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Helmet PieceLuke Armitstead

10 of the best Chicago artists right now

In the lead-up to this week's EXPOChicago here's our pick of the artists you need to watch out for

While LA and NYC hog the limelight, there are a strong number of artists bubbling up in the Midwest, many of who studied (or teach) at the impressive art schools out there. To coincide with EXPOChicago which opens this week, here are ten Chicago- based artists to keep an eye on.


Political, graphic, direct- Leggett's work has serious impact. His prolific drawings and paintings touch as much on the history of art, text and image, as racism and prejudice. Darkly funny and serious at the same time, Leggett's an artist who deserves wider attention.



Burgher's abstact graphic drop cloth paintings and works on paper made him one of the strongest highlights in this year's Whitney Biennial. His unique, queer and occult-infused to the symbolic has garnered serious fans like AA Bronson.


After graduating from her MFA at Yale, photographic artist Abrahamik has assisted artists like Gregory Crewdson. Her subdued images provide an intimate take on Americana, the human body and the wake of disaster.


Iran-born Chicago based artist Lotfi has a photographic arm to her practice, its her abstract paintings that really stand out. Her textured, monochrome works repeat and swirl, scratch and ripple with a refreshing sense of rhythm.


The internet is the ideal domain for artists Takacayan whose work includes performance videos, the twitter feed @Romance_boys and tech music. You can spot him in the art film that emerged on The Jogging earlier this year "Sudanese Refugee, Poet and Activist, Spirit Summoner, and Faux Furr Feminist."


Zuckerman-Hartung is a truly unique artist. She creates intuitive yet intelligent amalgams of material, paint, image, object, poetry and ephemera. Her personal site, accompanied by a poetic A-Z, demonstrates her sheer breadth.


Mendez likes unusual materials. A typical combination would include tri-directional foil, fibreglass, synthetic rubber, toner, watercolor, spray enamel, graphite, oil crayon, soot. The result juggle conceptualism with a visceral take on monochrome and abstraction.


Olsen's approach to photography feels at times closer to collage- elements appearing in her photographic compositions that are of sculptural objects. Scraps, layers and blurred reflections point to a very hot new grasp on image making. 


Figures and phrases wander in to Reames big graphic abstract pop paintings. Dissonance in the same paintings as tiger paws. The letters of 'Take a dive' littered around realistic images of swiss cheese. Flatness and depth fuse in these moreish works. 


Armistead, who has shown at cool Chicago project space Courtney Blades, makes really weird and wonderful ceramic sculptural work. Sometimes totally abstract, sometimes resembling Franz West fused with Sesame Street monsters.