chicago art

In Good Company: Steven Husby

This is the first in an ongoing series of short interviews with artists that we work with or admire called “In Good Company.” Answers are lightly edited for length and clarity.

Name: Steven Husby

Location: Chicago

Education: School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA) and Minnesota State University, Moorhead (BFA)

Hometown: Huron, South Dakota

As a child, did you know you wanted to be an artist? 

Absolutely. I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t want to be one. The closest I think I ever came to any other profession was when I was nine or ten and started telling adults that I wanted to be an interior designer. I’m guessing that can be blamed on the influence of the hit 80s sitcom Designing Women, which I watched with my mom on a pretty regular basis.

What has been a defining moment of your artistic career so far?

There have been two moments that were hugely affirming: getting into the MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and being offered an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago a few years later.

Have you had any jobs outside of the art world? If so, how have those jobs informed your work as an artist?

When I was a student I worked in a warehouse loading Coke trucks and in a factory that made product decals and tiny folded paper medical labels. The places proved hugely influential to my own aesthetic decisions in my formative years as a young artist: the mostly warm, industrial aesthetic of the warehouse–rich rust-colored reds and ochres interrupted by cool black and white point of sale stickers, the crisp red and white of the trucks–and the ice cold 21st century look and feel of the windowless fluorescent lighting of the factory, populated by precision-engineered German paper folding machines and beige 80s printing machines.

What is your favorite non-art object in your studio right now? 

A pair of flash cards with geometric shapes that I picked up from a library sale when I was in college. There is no text on either of them, and I don’t have the rest of the set, so their purpose remains unclear.

Do you have any personal collections besides art?

I’m an avid reader, so I have a lot of books–mostly philosophy and nonfiction. The habit began at home when I was a kid. My grandma had a lot of art, objects, and books collected from her travels in retirement. She often brought me knick-knacks like carved wooden animals–which I still have and enjoyed “curating” when I was a kid. The oldest book she had was one on Roman History printed in the 17th Century, which I inherited from her.

If you could partner with any company to show your work, what would it be and why?

Given the importance of reading in my life, I think working with a publishing company or a library would be a natural fit for me. A lot of my work is made for big walls and open spaces, so I think a lot of it would also be perfectly at home in the lobby of a bank–or in any space that functions as an intermission between more private space and concentrated activity. I've often thought that some of my work would work well in a hospital. No one really likes to think about needing care, but I think there’s something uniquely humbling and contemplative about the experience of being in those spaces–waiting or working–that makes a person receptive to the more abstract point of view that I’m often trying to tap into and open up with my work. 

To see more of Steven Husby’s work, check out his website or Instagram.

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Thoughts on Chicago’s 2019 Art Fairs

For one weekend in September, Chicago is inundated with art from galleries across the country and around the world. This year, the city hosted two major art fairs. EXPO Chicago had its eighth edition on Navy Pier and the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) premiered their first-ever Chicago Invitational. This was an exceptional opportunity for our team to view a huge spread of artwork, meet new artists, and make connections with gallerists–both local and global. After viewing hundreds of pieces and shaking nearly as many hands, here are our thoughts on this year’s art fairs:

Trends and Through-lines

One of the joys of attending an art fair is noticing the different mediums, methods, and subjects that reverberate across the art world in a given year. Through-lines connect contemporary artists–and as these through-lines weave together over time, they become the tapestry of art history that we reflect on decades later. This year, we noticed a few trends across both EXPO and NADA’s Chicago Invitational: pattern and abstraction, semi-sculptural pieces, and high-gloss artwork.

It is easy to associate abstract artwork with the loose, random-seeming paint splatters of Action painters like Jackson Pollock, but abstraction can also be tightly controlled. One theme our team noticed is the prevalence of patterns in contemporary art. Artists like Matthew Craven create intricate, multi-color patterns that are stimulating and eye-catching. Even art that depicts real life, like this still life of a table with a watermelon by Holly Coulis, borders on abstraction.

Matthew Craven

Matthew Craven

Holly Coulis

Holly Coulis

We noticed some pieces throughout the shows that are “2.5 D” or somewhere between two-dimensional and three-dimensional. These works are often wall-mounted like a painting, but have sculptural elements that make them pop out from the wall. In general, textile artwork is having a renaissance. We saw great examples of tapestries and large-scale fabric pieces, like Jessica Campbell at Sapar Contemporary and Joël Andrianomearisoa from Galerie RX in Paris.

The paintings that caught our eyes were often packed with shiny pigments. Glossy artwork is having a moment right now. Some artists are turning away from matte finishes towards lustrous polish, giving many works the look of enamel. Los Angeles-based gallery Luis De Jesus had a piece by June Edmonds at EXPO with a gleaming finish.

Team member Julia at viewing a 2.5 D piece

Team member Julia at viewing a 2.5 D piece

Face to Face

It’s a uniquely 21st century problem: increasingly, we all know people from email or social media and haven’t met them in person. At the fairs this year, we finally got to meet a few gallerists that we have only known digitally. Meeting people in person makes it so much easier to build our community and forge strong connections in the art world. Additionally, art fairs make it easy to keep in touch with old friends from throughout our careers. Because our team members worked across the art world before joining DeGroot Fine Art, the art fairs are a great excuse to get a coffee with a curator or catch up with someone from grad school who is just passing through town.

Location, Location, Location

Seeing lots of people from outside of Chicago reminded us of the importance of traveling when sourcing artwork. Each booth was only a small selection of a gallery’s deep well of talent. Traveling to different parts of the country–or even world–opens up more possibilities for our corporate clients to learn about new work they might not otherwise have the chance to see. We look forward to booking our trips for the coming year to visit those we met on their turf for visits to their galleries and regional fairs.

Whether it was trend-spotting, meeting famous dogs, or toasting to the opening of the art season at Vernissage surrounded by artists and gallerists, we had a successful weekend at the fairs!

Julia and Jaime at Vernissage

Julia and Jaime at Vernissage

Jaime with a painting by Anna Kunz

Jaime with a painting by Anna Kunz

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Getting the Most Out of the Fall Art Season

Each fall, Chicago’s art world buzzes with gallery openings, art fairs, museum exhibitions, and major events. Here are our tips to get the most out of the season.

Carol Jackson at Corbett vs. Dempsey

Carol Jackson at Corbett vs. Dempsey

Pencil It In

With so much going on, we recommend making a list of the shows, galleries, and fairs you want to attend–and then adding the events to your calendar. Check out the shows at the galleries you are familiar with and read up on guides to the season from publications like Chicago Gallery News. Look into events outside your usual circle to see fresh art that you might otherwise miss. NewCity’s “Fall Arts Preview 2019: Alternative Spaces in Chicago” is a great place to find hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path galleries.

It can be all too easy to let an exhibition closing date slip by without realizing you never got to see it. Early in the season, prioritize attending events that are only open for a short time, like a weekend art fair, and save longer-running exhibitions for when things slow down in November. Always double check that spaces are open when you plan to go. Many galleries are closed on Mondays, for example. Call ahead if you want to confirm the hours that a space is open.

Visiting Galleries

Many galleries kick off their fall shows with an opening reception, often in September. Receptions are great for meeting gallerists, artists, and people in the art world, but the high attendance and overlapping conversations can make it hard to focus on the art, so plan on seeing the show again after the opening when you can absorb the exhibition more fully. The prices of artwork may not always be posted; if you are interested in a piece, ask a gallery attendant for a price list, which will detail the artist’s biographical information and the cost of the work. 

We are looking forward to so many shows this season. Julia Fish: bound by spectrum at the DePaul Art Museum captures a decade of observational paintings of light in a Chicago house (September 12–February 23, 2020). Corbett vs Dempsey hosts an exhibition of wall-hanging sculptures by Carol Jackson titled End World Music (September 6–October 12). In The Last Cruze, MacArthur “genius” Fellowship award winner LaToya Ruby Frazier brings 67 of her famed documentary photographs to the Renaissance Society, chronicling the lives of autoworkers in Ohio (September 14–December 1).

This fall, we are hosting our own exhibition in our office at 1709 W. Chicago Ave. Kantoor is a group exhibition of artwork made with pencil or graphite by five artists based in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. The exhibition will run from September 13–November 1 and showcase artists who are popular picks with our client base. We hope you’ll stop by!

Navigating Art Fairs

EXPO Chicago (September 19–22) is the city’s largest art fair. EXPO is an excellent opportunity to see artwork from around the world–136 galleries from 24 countries will be showing work by their best and brightest talent. This year, the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) will host a fair in Chicago–their first fair outside of Miami (September 18–21). Just as things are winding down before winter, the third annual Chicago Art Book Fair (November 15–17) is an excellent chance to pick up some reading for the cold months.

Art fairs can be an overwhelming blur of people, voices, and lots of art. Experience an art fair at your own pace and do not feel pressured to see every single booth or work of art. Do not feel shy about asking questions or inquiring about prices. Each booth will be staffed with one or more gallerists ready to tell you more about the art. And it never hurts to wear comfortable shoes–there’s usually a lot of walking involved in a day at the fair.

Don’t Miss Out on Other Major Cultural Events

Between gallery-hopping and chatting with dealers at EXPO, be sure to make time for some of the other excellent arts and cultural events happening in Chicago this fall. Every two years the Chicago Architectural Biennial takes over the Cultural Center with thought-provoking projects on the way we live and build. This year marks the third iteration of the biennial, running from September into early 2020.

The Chicago Humanities Festival hosts speakers from around the country–journalists, political figures, and cultural heavyweights headline the festival. There is even a series of free talks dedicated to fine arts, titled Creative Chicago: Arts and the City.

As always, the exhibitions at Chicago’s museums can’t be missed, including a slew of shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art and a blockbuster exhibition of Andy Warhol at the Art Institute

Grab a sweater and a latte & enjoy the autumn art season!

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