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835 West Washington Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60607
3124320708

Also at:
219 North Elizabeth Street
Chicago, IL 60607
Kavi Gupta is a leading contemporary art gallery based in Chicago. Its two permanent gallery locations host more than a dozen museum-quality exhibitions each year, and its publishing imprint, Kavi Gupta Editions, produces quality artist books and catalogues. 

Kavi Gupta’s diverse, international program emphasizes contemporary artists from marginalized communities with complex, multifaceted practices. Working alongside these artists to develop new projects, original scholarship, and historic archives, Kavi Gupta’s program is renowned for its strong academic focus and pioneering vision. 

Kavi Gupta is proud to be a three-time recipient of the prestigious International Association of Art Critics (AICA-USA) Award for Best Show in a Commercial Space Nationally, most recently for Mickalene Thomas in 2014. Since its inception, the gallery program has been supplemented by site-specific installations, public works, academic panels, and curated projects at art fairs.
Artists Represented:
Young-Il Ahn
Firelei Báez
Johanna Billing 
Roger Brown
Patrick Chamberlain
Alfred Conteh
Inka Essenhigh
Beverly Fishman
Jeffery Gibson
Irena Haiduk
Richard Hunt
Jae Jarrell
Wadsworth Jarrell
Michael Joo
Glenn Kaino
Deborah Kass
José Lerma
Manuel Mathieu
Manish Nai
Angel Otero
Roxy Paine
Scott Reeder
Clare Rojas
Claire Sherman
Devan Shimoyama
Mary Sibande
Jessica Stockholder
Tony Tasset
Mickalene Thomas
Gerald Williams
Works Available By:
McArthur Binion
Ed Clark
John Isaacs
Chris Johanson
Aaditi Joshi
Glenn Ligon
Brett Lund
Kerry James Marshall
Ed Paschke
Andy Warhol
Jack Whitten

 

 
Kavi Gupta


 
Online Programming

Deborah Kass, Jeffrey Gibson, Scott Reeder, Manish Nai, Young-Il Ahn, Patrick Chamberlain

The Written Word

835 West Washington Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60607

KAVI GUPTA PRESENTS THE WRITTEN WORD, AN ONLINE EXHIBITION EXAMINING THE VISUAL VALUE OF THE VERBAL. WHAT IS THE VALUE OF A PICTURE? Just open your eyes to receive one, or close your eyes to remember one. Offer an artist a thousand words for a picture and you’ll learn what proverbs are worth. Yet, if utterances are fleeting and any story can be told with images, why would a visual artist ever need to rely on words? Each artist featured in The Written Word has its own reasons for making art you have to read in order to really see. Vito Acconci’s Name Calling Chair (1990) strives beyond beauty and utility towards a comic truth, while Glen Ligon’s Study for Negro Sunshine II, #31 reveals the anesthetizing effect of repetition on even the most confounding utterance. Roger Brown’s The Writing in the Sky revels in the circular logic of a picture undermining the power of words that establish the value of pictures; meanwhile, a single proposal from Allen Ruppersberg’s iconic Honey, I rearranged the collection series suggests language’s limitless, if sometimes senseless, potential for codification. Manish Nai’s book sculptures mobilize words as raw material for compacted objects, with the aesthetic inquiry: what is a book that cannot be read, or a sculpture that can’t fully be seen? Young-Il Ahn’s Self-Reflection I uses script to bridge antiquity and modernity, writing and then erasing traditional Hangul text until the written word communicates purely as an image. Deborah Kass deploys words to communicate brief, authoritative messages, infusing meaning into the cultural conversation, while in Patrick Chamberlain’s text paintings, words become abstract elements in formal space, same as color, shape, texture, and line. For Jeffrey Gibson, words form intertextual reminders, lifelines to memories of music, feelings, and communities bound by history, whereas in Scott Reeder’s paintings and neon sculptures, the written word is exactly what it appears to be: a conveyance of thought, unencumbered by conceptual abstraction. Or is it? Though text is essential for every work in The Written Word, their mutability proves that like the world, the word is not always what it seems.

