Ann Nathan at SOFA, and Judy Saslow and Russell Bowman Art Advisory at Intuit. We catch as many of their shows year-round as we can, but still look forward to seeing what they choose to present in their booths. We’re also looking forward to seeing some spaces that are new to us, such as ten472 Contemporary Art, from my wife Stephanie Burke’s hometown of Grass Valley, California.
Unfortunately, Stephanie and I both had teaching obligations which kept us from attending the Thursday night preview event, so we haven’t seen the show yet, but we’re looking forward to checking it out first thing tomorrow morning. Hope to see you out there!