Invisible-Exports is pleased to present Pure ‘Joy’ at Western Exhibitions in Chicago, a group show that tries to see the underbelly of joy — to peek below the hood of it, to play around in its aftermath and explore its not-immediately-apparent contradictions and paradoxes. The exhibition features work by Mike Bouchet, Jane Corrigan, Joey Frank, Andrew Guenther, Cary Leibowitz, Nate Lowman, Dan McCarthy, Rebecca Morgan, Tabboo!, Orkideh Torabi, John Waters, Jade Yumang.

The idea of joy is a slippery one. Joy is immediate, but fleeting. It’s not as deep as happiness, or as rich as hate. And it can leave you empty and even self-loathing, like an unfulfilled craving or hangover. But is it just the absence of joy that makes us sad? Or are we worried about who we truly are without it?

The paradox of joy is nothing new—it shows up throughout art history in unexpected ways; Yves Klein’s Leap Into the Void, The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago, a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, or even Vito Acconci’s Following Piece. But it has become even more conspicuous in a time of private despair and relentless public pressure towards optimism. The artworks presented here are meant to show the entire narrative of joy, from the immediate surface pleasure, to the tail end when it slips away. Or maybe all the elements were there at once, from the start.

Founded in 2008, INVISIBLE-EXPORTS is a New York City-based contemporary art gallery, co-owned and directed by Risa Needleman and Benjamin Tischer. Recognized for presenting provocative and controversial exhibitions, the gallery represents a small roster of influential avant-garde artists, including iconic artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, whom Western Exhibitions showed in 2010 in a two-person show with Daniel Albrigo.

Western Exhibitions was conceived in 2002 as a nomadic commercial gallery, staging shows at apartments, lofts, other galleries and participating in the 2nd and 3rd iterations of the influential Stray Show. In 2004, director (and ex-artist) Scott Speh first opened a bricks-and-mortar space on Chicago’s west side and moved to Chicago’s main contemporary gallery district, the West Loop, in 2008 and in 2017, moved to Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood, along with fellow galleries Document, Paris London Hong Kong, and Volume Gallery.

Western Exhibitions is a contemporary art gallery that shows thought-provoking, and visually innovative artists who work across most media, with an emphasis on personal narratives and cosmologies; LGBTQ artists and issues; pattern, decoration and surface concerns; works on paper; and artist books. Western Exhibitions presents unique artist projects, curated group shows and maintains a specific inventory of artist books and multiples, gathered together as a sister entity, WesternXeditions.