We ran into a lot of folks at the art fairs last week. Some we knew, others were artists and gallerists we were meeting for the first time. Either way, the art fairs are chat fests with conversations about art, sales and the exhilaration of being at the fair. Talk is the glue that holds the memory of the fair together this year. Other years it was the art. Here’s a brief report from Pulse, Volta and the Armory.
Unzueta was there when we visited and the Chilean-born, Brooklyn-based artist told us she uses felt from Germany in her installations, which play with the idea of poverty, infrastructure, connectedness and flow. Unzueta won the 2010 Pulse prize for artist of distinction–well deserved we say.
The globalism that Unzueta represented was countered by the pure Americana of Jeremy Dean’s Back to the Futurama installation, which was the shiny showboat of Pulse. A slick black Hummer vehicle sawed in half, its back half turned into a stagecoach to be pulled by horses, the eviscerated Hummer had quite a presence. Dean, a Brooklyn artist and filmmaker, told us he bought the car with money he and his wife put together. Then he took the car to a chop shop where the engine was cut out and the vehicle was transformed into a swank stagecoach. Dean said he was hoping to hitch the wagon to a team of two white horses and parade through Central park. We hope he did that. Dean has made work previously that’s social activist in nature and this piece, too, has an activist point of view (eco).
We noticed a trend in sequins at the fairs. Daniel Gonzalez’s cartoony works on canvas radiate decorative va-va-voom and some content too. We love it. The artist has a show at Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts in Miami right now.
At the Armory, Mickalene Thomas continues producing eye-popping sequin-embellished paintings that confront the art historical conventions of a white, straight world.
Also at the Armory, Frances Goodman’s slippery, sequin-covered high-end luggage at Goodman Gallery (South Africa) made us wonder whether its intent was ironic commentary on commerce and art, or really complicit).
Elsewhere, Miki Taira’s small calligraphy-covered cloth dolls that give body to Japanese folk tales caught our eye. This one, the Bottom Sounding Spatula (Buttocks Ringing Paddle), Linen, sumi ink, acrylic case, 2009 at Tokyo Gallery + BTAP took a shape we later saw at the Armory in Nick Cave’s new soundsuits at Jack Shainman Gallery. And speaking of dolls, Liliana Porter’s teeny-weeny knitter at Hosfelt Gallery–maybe an inch high–is producing an enormous blue afghan (piled on the right, out of range of the camera) with those little needles–the power of one.
Meanwhile, we saw Gallery Joe‘s Becky Kerlin in a booth so close to the entrance you’re in it before realizing where you are. Her booth looked snappy and elegant. Later we ran into Virgil de Voldere, who was a little down — it had been a difficult year financially for the young Chelsea gallerist. But he was excited about the show in his gallery by J Shih Chieh Huang, the master of led lights and water bottles who we’ve told you about before.
At Volta, too, conversation was king. We had nice chats with Dona Nelson who was exhibiting at Thomas Erben. Her painting had a nuclear energy to it, its pthalo green ambiance radiated. Set on milk crates–a technique right out of grad school–the presentation made us smile.
We had a marvelous chat with the gentleman from Crown Gallery (Brussels), which was showing photographs by Charif Benhelima–an ideal canary trash can floating in white ether, for instance–that made us think Luc Tuymans thoughts. Our informant said the photographs were based on Polaroids that were grown and modified until they expressed ideals, and that Benhelima is currently showing at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston.
Another gallery owner who delighted us was at Videospace Gallery (Budapest). As with Benhelima, we were wowed by the art, and then by the gallery owner. The artist, Gigi Scaria (he’s a man and he’s from India), captures public urban landscapes and transforms them into something magical. The Hungarian gallerist met the Indian artist in Seoul Korea where the artist was in residence and the gallerist was visiting art studios!
We saw Tamara Kostianovsky sitting next to her newest meat works. Kostianovsky, who used to be in Philadelphia, reminded us that she uses her own clothes in creating the sculptures, which were hanging from meat hooks at Y Gallery‘s booth at Volta. The work has grown (in scale and in concept) since last we saw it, looking seductive with its fashion and body references.
Speaking about the body’s inner workings and Philadelphia connections, we stopped at Pentimenti to chat with gallerist Christine Pfister and artist Matthew Cox, who was hanging his embroidered X-rays on the wall using ultra-long carpet needles as fasteners. We wondered where the X-rays came from and he said his brother-in-law was a doctor who sometimes had “throw-offs” that he passed along. We heard he sold a number of them!
Our last stop at Volta was to look at the cut-out paintings on panel by Jan Hafstrom at Andreas Brandstrom Fine Art (Stockholm). Hafstrom’s work reminded us of signage, bowsprits and Medieval magic-infused folk tales–wouldn’t Alex Katz look better if he had some of this content? The gallerist told us this installation of Hafstrom’s was at the last Venice Biennale. He also gave us a book the artist made when he was visiting Guatemala last year–a cut and pasted non-bound folio based on an old Funk and Wagnall’s dictionary. It’s whimsical and child-like and quite wonderful.
On our way out we ran into Tadashi Moriyama, former Philadelphian and Penn MFA who is living in Brooklyn. He said he had a gift for us and gave us a catalog of his work from a show at Bonelli Arte Contemporanea in Mantova, Italy. The catalog has an essay by the Warhol Museum curator Eric Shiner and all we can say is — small world! Moriyama says he’s making his living as an artist — way to go! We love his work — magical maniacal musings about displacement and being alone together in the greater universe.
Also on our way out we had a lovely conversation with Julien Robson, Pafa Curator of Contemporary Art, who made our heads spin with how much he was seeing over the few days he was in New York. Robson is thinking thoughts about the regions vs the centers, an issue he’s dealing with for a big show he’s organizing for his museum. His ideas about how art in the regions is rooted in place more than art in the centers is very interesting and we can’t wait to see his show.
Onward to the Armory in another post. Here are flickr sets for more pictures: