This year I only managed to make it to two of the art fairs during Art Fair week in Manhattan, but overall it was an enjoyable time spent with a diverse selection of artwork.
First up was The Armory Show, which is open through Sunday at Piers 94 and 92 on the West Side of the city. As was the case last year, the show is split up into the contemporary art section and the modern section. This year we arrived at the contemporary section before the show opened and that was a good idea: we did our waiting inside rather than outside where it had not yet warmed up. The contemporary section has more than 200 galleries and it can be a bit mind-numbing. You can’t spend a lot of time with all of the work, but then you wouldn’t really want to. Instead, you have to look for things that catch your eye and focus your time there.
Fortunately, there were quite a few galleries that had work worthy of close study and appreciation, and I will focus on those. I liked an Odili Donald Odita geometric abstract acrylic painting (at Jack Shainman) on a smokey plexiglass support, where the texture of the painted areas contrasted with the smooth and glassy areas left bare.
My wife and I both admired several Jacob Hashimoto constructions that we found among at least two separate galleries, but in particular the yellow and white “Field of Yellow Blocks” at the Studio La Citta gallery. It consists of perhaps several hundred paper-like yellow and white waxy rectangles strung together carefully at varying depths between two rows of pegs. It caught your eye from a distance and then was worth looking at up close from the front and the sides to admire how it all held together.
One of my favorite pieces of the day was Rafael Lozano-Hemmer‘s interactive “The Company of Colours“. It consisted of an LCD screen with a small camera attached; the camera beams out at the world and the screen displays what the camera sees, but does so in a highly pixilated manner. As you approach the screen, you see that each block of color is labeled with a color name and the image is constantly changing as you move around to reflect the latest colors in the pixilated image. After a few moments, the screen temporarily changes to show the image using 16 “culturally significant” color palettes in the history of personal computing and gaming (e.g., one of the screens shows a Commodore 64’s color palette, another shows a Sega game palette).
The Canada New York gallery had a nice exhibition of works by Xylor Jane. Jane uses thousands of slightly raised dots of color as a kind of pixel in making paintings that are full of repetition, counting, numbers, pattern, and color. It’s not hard to understand why I would appreciate these works!
Paul Kasmin put on a large exhibition of wonderful James Nares brushstroke paintings. These huge canvases are filled each with what looks to be one long, swirly stroke of paint as foreground on a solid background underpainting. I never get tired of seeing these apparently simple looking but elegant pieces. What you need to know about how they are made can be summed up by this photo. In at least one of the paintings in this booth, Nares is using a kind of interference paint where the color of the paint changes based upon your angle of view so that as you walk from one end to the other of the 15-or-so foot long painting, you see the paint changing color as you walk.
I saw several people that I knew or recognized at the art fairs today. One was Nancy Chunn, whose painting class I took seven or eight years ago at the School of Visual Arts. She had a huge exhibition at the Ronald Feldman Fine Arts booth, where she seemed to be always tied up explaining her work to others and so unfortunately I couldn’t say Hi (not that she would remember me, anyway, but I wanted to congratulate her on the show). Each piece consists of perhaps a couple dozen separate canvases that together provide a neurotic narrative of scenes from the life of a fearful Chicken Little (the overall series is entitled, “Chicken Little and the Culture of Fear). Chunn paints in a crisp, likeable illustrative style with political content and this series has you wondering how much of Chicken Little is neuroses and how much is prescience…
I also spied John Corzine walking around The Armory Show, both at the contemporary side as well as the modern side. He was simply strolling up and down the aisles looking at the art but he must also have been amused at the path of “There’s John Corzine” that followed a few feet behind him everywhere he walked. I wish I had thought to invite him to my show next month! Of course, that would have been rather awkward and probably rude.
We headed over to the Modern side of the fair where there is one gallery after another of top notch blue chip art. Since so much of the work here was familiar and very likable, I’ll skip listing the pieces but share a few observations.
Unlike at the ADAA show (which I write about, below), the crowd here was a diverse mixture of “the masses”, young and old, art-world knowledgable and not. One older couple was admiring a Gerhard Richter painting (there were at least 3 of his very nice signature squeegie abstractions spread around). I overheard the man telling his wife, “Now that’s a style I like…” The wife asks, “What’s his name?” Looking closely, squinting, the husband exclaims, “Hmmm… Jerard Richter”.
As I was walking down the first aisle of pier 92, there was Chuck Close taking in the sights. He created a stir similar to that of Corzine, though it had a different flair. More people seemed willing to approach Close, but for those who didn’t recognize him you couldn’t help but feel that they were missing something: I saw a young couple eyeing a Chuck Close print as if they’d never seen one before and I so wanted to point out to them that the artist was but a few dozen feet away (they didn’t speak English).
Jonathan Boos gallery had a very nice Oscar Bluemner painting ($975,000!). I’m used to seeing Yayoi Kusama “infinity nets” at the art fairs, but this show included an “infinity petals” triptych in red and black. James Graham and Sons exhibited some of the recent drawings from John Zinsser, meaning that at least two former instructors of mine were represented in the fairs today. The Modern section of the Armory show makes the whole Armory ticket ($30) worthwhile, since even if you go through the contemporary section without finding much work that you love, any fan of modern painting will enjoy this portion of the fair.
After wolfing down a late lunch along Ninth Avenue, we headed over to the ADAA’s “The Art Show” at the Park Avenue Armory at 67th Street. The crowd here is much more serious and well-dressed than down at the pier, though on the other hand I’ve never seen so many young children at an event like this. Whether the parents were trying to get their kids some culture or they didn’t want to spend a few bucks on babysitters, it was actually a bit unsettling. Young kids running around oblivious to the dollar amount of damage that they could do in the blink of an eye made me very nervous!
There’s a lot of good art to see here, too, though it’s a much smaller show than The Armory Show and so the $20 entrance fee feels more like its meant to weed out the crowd (as well as raise money for Henry Street Settlement). There were some amazing exhibits, including a small Francis Bacon piece; I don’t remember ever seeing a Bacon painting outside of a museum or a book, so it was nice to see this study for a larger work in the art fair setting. L&M Arts had a nice collection of de Kooning paintings including one his large, late abstractions in tones of orange and blue on white. Howard Greenberg gallery had some very fine Edward Weston vegetable photographs. I saw Chuck Close again cruising through the galleries. My wife thinks she saw Glenn Close (no relation that I know of to Chuck!) though I missed her, which was okay by me (Fatal Attraction still gives me the creeps).
Finally pooped from so much art and quite a bit of walking around, we headed for home. I’m not much of a Twitter person and so I am wondering if I missed the news: did somebody repeal all traffic laws today? Or was it the new moon? It seemed that there were more crazy people driving without signals, turning left from right-turn-only lanes, cutting people off, and just going bonkers than I’ve ever seen before. On the way out of the city we experienced traffic snarlups getting into the Lincoln Tunnel that reminded me of one of the Karin Davie paintings I had seen earlier in the day (sort of like this), though the only color here came from the brake lights and the colorful language motorists were using to vent frustration at the insane drivers cutting people off to squeeze in at the last minute without signaling (or waiting for room). Thankfully we made it home without a scratch and with enough time left in the evening for me to blog about the day.