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Chicago’s Art on the Mart Tells Dreamy Narratives Through the Shape of Water

Chicago’s Art on the Mart Tells Dreamy Narratives Through the Shape of Water

magenta projections of a woman on merchandise mart

Each year, Chicago’s Merchandise Mart transforms itself from a historic architectural giant to a wonderland of flourishing digital projections for the Art on the Mart exhibition. This year’s digital masterpieces included projects from American artist Cory Arcangel and Nigerian-British artist Yinka Ilori.

Cory Arcangel
Arcangel is no stranger to the digital art scene, having created abstract renditions of Super Mario Bros. games for over 20 years. (Photo by Tim Barber)

On June 6, both artists showcased their mesmerizing digital projections in front of a lively spectacle of star-struck visitors, detailing the inspirations behind their projects. Arcangel’s vivid projection of bursting colors titled, “Water, Wind & Fire”, paid homage to the kings of groove themselves – Earth, Wind and Fire. Using his software, “Cookery”, Arcangel’s fun and abstract landscape ebbed in and out of lush aquatics.

Arcangel has said his artistic inspiration comes from renowned American composer and post-war experimental musician Pauline Oliveros. Among his quirky influences are golf pro Tiger Woods and the movie Weekend at Bernie’s.

His work extends beyond American audiences and has reached creatives in China, Germany, England, Italy and Switzerland.

Yinka Illori, one of two featured artists at Chicago's Art on the Mart event
Though Ilori is debuting his work in the U.S. for the first time, the seasoned artist has commissioned work in the Netherlands, France and Germany. (Photo by Nikk Martin)

Ilori’s artwork, titled “Omi Okun” (Yoruban for “ocean water”), takes viewers on a wave through his spiritual journey from London to Margate as part of a Pentecostal Church ritual. Each quarter of Ilori’s sequenced projection pulls viewers deeper into a whirlwind of fantastical imagery.

As one of the U.K.’s most influential contemporary artists, Ilori holds a Member of the Order of the British Empire title, which is bestowed upon highly accomplished and prominent artistic, scientific and philanthropic individuals.

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In the past three years, Ilori co-designed the 2021 BRIT Awards statuette and designed an entire playground for Parsloes Park in London.

Take a look at Arcangel and Ilori’s jaw-dropping projections for Art on the Mart below and see how art manipulates the physical and thematic shape of water.

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