Ben Austin’s NY Armory Week Diary Day 3
We braved the subway at rush hour to head downtown as the snow and wind flurried and swirled around us. SoHo, that retail shopping Mecca, where once upon a time the art world of New York was based before moving over to the cavernous spaces in Chelsea. Here is to be found the new location of Volta, would the collectors follow?
I am perhaps a little biased towards Volta as I know the art fair director – Amanda Coulson well and she always does a fantastic job, be it in New York or at the Swiss edition. We enter down into a basement and the very friendly guy on the press desk hands us a folder for which can be placed printed information on each artist shown by the gallery. I find this an extremely useful reference guide, especially as each booth has a solo presentation.
The first installation booth to strike me was by Jade Townsend at Poulsen, crafted based work, with an outsider feel. The installation of a ship in two parts was particularly effective. We moved on, each booth I must say had something to commend, Daniel Rothbart’s presentation at Galerie Depardieu was intriguing mixing old Hollywood photographs with meditation cups. The paintings by Geradine Swayne at Fred were stunning as were the realist work by John Stark presented by Charlie Smith, both London based galleries. Fine painted lost youths were in evidence by Kris Knight at Mulherin out of Toronto.
When it comes to urban art the crazy chaos of Greg Haberny’s work showing at Lyons Wier gallery was arresting. I normally do not go for this sort of thing, but I enjoyed the high-jinks humour mixed with raw energy. One can not help to smile at the reproduced rejection letter from MoMa, telling him that they were ‘disgusted’ and ‘appalled’ by his installation bid, entitled: ’Blow This Mother Fucker Up’ and they were revolted by the suggestion that he wanted to urinate on Monet’s ‘Poplars Giverny, Sunrise’ and his idea to add ‘a homosexual orgy’ to Matisse’s ‘The Red Studio’. The trustee at MoMa must have had a sense of humour bypass and that in art, even bad art should be subversive and anarchistic.
Moving onto art that referred to art history rather than wanting to alter it in a perverse way was the work by Generic Art Solutions at Mindy Soloman Gallery, again I did not like the reductive way that they had made David’s ‘Marat’ or Gericault’s ‘Raft of the Medusa’ into a contemporary context, yet there is something to be said about re-inventing masterpieces.
The political was tackled by Dominique Blain showing at Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran out of Montreal, here we had a finely crafted rug featuring landmines was photoshopped into floor of the Oval office. Perhaps an obvious notion but nicely handled none the less. I was impressed by the number of Scandanavian galleries showing at Volta and Maria Torp represented by Galleri Christoffer Egelund (Copehagen) had some fine realist painting on show as were the Mexican Day of the Dead inspired work by Haruko Maeda showing at Christian Larsen (Stockholm). Also out Stockholm is Galleri Flach showing strong nostalgic work by Kristina Bength.
Fine geometric paintings by Todd Lanam were showing at Mark Wolfe Contemporary (San Francisco) and at C24 Gallery, New York I liked the packed gestural marks by Regina Scully. Derrick Velasquez craft, material and tension pieces were admirable at Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia. There were strange and odd collages of anthropomorphic creatures by Michael Pajon at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans. I do enjoy this kind of weird and wonderful Victoriana-type work. Osarentin Ighile showing at Skoto Gallery, New York examines cultural identity and objects. Likewise I liked the primative yet contemporary woodcarvings made by Marc Fromm showing with Jarmuschek & Partners (Berlin).
The Volta art fair is vibrant and packed with energy. The artwork is bold and even at times brash, but none the poorer for it. There is something for everyone here, from delicate and refined paintings to conceptual installation and even booths that are a bit bonkers. If I were to do some shopping here I would opt for a painting by John Stark or one the bold abstracts by William Bradley showing at EB & Flow out of London.
The next day I went to the high concept Independent Fair in Chelsea and did the rounds of galleries there. Before I sign off and return to the Piers for another look, I have to say that the Dan Flavin and Donald Judd show at David Zwirner’s incredible new space on 20th St. is something else, a veritable master class in stunningly beautiful minimalism. Also, not be missed is the collection of Alighiero Boetti at Gladsone Gallery and of course the blockbuster show at Gagosian, featuring 50 works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, talk about raw emotive power.
Words/Photos Ben Austin © Artlyst 2013