Inka Essenhigh, Scott Reeder, Roger Brown, Clare Rojas, Gerald Williams, Manuel Mathieu, Jose Lerma, Alfred Conteh, Wadsworth Jarrell

The Figure in Solitude

835 West Washington Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60607

KAVI GUPTA PRESENTS THE FIGURE IN SOLITUDE, AN ONLINE EXHIBITION EXAMINING ONENESS For years to come, tales of the forced, global solitude of 2020 will be told. Along with sagas of hardship and loneliness, there will be many who also share stories of creativity and strength. Now is the time to ask ourselves: what will we make of our time alone? Will we find ourselves in the kitchen, enchanted by culinary experimentation, like the bewitching figure in Inka Essenhigh's Kitchen 2623 C.E. (2018)? Will we don protective gear and dive into the literary classics, like the figure in Scott Reeder’s Cop Reading (2010)?, or luxuriate in the tranquility of time off, like the figure in Reeder’s Reclining Cop (2011)? Maybe solitude will bring us enlightenment, like the figure in Gerald Williams’ Illumination (1978); give us time to master our craft, like the Senufo woodcarver in Wadsworth Jarrell’s Navaga (1974); bring us the quiet confidence of Roger Brown’s Hank Williams, Honkey Tonk Man (1991); or offer us necessary space to fully observe the realities of our world, like the contemplative figure in Alfred Conteh’s Q (2020). Will solitude release our inner terror, like the figure in Manuel Mathieu’s Steven 3/20 (2015), or our inner warrior, like the soldier in Mary Sibande’s Living Memory (2011)? Or will revelation—the true meaning of apocalypse—overwhelm us, as it does the concerned figures in Conteh’s D-Chris, Clare Rojas’ Untitled (2018), and José Lerma’s Milton Friedman (2016)? Countless masterpieces have been created in solitude—in an art studio, at a writer’s desk, in a rehearsal room. When we know and love ourselves, solitude is precious: time alone to be free. Yet, even at times when we feel like strangers in our skin, what better gift than privacy to reacquaint us with our inner genius? The Figure in Solitude is a prescient reminder that the arts may not exist in isolation, but solitude absolutely, and necessarily, exist within the arts.

Deborah Kass, Jeffrey Gibson, Mary Sibande, Gerald Williams, Tony Tasset, Inka Essenhigh, Michael Joo, Wadsworth Jarrell

Radical Optimism

835 West Washington Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60607

Kavi Gupta presents Radical Optimism, a special digital exhibition of works by artists rebelling against cynicism to imagine a joyful future for humanity. In the weeks that self-isolation and social distance have become the new normal, we hear the same phrases again and again on the news and in advertisements: “in these uncertain times,” “in these challenging times,” “in these troubling times.” We understand their meaning—that with more than a million worldwide cases, COVID-19 has presented the entire world with a uniquely harrowing ultimatum. Nonetheless, for most people, life can often be uncertain, challenging, and troubling. Before COVID-19, we were bearing witness to so many other catastrophes: the Syrian civil war, the war in Yemen, the collapse of civil society in Venezuela, and climate-related disasters such as floods in the American South and fires from Australia to California. All too often, the human condition is one of unavoidable suffering—so much so that it has become a radical gesture to promote an optimistic worldview, and to try to chart a course towards a better future for us all. Yet, there are some artists who wear the label of radical optimism like a badge of honor. Their art is a living record of their belief in the potential for love to overcome despair. Radical Optimism celebrates works by Inka Essenhigh from Uchronia, her recent series presenting a vision of a future in which humanity has resolved its conflicted relationship with the ecosphere; Jeffrey Gibson from his recent exhibition CAN YOU FEEL IT, inspired by the hopeful, welcoming, inclusive atmosphere of Chicago’s house music scene; AFRICOBRA co-founders Wadsworth Jarrell and Gerald Williams, whose historic paintings present definitive, constructive visions of Black pride; Deborah Kass, from her evocatively titled series feel good paintings for feel bad times; Mary Sibande, showing her avatar Sophie entering her purple phase, representing the end of Apartheid and the beginning of a more egalitarian future for South Africa; Michael Joo, whose silver nitrate works “render visible the invisible,” bridging humanity and nature by allowing viewers to literally see themselves within the work; and Tony Tasset, whose instantly recognizable, Pop-like forms evoke the sense of everyday aspirationalism often embedded within the American visual vernacular. Radical Optimism seizes this cultural moment to assert that although humanity has always faced uncertain, challenging, and troubling times, and this current challenge has brought us to our knees, there remain many among us who dare to imagine a better future.

