Thursday, April 12, 2012

New York Art Fairs!

Unlike the Armory Show, Volta was a manageable size and each booth was set up with a solo show making for consolidated viewing. They also provided a folder in which to place all the convenient half page gallery notes. This was very helpful afterwards when writing about the experience. First stop was Baltzer-art projects from Basel, Switzerland showing the work of Japanese artist, Ao Tajima who works in Dusseldorf. What drew me in were text pieces, cash register receipts saying Danke auf Wiedersehen many times over. This cheap paper is apt to disintegrate quickly and supplied a metaphor about the temporary nature of existence. “Thank you and Goodbye,” a little like the art world. Playing with the line between ‘parody and sincerity’ can smack of MFA ubiquity these days but Ao Tajima knows what she is doing. She did study with Rosemarie Trockel after all. The other work found inspiration in the daily and domestic, channeling Duchamp and Beuys delicately with much wit.

Parker’s Box, a Brooklyn gallery is getting stronger by the year. They were showing highlighted artist of the whole day, Stephan Seher. His paintings on the back of plexiglass were exceptional and uncanny.  Like any decent art they require time and close scrutiny. The tree images were a particularly fascinating hybrid of free-drawing (gestural) with a hint of vague photographic sources. The effect was a bit like examining a Durer with a magnifying glass, very cosmic and beautiful. This pleases both sides of the brain. The more abstracted blown up images (moonscape) were less effective suggesting inner space (biology) rather than an atmosphere or the very nature of image making. As several critics intimated, “there is life in painting yet.”

Global Art continues to warm up. There were several galleries from Seoul, Korea. I met artist Shin Il Kim who lives in NY and shows at Gallery Simon. He did not enjoy being there personally but he used conceptual text well. Six large letters were clustered together face to face. The words were unclear. As It Is, spoke quietly.  Eastern philosophy and conceptual art are both suited to contemplation.

North on the NJ Turnpike, like Muhammed to the Mountain, another Philadelphia gallery has graduated to the big time in New York. Pentimenti was exhibiting local talent Mark Khaisman. His odd representational lightboxes were well crafted but said nothing to me. They had the feel of ‘tape’ by numbers packaged un-ironically for sale. This is dissimilar to Seher. Interesting how the use of tape has passed the tipping point as artist medium of the moment. Thanks to Jim Lambie in Scotland, art materials are bought solely at the local DIY shop! I have some leopard motif duck tape.

Speaking of Visual Culture, I must mention the serendipitous association between two unrelated booths: Culture Shock from Brooklyn and WhatIfTheWorldGallery of Cape Town. South African, Rowan Smith (still working towards an MFA) has re-made a wooden four speaker Marshall Amp (loud echoes of Brillo box). It blew me away. Yes, there was text, the well-known Marshall logo. More importantly there was an underlying struggle to define the present speed of technology as compared to the 70’s or 80’s. Also illustrating this phenomenon is Culture Shock whose celebration of the Boom Box was exhilarating. The period of the Ghetto Blaster called Eighties is now vintage. It is now 30 years back, a drop in the bucket civilization-wise, but that history needs writing and not by Hal Foster. We need a ‘Hebdigien’ view of the period to describe exactly how our subcultures segued into anodyne Mall Culture. Why did the integrated circuit take precedent to the exclusion of all else? Is it not exactly as predicted by Situationist Debord or speeding visionary Philip K. Dick?

After Volta a shuttle bus took eager art mavens up to the Armory Show. The Volta entrance passes worked for both shows! I got my wristband and joined the fray after a minor fracas with a pitiful Occupy The Armory demonstration. If you really want to condemn capitalism and exclusion of unknown artists you’d be better off showing political work for sale to the Man (guys in suits) rather than pasting drawings on telephone poles.

I found the other Philly gallery, Fleisher/Ollman on the Modern Pier. They were not showing any of their audacious newbies but grandfathers of outsiders, James Castle and the Philadelphia Wireman, who remains unknown. Perhaps he was Kevin Bacon’s dad? He was certainly a god with a coat hanger and there is a good market for Blue Chip Outsiders.

My viewing method on the Contemporary Pier was faster by necessity, a slow jog until something captured my attention. Not much did. Staying in touch with friends by cell made it feel like army maneuvers. Some cool eighties artists brought back happy memories: Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger and Robert Longo. I passed paintings by Mel Bochner and Ed Rusche (pronounced Roo-shay) that included words for me. There was a fetching neon light from Volta. It said simply, fucking beautiful.

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