Meeting for coffee at Rogers Park's Cafe Ennui
brought back teenage coffee-drinking memories for Marilyn Frank, who grew up on Chicago's North Side and hadn't been to Ennui since. She later moved to New York City and worked as a graphic designer, and since returning to Chicago has been one-half of artistic collaboration F2 with her husband, Peter.
For the past five years (though Peter has been a glassblower and sculptor for 17 years), the design duo has wowed this town with objects that explore simple shapes, subdued colors and a cross-section of various media, in a style rooted more in organic and minimal Scandinavian influences than Italian ones.
Having the desire to showcase their art in one environment, Marilyn and Peter opened F2 Lab, their West Loop studio, resisting much of the pretense found in some creative circles. The pair firmly believes that fine art can also be functional, as evidenced in much of their work (think "light-up sculptures" that are more than your average lamps). You can find F2's table lamps, vases, pendants and bowls Hejfina, Morlen Sinoway Atelier, Haus, I.D. and Orange Skin. The F2 Lab is open on Saturdays and by appointment. In the meantime, here are the gaffers' thoughts on local dining, galleries and shopping in Chicago:
If I were to come to your neighborhood, where would you insist I visit?
Marilyn and Peter: Avec is our favorite restaurant of all time. The design is simple and beautiful; add in fantastic service and amazing food (whole fish, focaccia) and the experience is great every time. They don't take reservations so we think it's best to go early on weeknights when it's not too crowded.
Favorite art gallery in Chicago?
Marilyn and Peter: (Without hesitation) Kasia Kay Art Projects and Fulton Market. We're also great fans of moniquemeloche and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, too.
Drink that proves the wonders of alcohol and your favorite place to drink it?
Marilyn: Mojitos at Nomi!
Best Chicago-related advice you've ever given/gotten?
Peter: Stores and galleries here in Chicago are incredibly approachable. If you're an artist you shouldn't hesitate to go in and show your stuff. Everyone has always been very helpful and directed us to the right places even if they weren't all that interested in our work.
Who do you know in Chicago that our readers should know?
Marilyn: Duncan R. Anderson, the Manager of Facilities at the MCA. Duncan is an artist who uses simple felt tip marker on sketchbook paper, and he's a sculptor/installation artist as well. He's worked with Collaboraction and Open End Gallery and strikes such an important balance between having great talent and being a sincere, lovely guy.
Hidden gem that you know about but others may not?
Peter: El Barco Mariscos on Ashland Avenue. We just discovered this place, and it has very reasonably priced Mexican food, seafood, and great sangria. It's that place with the giant fish sign out front.
Favorite shopping destination for home decor?
Peter: Broadway Antique Market. You'll find things that are either one of a kind or at least feel like one of a kind. Whatever you walk away with always feels like a really special purchase.
Place or thing you'd miss most in Chicago if you ever leave?
Marilyn: The MCA has always been a part of my life since I was 16, and they've done so many great contemporary shows in that time. Installing Short Cut, by Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, out on the MCA plaza was a great decision.
Three words that best describe F2?
We make it.
For more on F2's fabulous work, visit www.f2.cc.
Heather Blaha takes tea (or booze, depending on the day) with a Chicagoan who knows a thing or two about the city's bars/restaurants/galleries each month. If you know some she must chat with over Earl Gray, let her know.