 
Current Exhibition

Deborah Kass

Painting and Sculpture

219 North Elizabeth Street
Chicago, IL 60607

September 10, 2020 - December 26, 2020
Kavi Gupta proudly presents Deborah Kass: Painting and Sculpture, the gallery’s inaugural solo exhibition with the artist. Pairing a stunning new body of work with select historical pieces, the exhibition creates an unflinching examination of the American condition before and during the Trump presidency. The canonized giants of Pop Art and Minimalism defined themselves by their opposition to each other: Pop Art could be anything; Minimalism was everything Pop Art wasn’t. However, as a young artist, Deborah Kass saw things differently. Pop and Minimalism were both equally radical. Her dual admiration, along with her commitment to examining the political climate of today, expresses itself abundantly in this show.

 
Past Exhibitions

Roger Brown

Hyperframe

835 West Washington Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60607

March 21, 2020 - June 13, 2020
Kavi Gupta presents Roger Brown: Hyperframe, an exhibition bringing together an unprecedented selection of multi-frame paintings by one of America’s greatest imagists.

Tony Tasset

The Weight

219 North Elizabeth Street
Chicago, IL 60607

February 28, 2020 - May 30, 2020
For The Weight, Tasset mined the innermost provinces of the contemporary human psyche, responding to the anxiety of our times with wit, gravitas, and salt-of-the-earth sagacity. Working in his western Michigan studio like an aesthetic Dr. Frankenstein assembling an assortment of Post-Modernist monsters—part Woody Guthrie, part Robert Crumb, part Jeff Koons, part Louise Bourgeois—Tasset has concocted a confident, unified sculptural statement he describes as “a reckoning; an apocalyptic mix-tape.”

