This is the way to Fountain Art Fair (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

This is the way to Fountain Art Fair (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic unless otherwise noted)

CHICAGO — The Fountain Art Fair is located at the edge a heavily industrial area of the Pilsen neighborhood where many local artists live and work. Compared to Expo Chicago, it is a welcome free-for-all DIY art oasis at the edge of an art community, and housing another one (artists rent the studio spaces in this building, which is also home to Mana Contemporary). Taking its inspiration from Duchamp — using a readymade-esque urinal as its logo — the Fountain Art Fair arrived in Chicago as the first satellite art fair of Expo Chicago.

Eighteen galleries, artists or project spaces took up temporary residence at Fountain. Outside of the warehouse space, a swing-set attached to an array of percussive instruments invited viewers to fly back-and-forth, erupting a cacophony of sounds. This harmonious human-operated machine added a playful element to the art fair mentality.

“I think that because EXPO Chicago succeeded in its first year with a fair at a new location, a fair from outside of Chicago, like Fountain, felt comfortable and open to the idea of coming to Chicago,” Anna Cerniglia, a Supporting Partner of Fountain Art Fair and the director of Chicago art space Johalla Projects, told Hyperallergic.

Naturally, the vibe at Fountain bounced off of the magnetic and monumentally larger Expo art fair on the other side of the city. Fountain boasted a concert with Detroit’s ADULT. on Saturday evening, and a Friday night party that benefited the Detroit Institute of Art. Street art, folk art, and outsider art aesthetics ran high, as they normally do, at Fountain. Tongue-in-cheek gallery names like Rockford-based FATHERLESS and Philadelphia’s Arch Enemy Arts were in attendance.

Smaller artist project spaces and individual artists prevailed, yet the presence of Packer Schopf, an established Chicago art gallery that shows a blend of fine and outsider art, brought a more mature feel to the otherwise youthful Fountain.

Industry of the Ordinary, "The Harvest" (2012 – ongoing)

Industry of the Ordinary, “The Harvest” (2012 – ongoing) (image by the author for Hyperallergic)

And then there were the curios, like the mysterious remains of Industry of the Ordinary’s “The Harvest,” which is a life-sized butter sculpture of President Barack Obama inside of a freezer-on-wheels. Created during the last US Presidential election, this piece survived a trek from the West Loop to the Cultural Center downtown (roughly a four-hour journey). A publicly cited performance gesture, “The Harvest” has gone through its buttery phase, and will remain refrigerated until further notice but I assume that its lifespan, like the President’s term, is limited.

“I don’t think I would ever want an art fair explosion here like Miami, but I don’t see why we can’t hold a few satellite fairs as New York does during Armory or Frieze,” Cerniglia says.

Fountain Art Fair wrap-up (image courtesy of Anna Cerniglia and Fountain Art Fair)

Fountain Art Fair wrap-up (image courtesy of Luciano Braza and Fountain Art Fair)

Art installation outside of Fountain Art Fair (image courtesy of Anna Cerniglia)

Art installation outside of Fountain Art Fair (image courtesy of Jenni Button)

Diem Chau, "Various Boys and Girls" (2010) (image by the author for Hyperallergic)

Diem Chau, “Various Boys and Girls” (2010) at Packer Schopf Gallery (image by the author for Hyperallergic)

Ryan Duggan at Johalla Projects Chicago

Ryan Duggan at Johalla Projects Chicago (image by the author for Hyperallergic)

Bike instrument located just outside of the warehouse space

Artist Dave Ford’s “Swing Set Drum Kit,” a human-powered swingset instrument

Bike instrument from behind

Artist Dave Ford‘s “Swing Set Drum Kit” – a shot from behind

The Chicago incarnation of the Fountain Art Fair ran September 20–22 at Mana Contemporary (2233 S. Throop, Chicago) to coincide with Expo Chicago.

Alicia Eler is a cultural critic and arts reporter. She is the author of the book The Selfie Generation (Skyhorse Publishing), which has been reviewed in the New York Times, WIRED Magazine and the Chicago...