No one can possibly write up a comprehensive recap of all the art fairs happening during Art week in NYC, if you try, you're not doing it right. There are 13 fairs and numerous openings and corresponding events in Brooklyn and Bushwick in particular. It's a marathon for the viewers, artists and the galleries. A booth can be brilliant and full of energy or have a David Lynch feel like the picture above. It can be exhausting but you can't let it show. This year I reserved my energy and decided to cover the following fairs, Volta, Scope, (Un)Scene Fair, and the newest fair, Art on Paper for a wide range of talent and galleries. This filled four days of hiking miles on piers, warehouses and refueling ones eyeballs with promotional cocktails. I've highlighted one or two artists that resonated with me while giving the reader an understanding of how these fairs differentiate from each other.
Volta NY Art Fair 2015
Volta is the sister to the Armory Show and focuses on galleries that have a close relationship with their artists and provide one of them a solo show at the fair. These are mid to established artists and galleries.
Beers Contemporary (London, booth C6) features Sebastian Schrader. Love these master paintings of hooded gangsta types surrounded by detritus. The work shows the skill and volatility of the artist and the subjects by rendering form with beauty and brutality. Combining styles of representational and abstract expressionism he wipes out part of the literal narrative with large painterly strokes suggesting the temporal nature of his subjects.
Painting: "Aufgeschoben 3", oil on canvas 125x120 cm, 2015 Artist: Sebastian Schrader, German. Gallery: Beers Contemporary, London
Travis Somerville, is a white southern man from Atlanta, GA that now resides in San Francisco. His focus is on the historical artifacts of race relations and how they inform life in America today. One of the most powerful installations was “Well Division” Where the wall is lined with drinking fountains with labels designating the ethnicity of the intended user. Beyond the historically accurate “Black” &“White” signage, he includes “Asian” “American Indian” and the most recent addition “Muslim”. Each sink has a painting depicting a stereotypical image of the labeled ethnic group. The installation shows the absurdity of prejudice as we all fall under one of those labels and by the mere impracticality of accommodating all prejudices at a common drinking fountain.
Scope NYC 2015
Scope is a fair that shows in Miami, NYC, Basel, and London. Known as a showcase for international contemporary art, its sees itself edger than the Armory and Volta but not the thrasher/Juxtapose crowd. It has a wide focus for multi disciplinary artists, which is refreshing and can create a more elevating vibe. It’s not all serious, there are art puns, installations, acts of conceptual disruption keeping the viewers intrigued and engaged.
Nathan Vincent’s Green army men are illustrative of Scope’s ability to gather wit, craftsmanship and the conceptual all in one. Represented by Emmanuel Fremin of New York here at Scope, I could see a New Yorker cartoon coming out of this artist’s process. His Green Army men are almost life size and completely outfitted with crocheted green outfits, Military oneies, if you will. Vincent’s ability to blend the craft of crochet into contemporary conceptual art is brilliant.
Art on Paper NYC 2015
One of the newest fairs on to join in NYC arts week, its brought to you by the art fair veterans, Art Market group and Miami Project. Located on the other side of manhattan on the East River out on Pier 36, they were thoughtful to provide a shuttle to cross the city to the Armory show and Volta. Featuring artists whose work is out of paper, on paper, it covers sculpture, photography, painting etc. You get the idea. It was one of the freshest shows we saw - innovative artists, experimental works and large scale puppets to mobiles. It was a great selection of San Francisco Galleries that incidentally I found they had the most compelling work.
Jack Fischer Gallery: Chris Crites of the Mug Shot Series, San Francisco, CA
Jack's roster of artists have always been stellar and bringing onboard the "Bag Painter", Chris Crites was no exception. Crites hits a cord with his paintings of criminals, mostly from the 1800 to the 1940's, blown up into posterized portraits that read with a contemporary edge. Acrylic on butcher paper or literally paper bags, the artist pulls these old stories of crime into modern age. As Wegee's or Warhol's accident photos make us stop and stare, I find these reissued reinterpreted police portraits in a street graffiti palette just as compelling.
Jenkins Johnson Gallery New York & San Francisco represents Gordon Parks, whose career spans decades and his early work documenting African American life in Harlem and Kansas were up there with the great social photographers of Helen Levitt,Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank. But, I was surprise to see, that he might have been an inspiration for the likes of Diane Arbus, his surreal portraits of couples, odd moments like the one above, show the decisive moment can have double meanings that make us uneasy. The fact he went on to define the American ethnic subgenre blaxploitation with the film "Shaft" which in turn inspired Quentin Tarantino movies, shows this man has had an incredible reach in his influence.
Ben Aronson, "Spring Morning, Fifth Avenue", 2014, oil on panel, 60 x 60 inches. Represented by Jenkins Johnson Gallery
Jenkins Johnson Gallery also represents Ben Aronson - one of those painters that captures a cityscape in time like Edward Hopper. His masterful paintings that render the scene in realistic sense without losing a painterly effect. His edges are defined by light and shadow not by a hard line that gives his paintings an ethereal effect. Aronson is a true master of the cityscape.
THE (un)Scene Fair
The(un) Scene Fair, formerly known as the (Un)Fair Fair, changed its name as its seemed to be "too whiny" as a representative of the show explained it. It's the steampunk, anti establishment, fair of the art fairs. It's one big installation that takes over a dark cavernous warehouse. The entrance is constricted by a tunnel of woven balloons by artist Jason Hackenwerth forcing you to lean into a forward bow coming out to a performance space. It's as if you are walking into an immersive "promenade" theatre production like the infamous "Sleep No More" in Chelsea. The artwork is from young hungry artists all the way to huge ecclesiastical italian master paintings from the 1660's. These paintings somehow fit perfectly as they sit regally amidst the decanted decadence of steampunk contraptions, projected images and performance art mayhem. Check out NYC most popular performance artist, "Love is the Answer Man", Mathhew Silver as he performed at the Un Scene Fair. As my camera died, unfortunately I could not capture any images from this show, but well worth checking out Jake Nelson's projected paintings and Tom Haney's steampunk inspired musee d'mechanic work. Love this Fair for its risk taking, its rich esthetic and having a finger on the pulse of now.
Zannah Noe is a visual artist, writer and art community organizer. She resides with her greyhound dog, Diesel in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY and keeps her art space in San Francisco, Velcrow Studios. Current work is American Bones, chasing down the American identity in all its forms.