Kennedy Yanko

HANNAH

219 North Elizabeth Street
Chicago, IL 60607

September 20, 2019 - December 14, 2019
Kavi Gupta is pleased to present HANNAH, a solo exhibition of new work by Kennedy Yanko (b. 1988, USA). Physicality is essential to Yanko’s sculptural practice. Scouring the urban metal yards and demolition sites of New York City, she seeks out intuitive, physical connections with abandoned materials she can transform in her studio. She has long sought to exert her will on these raw materials, to free them from former actualities, covering their scars and markings to allow new forces to manifest—expressions of atomism and spirit within their present reality. In preparation for HANNAH—her first solo show at Kavi Gupta—Yanko chose to engage in more of an open call and response with the pre-existing narratives of her materials. Says Yanko, “It was a very different experience creating this show. It became about slowing down and taking more time to allow the conceptual aspects to develop as I manipulated and created each work. Initially, while searching for the base materials, I was drawn to metals that had direct characteristics related to their past lives. These markings appeared so perfectly I didn’t feel I had the agency to remove them.” Rather than eliminating evidence of the past—which was about allowing viewers to stay more in the moment with her works—Yanko felt compelled to start incorporating the imposed history of her materials into their present forms. The works in HANNAH express this shift, retaining bits of text and aged, painted surfaces—echoes of their material past. Additionally, Yanko began adding elements such as colored vinyl pieces to her sculptures, in an effort to expand the perspective of the work beyond the sculptures themselves. “I was thinking about tracing the shadows of the work,” she says, “to bring in another element and perspective that provoked the viewer to read the pieces with a different kind of physical involvement. In addition to the metal and the paint skins, I chose blocks of monochromatic color to echo the highlights and lowlights of rust, expanding the work into the space.” The additional contemplative aspects of the work coincide at a juncture of personal transcendence in Yanko’s career—her inaugural solo show at Kavi Gupta gallery aligns with the opening of Before Words, her first solo museum exhibition, opening September 28th at the Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts (UICA) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the debut of her first public sculpture on September 24th as part of The Poydras Corridor Sculpture Exhibition of New Orleans, sponsored by the Helis Foundation. It was precisely through reflecting on the struggles that have brought her to this moment that Yanko found herself becoming more sympathetic with the markings that signified the past tribulations of her materials—perhaps it’s no coincidence the word scrap can also mean fight. “I dropped out of school,” says Yanko, “I had every single job in New York City. All of that was about making time to make work. During that process, I didn’t look up very much. I needed to discover my own way.” The title HANNAH grew out of this self analysis. “Because of their (my materials’) adamant presentation of personal history, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own,” Yanko says. “I was thinking about the things I was given. You’re given situations, and it’s really up to you what you do with what you have. My birth name was Hannah Elizabeth Kennedy Yanko. I was given a name, I took what worked and left what didn’t. That was the genesis of my understanding, on a deeply tangible level, that my entire existence boils down to choice, down to perception, and my ability to hone in on that understanding became the foundation in which I began to move through this world.” Yanko’s work has always been about disrupting pre-existing associations. HANNAH announces the arrival of an artist who has welcomed a new paradigm of thinking, in which we consider not only what we are now, but how things have come to us in this moment. And like the paint skins that she adds to her metal pieces, it’s also about how we relate to our surroundings. “The framework supports the skin,” Yanko says, “and the metal becomes the composition that the skin responds to. There’s this play on how they interact and respond to each other. I’m fascinated with paradox, and seeming opposites, when actually they are so dependent on each other. I’m interested in the moment when they come together in that interdependence. One thing can’t exist without the opposing force.”

Jeffrey Gibson

CAN YOU FEEL IT

219 North Elizabeth Street
Chicago, IL 60607

September 20, 2019 - December 14, 2019
Gibson’s jubilant and ever-evolving practice blends the aesthetic heritages of Native America, rave culture, and punk rock, breathing new life into the traditions of Modernist Abstraction. In his paintings, sculptures, garments, performances and films, indigenous craftwork and ancient abstract references coalesce to form metaphysical bridges between 20th century art movements like Geometric Abstraction, Neo-Dada and Pop Art, and contemporary fields of inquiry such as Relational Aesthetics, Institutional Critique and Identity Politics. For CAN YOU FEEL IT, his first solo exhibition at Kavi Gupta, Gibson presents 14 new paintings and sculptures—including the debut of a never-before-shown body of quilted works. Inspired by four years in the mid-1990s when Gibson called Chicago home, the exhibition’s title echoes the classic house jam of the same name by Chicago-born DJ Larry Fine, a.k.a. Mr. Fingers. Says Gibson, “This was a period when house music was so welcoming and inclusive, and being in Chicago was very optimistic. There was a space carved out for people of different backgrounds coming together and celebrating each other, letting everything go and having a good time. It felt hopeful. That was a big critical experience for me in terms of thinking about how to respond to a challenging larger culture.” Included in CAN YOU FEEL IT are three new works from Gibson’s ongoing Punching Bag series (2013–present). Appropriating iconic Everlast punching bags as sculptural supports, Gibson mobilizes bead work, weaving, tassels, and other material interventions to transform objectified targets for abuse into conceptual symbols of strength and beauty. Above all, Gibson’s Punching Bags sparkle with life. As with many of Gibson’s works, they come embedded with references to music, philosophy and pop culture. Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered (2019) takes its title from an American Standard first sung by Vivienne Segal in the 1940 Broadway premiere of Pal Joey (since covered by Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt, and Doris Day, among others). All I ever wanted, all I ever needed (2019) reflects the chorus of Enjoy the Silence, the 1990 smash single by British synth-pop band Depeche Mode. Trapped in the dream of the other (2019) quotes French Post-structuralist philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925 – 1995), who remarked, “If you’re trapped in the dream of the Other, you’re fucked.” The eight new paintings in CAN YOU FEEL IT similarly bear such culturally percipient titles as, “I’ve never met anyone quite like you before” (from Temptation, by New Order), “To say I love you right out loud” (from Both Sides Now, by Joni Mitchell), and “Before the devil knows you’re dead” (attributed to an Irish saying). In these multi-faceted works, text hovers in a state of tension amid brightly colored, dense optic patterning, drawing dynamic distinctions between figure and ground. Finally, Gibson presents the first three of what will eventually be 12 unique quilted pieces—a series that emerged from the performative garments Gibson is currently exhibiting in the 2019 Whitney Biennial.

