10 Chicago Artists To Know Now

Feb 21, 2018 / by Christina Wood / Alive

Chicago is a hotbed of creative energy. Every week there’s a new gallery opening, an artist talk or a performance that you just can’t miss. We’re not complaining; having too much great art to keep up with is the best kind of problem to have.

Below, we’ve gathered 10 Chicago visual artists—some who are emerging, and some who are long-time loves—who you’re going to want to check out right now.

William J. O’Brien
Bold texture and organic patterns are a common theme throughout William J. O’Brien’s broad body of work. Though he has an MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, O’Brien works across multiple mediums, with recent shows featuring drawings, paintings, bronze sculptures and ceramics.

Michelle Grabner
A surface-level minimalism invites a feeling of serenity into Grabner’s acclaimed work, which often recontextualizes domestic crafts like weaving and crocheting. Hand-crocheted blankets, once used in a home, are immortalized in cast bronze. Woven materials like gingham cloth and rag rugs—patterns so familiar we rarely notice them—are examined and redefined in paint through an artistic process akin to translation.

Sabina Ott
In 2011, Sabina Ott and partner John Paulett transformed their Oak Park home into a gallery space, Terrain, inviting artists to install site-specific work right in their front yard. With her own work, Ott also often cultivates a space for the viewer to experience art. Her most recent installation, “who cares for the sky?,” featured a large-scale iceberg that was itself a gallery full of paintings and curios.

Nazafarin Lotfi
Iran-born artist Nazafarin Lotfi’s tonal sculptures, paintings and drawings seem to change the air of the room they inhabit. In her current exhibition, on view through February 24 at Regards Gallery, her architectural drawings defamiliarize inhabited spaces, and her sculptural wall-hangings turn familiar objects like key rings and receipts into alien landscapes. All throughout her work, Lotfi investigates the seemingly empty negative spaces that exist in our everyday lives.

Chris Bradley
Playful irreverence runs rampant in Chris Bradley’s sculptural work and paintings. A large potato chip is wedged into the wall like the sword in the stone. A breakfast scene—coffee, donut and coffee shop ‘exit’ sign—hang out of reach on the gallery ceiling. Nodding to Warhol, a stack of paint cans is draped with banana peels, ready to cause a slip. With a wink, Bradley asks us to play closer attention to what’s unusual about the everyday.

Alex Chitty
Alex Chitty’s sculptural tableaus interrogate the nature and utility of beauty. In a recent series, lilies—which bloom whether they’re observed or not—are intertwined with steel beams and objects that allude to man-made beauty such as a bottle of Chanel perfume, a pair of shoes and a pitcher.

Aay Preston-Myint
Aay Preston-Myint is a founder of No Coast, a venture that prints and distributes affordable contemporary artwork. In his own art practice, through work that ranges from abstract murals to paintings influenced by graphic art, Preston-Myint explores themes of memory and kinship, often within the specific context of queer community and history.

Carrie Gundersdorf
At first glance, Carrie Gundersdorf’s paintings of stripes and curved lines seem to be merely abstract patterns. But then an uncanny feeling takes over, and you recognize the shapes: the rings of Saturn, a bolt of lightning shot across the night sky. Gundersdorf connects art to science in paintings that replicate found images of nature, examining the way we view the cosmos moreso than cosmos themselves.


Laura Letinsky
Observing one of well-established artist Laura Letinksy’s still-life photographs feels like arriving at a party one day too late. The cups are empty, the grapes have been eaten, the trash has not yet been cleared from the table. Rather than giving a sense of timelessness, Letinksy’s photos allude to time that has already slipped by.


Silvina Inés Gonzalez
Interdisciplinary artist Silvina Inés Gonzalez uses sound, installation and collage to interrogate the political and social tensions that exist between man-made boundaries and familial and cultural bonds. Her photography captures acts of resistance and solidarity in the Chicago community.