Aron Packer, Rebecca Eaton, Victor Armendariz, and Elias Martin
Breck Furnas and Joel Mangers
Scott and Joyce Zuercher with Donna Davies
Michael Cantwell, Lauren Olson, Kimmy Wilson, and Ben Paciello
Ted Nourie and Nadine Schneller
Nadine Schneller, Aron Packer, and Donna Davies
Thursday evening, Michigan Avenue hosted a preview party at Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams for this week’s SOFA Expo (Sculptural Objects Functional Art and Design). Guests sipped on Stella Artois and Terlato wine and enjoyed light bites from J&L Catering, but the evening really centered on the art.
SOFA's director, Donna Davies, noted a couple of key themes to look for in this year’s show, which takes place this weekend (November 2-4) inside Navy Pier’s Festival Hall. In addition to "a strong international component this year," a big focus is the 50th anniversary of the studio glass movement. In 1962, Harvey Littleton and Dominick Labino made the ground-breaking confirmation that glass blowing could be done in a studio setting, rather than in a factory. This has particular resonance with the SOFA Expo, because, “all of the works are made by hand,” Davies says. “The artists [that participate in SOFA] refer to themselves as ‘makers.’ They’re artists, of course, but [the pieces] are from their hands.” Before Littleton and Dominick’s demonstration in the ‘60s, glass blowers were creating conceptual images but then sending them off to be produced by factory workers. The studio glass discovery of 1962 therefore celebrates the handmade concept that is integral to SOFA. As a nod to the movement, Maureen Littleton, Harvey’s daughter and now an art dealer in Washington, D.C., will be at the expo showing some of her father’s work.
Chicago artist Ian Schneller couldn't make it to the party, but his work is sure to be a big draw at SOFA this weekend. Representing him at the event was Aron Packer of Packer Schopf Gallery, the booth that will present Schneller's art. Highly scientific in nature yet unusually organic aesthetically, Schneller’s sculptures process sound in a variety of ways. Sonic Arboretum, his ongoing project with musician Andrew Bird, is a collection of horns that “look like they grew from the ground,” the artist says. But his real coup at SOFA will be a group of enormous sculptures spinning above the expo’s cafe. The Aerosols, while beautiful and completely mesmerizing, are actually just the skeletal mock-ups for an in-progress piece that will eventually have a sound component. Interestingly, despite his highly esoteric descriptions of how sound processing technology works, Schneller has no background in science except the little he gleaned from his engineer grandfather. But he takes an interesting and optimistic outlook on the abilities of people to learn new things, like he did. “It’s research that’s right at our fingertips,” he says, “if we care to delve into it.” Purchase tickets on sofaexpo.com.