Manish Nai

A History of Gestures

835 West Washington Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60607

September 14, 2019 - December 14, 2019
Kavi Gupta is pleased to present Manish Nai’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, A History of Gestures. Nai’s iconic vision for socially-conscious minimalism has earned him global attention as a crucial voice for Indian art today. Paying mind towards the complex intersections of material culture, art history, class relations, and autobiography, Nai’s geometrically simple forms distill the essence of contemporary Mumbai. Known best for employing indigo-dyed jute, used clothes, and the diverse newspapers of India as the raw material for his practice, Nai’s newest bodies of work expand to include whole used books and mosquito nets. These new bodies of work expand upon Nai’s ongoing meditation on time itself. Time has always been a chief concern in Nai’s practice, compressed layers of paper, jute, and clothing slowly setting into distinct strata like sedimentary rock. The innumerable pages and subtle tonal shifts of his new book pillar sculptures recall that tradition in his work, but their sequencing as distinct layers bring a new kind of clarity to the substance. While the forms are cleaner and more minimal than ever before, the contents remain elusive, refusing access to their text. Their history as books immediately accessible, but their content as text is arrested in time, frozen inside the sculpture. The small compressed books are slightly more generous with access to content, their covers serving as pedestals for their former contents, now twisted into gnarled knots. Text from the books gives brief flickers of legibility, but the organic forms twist and turn away from inquisitive eyes. The mosquito net paintings similarly crystallize time, laying out a history of gestures. Nai stains them with watercolor or thinned acrylic, much of which passes through the thin, perforated surface with ease. While much of the paint may pass through one layer onto another, the remaining stain has a permanence and honesty that almost relates to photography. The surface becomes a frozen moment in time, a perfect portrait of every choice made in making, with no room to hide, no opacity for coverup, no chance for erasure. In the side room, a pyramid comprised of used clothes, compressed into pillars, revisits one of Nai’s signature materials. Nai’s practice at large always circles back to the landscape of contemporary urban India, each material choice (including the books and mosquito nets) a reality of the everyday in Mumbai. The most densely populated megacity in the world, Mumbai is highly cosmopolitan, while still maintaining a distinct Indian character. This mass density of people, history, and material in a common geographic context informs Nai’s use of used clothing, the formation of the clothing into pillars, and the near-architectural logic of their arrangement. These kinds of choices extend to all of the sculptural work in the show, each piece a dense coalescence of material, each material being substantial to contemporary India, and each form based in a logical geometry that is equally related to minimalist sculpture and urban architecture. They are brought to life by Nai’s hand and the organic potential in their manipulation, unexpected possibilities blooming forth from their seemingly mundane substances.