This was Gallery Week in New York City and so the galleries were more crowded than usual for a Saturday in May. And unlike my last couple of trips to Manhattan, there were many shows that I loved. My wife and I headed first towards the Empire State Building where this season’s Affordable Art Fair takes up residence across the street. It seemed to me that the quality of art was better this time around, with more paintings that I’d want to own or whose skillfulness or creativity I could admire. Still, the fair has shifted away from “affordable” samplings of well known artists (e.g., Mangold, LeWitt, etc.) and more towards “affordable” pieces by artists I’ve mostly never heard of (“affordable” these days means less than $10K). There were many galleries from across the pond — London had a large footprint this year — as well as the other side of the river, with Brooklyn having a noticeable presence.
One of the themes here (and also later in Chelsea) was a preponderance of hyper-glossy, “clear coat” like resin finishes on paintings. Although in some cases I like this look — it can boost saturation or provide a sense of depth to the paintings — I do wonder about what it does for the works over time, since all of the resins I’ve researched claim to yellow with age. And when you see it over and over again it starts to look like a gimmick.
One of the first galleries on our path was Quantum Contemporary where I enjoyed the land/seascapes on brushed aluminum panels by Stiliana Alexieva. The texture of the metal is scrubbed one way for sky and another for land and each is painted carefully in oil so that you get nifty atmospheric effects as you catch the reflections differently on the painting. I also liked a different kind of work on metal, the photography-based prints on thin, flexible sheets of steel by Fabienne Cuter at Artemisia Gallery. She takes photographs of hardware, wires, chips, or other similar items and after some creative manipulation imprints the images onto the stainless steel in ways that give a sense of depth to the otherwise thin supports.
My favorite piece at the show, however, was a beautiful painting by David Febland at Fraser Gallery entitled Waiting on Masters. In contrast to the splashy New York scenes of Febland’s that I’ve seen (and enjoyed) a number of times at his TriBeCa studio and elsewhere, this painting depicts — in my interpretation — museum-goers sitting outside a museum waiting for it to open so they can see the paintings of the masters.
Following an excellent lunch in Koreatown, we headed over to Chelsea where there’s a lot to see. I’ll highlight a few exhibitions of note in my next post.