Affordable fair

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The Affordable Art Fair in New York, last weekend, was a less than optimal way to see art. If you think of the booths at your average trade fair, you’ve got the ambiance and the visual overload factors.

Nonetheless, some of the work we saw reached out to us anyway. By no means did we see everything that was there–maybe 50 percent, 25 with some focus.

But if I was shopping for art, I’d have to go forearmed with some knowledge of what was what and who was who, or I don’t think I could cope.

Local angles

But first the local angle. Philadelphia was represented by four local vendors (the trade-fair language here seems just right).

Pentimenti’s Christine Pfister, who is long and lean and quite pregnant was hoping the picture wouldn’t show her belly. I gave it my best shot–it’s so dark, no one will even recognize her. Her booth included some work from Isabel Bigelow (over Pfister’s right shoulder), Stephen Baris (he has a show coming up at Pentimenti in the spring and used to show at SchmidtDean), Kevin Finkleas, Richard Bottwins and more.

Pentimenti also was showing work by Kathleen Kucka, an artist I had seen in a group show at Jeffrey Coploff Gallery in New York more than a year ago (see post). Look for more of her work at Pentimenti some time in the future. (My notes say this is Kucka’s “Theater of Thinking,” but I don’t know if it’s the piece or the series.)

We also stopped at Bridgette Mayer‘s booth and got a terrific shot of color as well as her two gallery assistants (I forgot their names; sorry). The show included a selection of work from Tim McFarlane and Neil Anderson, who both had recent shows at Mayer.

Most exciting, we got a swell preview of Rebecca Rutstein’s new work from her Hawaii residency. Her exhibit opened a couple of days ago, and judging by what we saw at the AAF, it’s not to be missed–glorious color, maps, thoughts about place and the path of life (above image, top, “quiet pandemonium” and bottom, “blue hawaiian”).

We also said hello to the gangs at The Print Center’s booth an Center for Emerging Visual Artist’s booth.

Memories of SCOPE

Another gallery that caught our eye was one we had visited at SCOPE last winter, Miller Block Gallery, which had a lot of works on paper on exhibit. Here’s a piece by Jane Masters, who burns paper to make her sampler-like sardonic social commentary (image, “Cheap Labor”).

This work by Cranbrook artist-in-residence in sculpture Heather McGillis cut with a laser. The small pieces fall out and get glued on with hinges to make the positive image. The negative images uses the original sheet, with the cut-out spaces backed by contrasting paper. The tiny images are home and farm icons in wild profusion. Wow! (Roberta, excited by the work, was doubly excited when she realized she had met McGill on a visit to Cranbrook).

Another local angle

Amidst all the wonderful things to see at Miller Block was this tiny Randall Sellers, our paradigmatic Philly-boy-makes-good.

At Mixed Greens, we saw a variety of interesting work, including these sweet drawings of electrical outlets and an obsessively hatched envelope by Joan Linder (left, “Plugs,” and right, “Business”).

We also liked the Mark Mulroney work, including paintings and tiny sculptures with images glued or painted on (shown, on the top shelf a little three-headed doll that I wanted to hold called “Sweet Smoked Natural Style #1,” and lots more).

Fresh off seeing Harrison Haynes’ cars-and-kudzu paintings in the watercolor show at Gallery Joe, this work by Russell Nachman caught my eye at Mixed Greens. While Haynes’ everyday world feels menacing or off kilter, Nachman’s beautiful, futuristic imagery set in a similarly scrubby countryside feels magical (image, Nachman’s “Power Wagon”).

Eye-popping color, indoors and out

At Littlejohn Contemporary’s booth, the tiny (about 6 inches high) animal portraits from artist Laurie Hogin popped off the walls. Not only was this work funny, with colors that looked positively irradiated, but it was serious too, with themes of the human comedy, survival and lost species and other threats. I loved these monkeys as peppermint candies! I could hardly pick which ones to show you (above, “Field Guide to North America: Airwaves at Dusk,” and at the way top of the post, “Field Guide to North America: Monkey Pairs at Dusk”).

Also at Littlejohn, Susan Chrysler White’s “Sweet Affliction” beaded curtains gone wild and portraits of the beads floating in front of a modulated pink background stole my decorative heart. The glowing pink background reminded me of the glowing backgrounds behind high school portraits.

And lastly, fibonacci series paintings are a current national phenom. This one was on exhibit at San Francisco’s Hang Gallery AAF booth, a reminder that the flat-out application of colors in layers continues to fascinate and hold the art world’s attention (image, Jylian Gustlin’s “Fibonacci 183,” 48 x 48 inches).

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