During last week’s edition of the Expo Chicago art fair, ARTnews organized various events around the Windy City, including a preview for a Theaster Gates–organized exhibition at the Stony Island Arts Bank and a talk with Gates and collector Beth Rudin DeWoody about that show.
The show at Stony Island Arts Bank, “In the Absence of Light: Gesture, Humor and Resistance in the Black Aesthetic,” features works by black artists from the collection of DeWoody (who has been on the ARTnews “Top 200 Collectors” list since 2005), and was presented by the Rebuild Foundation in partnership with Expo Chicago, ARTnews, and the Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection. At the talk about the show, Gates—who organized the exhibition with DeWoody and Laura Dvorkin—said of its genesis:
When presented with 450 works by black artists, and not wanting to have a show about black artists, how do you tease out this nuanced subjectivity? How do you start to make a story out of artists who were working over seven decades? It didn’t feel like curation for me—I have enough titles. It felt like deep looking and deep listening, and trying to frame an emotional position.
DeWoody said that she has long held work by black artists in her collection—the first work she bought came from the famed painter Benny Andrews, who was also her teacher. “I didn’t consciously think, ‘Oh, this is a black artist, I’ve got to have it,’ ” she said of that purchase, and added, “My collecting has always been that way. I had a lot of artists in the collection that I didn’t realize were black. Their message didn’t have a political background, where I’d say, ‘Yes, this is political work by a black artist.’ They were just artists.”
Over at Expo Chicago, as 135 dealers showed their wares, ARTnews Editor-in-Chief Sarah Douglas led a panel about diversity and inclusion in museums. Put on by Northern Trust, the panel included Joyce Foundation director Tracie Hall, collector Carl Thoma, and Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland director Jill Snyder.
A look around these events and more follows below.