Circus circus at SCOPE


If the Armory was the Bloomingdales of the art fairs (see Roberta’s post) we went to in New York this year, SCOPE was the circus, forever threatening to veer into chaos, with its 80 participating galleries in 30,000 square feet of space.

The first hint that the sideshow was in gear was on Thursday, when the press and patrons preview got canceled because of raised levels of carbon monoxide in the exhibition space (apparently caused by a forklift operating inside the building). We got a nice closeup view of firemen and their gear.


(In this year of cardboard models, however, firetrucks were trumped by tanks, cars and artists easels.)


Cooling our heels on the sidewalk with the SCOPE evacuees, we bumped into Diane Ashley and got introduced to her featured artist, Eduardo Kac.


By time I got to SCOPE the next day everything was open–although a couple of fire department vehicles remained outside on the alert. Inside, the carnival was up and running.


The craziest of all was in Hall B. A real live barker in a giant birdcage called out amidst piles of stuff that I couldn’t make head or tail of. The confusion spilled over into all the work that surrounded it.


By comparison Larry Mantello’s pop-colored Tri-Sectional Resurrectional– a cascading jungle of bright objects that talked of television cartoons and excessive consumption of goods–seemed tame.

More coherent and elegant was Sandra Bermudez’s Luxe. Using the same pepto-bismol pink of Ann Craven’s bird paintings as background, Bermudez’ pink wallpaper is covered with Joshua tree-like branches that up close are arms and hands decorated with goods from the likes of Prada and Tiffany’s.

But it was in the booths that the real action lived–work from emerging artists, some of whom were really ready for prime time.


Artist Cal Lane, at Foley Gallery, impressed with her cut-out metal work. Just give her a macho piece of steel like an I-beam or a wheelbarrow, and she’ll transform it into a doily, using either an oxyacetaline torch of a plasma cutter. Lane created an installation with her pieces, using tomato paste to create beautiful, rusty doilies on the wall and using dirt to create white-on-brown ones on the floor. Lane, the native of Canada, earned an MFA at Suny Purchase and now lives near there in Peekskill, New York.

Frequency has legs

I saw a lot of artists here that we had seen in the Frequency show, at the Studio Museum (see post).

Jeff Sonhouse, “I Swear on Everything I Love”

A pair of Jeff Sonhouses at Kustera Tilton looked as edgy and angry as ever. He continues to impress.


A totally fabulous piece from Nick Cave’s Sound Suit series,at Jack Shainman, mixed elephant tusks and Yeti fur to suggest man as a bagpipe. The tusks, with their Gabriel’s-horn-gone-jungly quality, made me think of Terry Adkins’ elegant brass multi-trumpeted sculptures. Hank Willis Thomas, also at Shainman, showed the same Nike swoosh branded shaved head we’d seen at Frequency.

(Behind Cave’s Sound Suit is a tidbit from a wall-size lacy metal hanging made from bits of advertising metal by Jean-Pierre Gauthier. I was sorry I didn’t take a picture).


Shinique Smith also appeared here at The Proposition, with more bales of clothes and with gestural, fabric-inspired collages hanging on the wall.

Discoveries here and there


Nearby, Jim Wright’s bright, encrusted paintings have an outsidery use of space and pattern that creates compressed, oppressive interiors with a cartoony sad-sack hero struggling to escape. I liked these a lot. Wright, who was at Rare Gallery, is from West Virginia.


A drawing, “Negociantes,” by Edward Del Rosario, retains the elegance of his figures at the same time that he creates a cartoon-like narrative. The work, at moti hasson, is quite large, and the figures form a series of gestures across the space. Nice, and rather Asian and scroll-like. The use of multiple figures across the paper brought to mind Robin O’Neil’s large drawings of figures in the great, snowy outdoors. But in Del Rosario’s work, there’s no suggestion of environment or space at all, just the narrative path the figures take across the space of the paper.

detail of several of Andy Moon Wilson’s scrolls

Flat out drawing of cartoons and obsessive pattern-making by Andy Moon Wilson also caught my eye at curator’s office. I especially liked the horizontal scrolls, which indicated more of a narrative and more of a struggle than the incredibly detailed patterning on the office paper. The 8 1/2 x 11-inch pieces made me think Houston Ripley. But the narratives were more in the realm of cartooning. Pattern is Wilson’s day job–he designs carpets for a living. I immediately thought of Philadelphia gallerist Liz Afif, who’s in the same business.

Michael Oatman’s Anaximander

I was glad to see more work by Michael Oatman at Miller Block Gallery (not to mention Russell Sellers and a whole bunch of other artists I’d admired at Miller Block in the past). Oatman had impressed me last summer at Mass MoCA (see post), with his loopy undercutting of nostalgia and contemporary life.


And speaking of contemporary life, Tracey Snelling’s mix of paint and video capture the cheese factor at Brown Bag Contemporary. I’m not quite sure why bunches of men were gathered around the work, except maybe they were hoping the videos were pornographic. I didn’t care to stay long enough to find out. Here in “Hideout,” she shows us with b-movie panache what’s happening inside the motel rooms via tiny video windows. The cinematic Humbert Humbert on-the-road with the grifters is intense–and repelling all at once. The paintings are a scary, somewhat expected mix of neon signage, seedy desert locales and pumped up sunsets.


I was impressed by Sarah Pickering’s explosions in peaceful landscapes. These beautiful lambda prints play havoc with the landscape tradition and all its assumptions about meaning. They also make color statements about what explosions look like. The work, which was at Daniel Cooney, mixed its politics with its art historical statements and kept me wanting to look.


And a couple of fave locals turned up on the secondary market at SCOPE–Astrid Bowlby and Gina Triplett at curcio projects.


The thing about SCOPE is it has aspirations to political awareness. Hence, Saya Woolfalk’s “The Cleaners,” an installation/performance, with the the cleaners wearing Leyla Ali-like soccer-ball heads and clothes covered with patterns that reminded me of housedresses like my grandmother wore. They ran around SCOPE scrubbing when they were allowed to leave their white picket-fenced suburb.

But the real political awareness is the artist’s own. SCOPE is really just another art fair. It’s all about the business.