We loved Volta again this year for its singular artist per booth format. This is less exhausting than the 14-per booth you find in other fairs. It’s more like going into galleries. We were also there when three performances were going on–a puppet show; a roll the dice gamble for candy (Roberta rolled and had to pay $3 for her candy); and a bare-breasted woman wading through an ankle deep pile of colorful textiles. We’re just saying–they were there.
What we loved best here were John Goto‘s digital prints at Dominique Fiat (See gallery facebook page). Bollywood meets Gilbert and Sullivan without the music–extremely exotic and theatrical. The story captions for the works were as much a part of the art as the images. Whimsy and social commentary with juicy stuff to look at.
Next best, we loved Kaoru Katayama‘s video Hard Labour which got some big strapping — and willing — macho Spanish construction workers to perform Japanese calisthenics for her camera.
Hard Labour by Kaoru Katayama at T-20 Gallery
The recorded piano music was sweet and old fashioned like player piano music and the guys mugged for the camera alternately trying and giving up. We watched it loop to loop.
We talked with T 20 gallerist Nacho Ruiz (see cute necktie below) who explained that the artist was completely bilingual (Japanese/Spanish) and had lived in Spain for a while but is now in Mexico. Katayama is fired by her interest in cross-cultural differences. So were we. Ruiz told us that in Japan, every morning, the radio broadcasts these calisthenics and much of Japan participates.
Across from this wonderful piece was the gawker’s delight of the Armory–Fernando Mastrangelo‘s “Felix” at Rhys/Mendes Gallery, an academic sculpture of a coca farmer made from cocaine and resting on a floor of mirrors. Been there, done that. A couple of artists working the drug/anti-drug message and doing it more successfully are Stuart Netsky our homie and of course Fred Tomaselli.
But nearby there was some great sculpture. Ioana Nemes at Jiri Svestka Gallery bowled us over with her faux-cave man artifacts including a square scalp, a cast bar of soap/boullion and a fierce but funny white mask.
The whole installation, which reminded us of a natural history museum, was quirky. And when we mentioned to the artist that we liked her humor, she nodded happily.
Thanks to Ivan Stojakovic, who shows at Bridgette Mayer, we got into a conversation at the Slovenian Galerija Skuc. The artist they were showing, Miha Strukelj, will be representing Slovenia at the Venice Biennale. We especially liked the drawings. They are made with markers on layers of maybe parchment or some such translucent material. We liked the way space fell apart. Something about the drawing of figures in space reminded us of Rob Matthews.
Another sculptor that caught our eye is Margarita Cabrera at Walter Maciel Gallery. Her clay-coverd works which cued on Mexican folk art had great surfaces that you wanted to touch. We stuck our hands in our pockets. The gallerist said the clay was covered with a glaze named “Mexican doll face.” Cabrera, whom we have seen previously at art fairs — and loved — when she was working in fabric, was born in Mexico and works in Los Angeles. The gallerist told us she was embarking on a new project with Mexican wood. She likes her materials. One of Cabrera’s pieces was a ladder, festooned with little decorations. Turns out there were three art ladders at Volta…and another ladder at Fountain (although that one was not art). Here’s our three other ladders for you.
Painting-wise, Ian Davis‘ hyper-surrealist acrylic and spray paint on canvas works showing mini-people in maxi-arrays remind us of Michal Rovner‘s mini-peopled videos (we saw her works in the Armory just a couple days earlier).
Davis’ patterning and scale in flattened spaces look like story illustrations. His critique of oppressive regimented society reminds us of Chicago Imagists like Roger Brown.
If Ian Davis is faux naive, Von Kommanivanh at Walsh Gallery is the real thing. Self-taught Laotian immigrant (he’s been here for 5 years) makes paintings and objects. We saw airplane sculptures from found materials and we loved them.
And while we’re on the subject of self-taught artists we want to track back to the Armory where we saw a wonderful life size drawing by Linda Sibio at VSA Gallery for disabled artists. The work reminded us of Dubuffet’s art brut and Adolph Wolfli‘s patterning of mini people as decorative motifs. We’ll tell you more about the New Zealand outsider art we saw when we get to Fountain. Stay tuned.