Contributed by Leslie Wayne / How do you look at art at an art fair? Do you do a quick pass through the whole thing and then go back to the works that caught your eye in order to look at them more closely? Or do you settle in for six hours and go slowly and carefully, booth by booth? I’ve tried both ways and, in each case have come away with a similar feeling in the end – it’s all a blur. This time, in writing for Two Coats of Paint, I gave myself a mission to look specifically for works that mixed disciplines, and this filter helped immensely. Though I did not find a lot – it was a rather conservative (no pun intended) fair this year – I did see some beautiful examples. Here are a few.
The German artist, Mary Bauermeister’s Brian O’Dougherty Commentary Box is a cacophony of objects, materials, shapes, muted colors and hand writing. Bauermesiter was a seminal figure of the Fluxus movement and indeed the objects in this recently made box seem to be in perpetual flux, bringing to mind the ever ethereal and changing natural and metaphysical worlds we inhabit.
William Tyler’s Aluminum Cloud is simple and elegant but also funny in a kind of ham-fisted way. It makes you question the very act of pulling and plays with our expectations of material’s given strength. Whitefield Lovell’s solo exhibition The Spell Suite is stunning and poetic. Each beautifully rendered portrait has an attached object just below the head, giving us a hint of what kind of spell might have been made on this poor soul. Spell no. 2 (The Heart is Mad) made me wonder what kind of American spell made this particular heart go mad.
Yuko Nasaka, born in 1938 in Osaka, Japan, was among the youngest and one of the few female members of the Gutai Art Association in the 1960s. These two pieces reflect her command of industrial techniques, modular structure and futuristic color that defied the then-common preconception about women artists creating “feminine” art.
Ana Tiscornia’s wall pieces caught my eye for their mix of funky geometry and painterly surface, looking like both floor plans for small apartments and the walls of an ancient building.
I’ve always been a fan of Jenny C. Jones’s work. Her elegant and minimal mixed-media, dimensional paintings have a kind of internal rhythm that speaks directly their relationship to music. Very smart and beautifully conceived.
Mel Kendrick has a strong solo presentation of new works in wood. The wall pieces immediately bring to mind the rhythmic whimsy of Elizabeth Murray’s shaped paintings, and I love how the long shelf piece takes the language of Minimalism and roughs it up with the warmth of his hand.
Fred Tomaselli’s piece from 2007 was a surprise. I thought at first I was looking at a new work by Yinka Shonibare, who shows at the same gallery, as the pattern looked very much like an African textile. Perhaps he was thinking about Shonibare’s work when he made it?
I have to say I’m a bit of a sucker for Liliana Porter’s whimsical miniature fantasies. This little weaver is particularly endearing.
Tammam Azzam is an artist I was unaware of, and I enjoyed the complex layering of paper collage in this very large landscape abstraction.
Alberto Burri, the veteran Italian artist of the Art Informel movement and self-described polymaterialist, always draws me in. I love the way he manages to construct such simple and elegant compositions with his craggy and war-torn materials. (image at top)
I’ve seen Sam Moyer’s work a number of times at fairs in the past and they always catch my eye on account of the way the artist makes the marble discs seem to float so effortlessly as three-dimensional elements in a two-dimensional painting.
Emil Lukas’s work has a light poetic touch that filters through all of his unique prints. His Double Event (Puddle) was made by pouring various pigments onto a depressed surface and then letting it dry. The moistened paper picks up all of the layers of color when they are put together through the press – a kind of performative reverse action. His Double Event (Glass) print is also uncanny, the effect of transparent glass created by inking and wiping a plate of metal. Both are unexpected and very beautiful.
Rebecca Ward’s painted and stitched canvases seemed to be having a conversation with Emil’s prints, in tone and color. They also chime nicely with Jenny C. Jones’s paintings’ compositionally, though they are completely different conceptually.
This delightful mobile by Beth Campbell made me smile. What can I say? It’s just full of humor and free spirit. It has all the elegance of a Calder and all the wacky post post-modernist sensibilities of a contemporary artist.
And finally, while Fu Xiaotong’s paper pieces do not really mix disciplines, one could say that like Lukas’s “performative” Puddle prints, 200,676 Pinpricks too embodies a performative quality in reflecting the sheer action of pin-pricking that many marks on one sheet of paper.
About the Author: New York artist Leslie Wayne is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea. Wayne is an occasional writer and curator, and has received numerous grants and awards for her painting objects, including a 2017 John Simon Guggenhheim Foundation Fellowship. She recently collaborated with Durham Press to create a limited edition variant multiple called Here and There.