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On Exhibit: first glimpses of Art Chicago 2003

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The national and international galleries exhibiting in Art Chicago this year all display work not previously seen here, but many of the 31 Chicago galleries in the fair are also unveiling art that's unknown hereabouts--often because it has just arrived. Among the strongest pieces making their debuts are four wonderfully supple color-field works by Jim Hodges at Rhona Hoffman (booth C211). They're created by drenching paper pulp with raw pigment and using a press to transform it into a sheet of paper; the colors seem at once transparent and luminous. An exhibit of Howard Smith 's abstract paintings, the Chicago native's first one-person show here, just opened at Aaron Galleries, but at almost six feet high the largest, Springindeepsea, can be seen only at Aaron's booth at the fair (D144). Its subtly repeating blue micro brush strokes create an almost hypnotic texture that, by its very size and density, reflects Smith's longtime interest in exploring the nature of painting.

Cynthia Large's Saint Christina the Astonishing at Ann Nathan (C126) depicts Christina perched in a church interior, painted in egg tempera and oil with a van Eyck-like precision that reflects Lange's two years of study in Europe and a year and a half of labor with layers of glazes. A miniature book stored in a compartment built into the rear of the frame tells the story of this 12th-century saint in Large's elegant calligraphy. In contrast to many other younger artists, whose work is often constructed more theatrically and typically references mass culture, the small volume has the private devotional quality of an illuminated manuscript.

As always, there's also some fine but hard to see older work: Philip Guston 's Painting on Floor (1978) at Alan Koppel (A100), just released for resale from a private collection, has the cartoonish lines characteristic of his late work that have proven influential on younger artists; here, dark colors and the subject matter suggest somber self-reflection.

Art Chicago 2003 runs May 9 to 12 in Navy Pier's Festival Hall, 600 E. Grand. Hours are Friday and Saturday from noon to 8 and Sunday and Monday from noon to 6. Tickets are $12; a two-day pass is $24, and a three-day pass is $36. Children under ten are admitted free. For more information call 312-587-3300 or visit www.artchicago.com.

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