Fanzine Does New York Art Week 2011 (day 4 finale)

Bradford Nordeen


The name Pulse ended up being an ironic descriptor for this year’s well-produced Chelsea fair, as there was little work on view that brought mine to peak. The cogs of this well-oiled machine run smoothly and are a perfect fit for many of the participating galleries. The show seems designed for the casual collector, as much of the work is aesthetically enticing and modestly straight-forward.

Julian Montague’s Volumes from an Imagined Intellectual History of Animals, Architecture and Man, 2010 at Black & White Gallery of Brooklyn collected disparately designed library books that intoned of a hazardous futurity: “Ecologies of Decay,” “Secondary Occupants,” “Interior Incognita” and “Atlas of Infestation” read the 70s style covers. Galerie Kleindeinst from Leipzig paneled the floor of their booth with the lino panels that created the work on the walls in a nice relay. There were quite a few strong photographic works. Augusta Wood’s inclusion in ASSEMBLY, an ongoing project to showcase emerging Southern California photographers, was particularly noteworthy. Her blanched photo trafficked on utopian nostalgia – an opaque sheet held into direct sunlight reads, “I’ll look out the window at the los angeles sky and realize we’re both feeling the same.” M+B gallery has an absolutely stellar array of photos, which included work by MOMA’s New Photography artist, Alex Prager, Anthony Lapore and a hilarious set by Matthew Porter. His Scissor Lift, 2011 recreates the cover of Jake Fonda’s Workout Book and Lower Canyon, 2011 is ripped from a Hollywood chase scene.

{CTS} Creative Thrift Shop showcased Jeremy Dean’s models for his infamous life-size carriage at last year’s Scope (where these miniatures also appear this year), a Hummer retro-fitted as a horse drawn carriage. Mostly, however, the fair was a place for middle-brow painting, butterflies being an unfortunate trend. Refuge was to be had in Beka Goedde’s abstract paintings and collage works at Christina Ray. These careful and meditative constructions of colored paper squares and paint float somewhere between urban assemblages and natural formations. They’re playful and resonant works, wonderfully assembled in a great little catalogue produced for the fair. As you leave take note of the great (but, honestly unnecessary) bookstore created by powerHouse Arena, a venerable Dumbo publishing house and bookshop and crane your neck to marvel and Molly Dillworth’s vibrant site-specific mural.

I can really only see two ways to approach the next fair I attended, Scope. There are galleries which make it work, who take what they are doing seriously and have preferential placement that allows them to function with a certain autonomy. And it’s a testament to the art, that it is strong enough to demand your critical attention. San Francisco gallerist, Eleanor Harwood does an utterly professional job showcasing Gareth Spor’s Dream Machine (inspired, of course, by Brian Gysin) and Francesca Pastine’s surprisingly solid sculptural landscapes, made from carved-out ArtForums. Station Independent, too, has a good go at taking this fair straight-faced, with Letha Wilson’s unique photographic work and Pierre St. Jacques’s adeptly produced videos.

Other booths are consumed by the bellowing hubris at the core of this year’s fair. In truth, I kind of love it. It’s the bro fair – has always been, I suppose, but this year’s selection committee went, quite literally, balls out in assembly the most cohesively unapologetic dude art around. Dirty socks, skateboards, butt rocker guitar solos, beer taps, frat boys and pussy galore. My initial response was of complete disgust, but then I began to appreciate the absolute purity of this vision, the sheer consistency of its execution. That is respectable, even if the work is not. At the door of the fair, a sculpture perfectly encapsulates your experience: a shiny tire rim – the showy sort you see spinning on Escalades and other flashy commerce vehicles – encased in a slab of cement, so masculine in its over materiality. The name of the piece? Rim Job.

At Spinello gallery, TYPOE’s belching skulls spew splintered caps from spray paint cans and the coiffed bro who mans the booth looms close in golden hi-top shoes. Paintings at Opus Art blare raucous music from the speakers drilled into them. Subports installation Tip A Guy collects real live frat boys in a pen, so you can peer through the plex window as they burp come ons and goad you, chugging from vats of Amstel Light. You can give em money by texting your favorite bro. How to decide (or tell the difference, for that matter) between Turtle, Point Blank, Cap N’ Ahab, Mogli, JMoney, The Philanthropist or Wreckage is beyond me. None of this comes close the baroque audacity of the literal sausage-fest by Jennifer Catron and Paul Outlaw at Artists Wanted. A bacchanal of meat and wine, perched atop the golden stage, sagging on his throne languishes a cross between Zeus and the Dude. He sports a fur cape, gold turban and matching aviator sunglasses, grinding sausages from hunks of meat, which rest beside him. The smell of fecund sausage invades the space and a nymphette perched by his side orally replenishes the red wine fountain that trickles through a waterfall of golden goblets until this woman juice is ladled and served up by an afro’d servant in a gold fashion-y skirt. At once too hyperbolic to not be a put-on, I’m not sure this distasteful display goes far enough to really reveal anything other than its own self-revelry. But the scene at Scope disarms any such criticality, creating its own kind of alternate logic that renders otherwise insulting works like MARCK’s LCD sickish / unwohlsein or Hans Meerten’s sex slut paintings as just part of the woodwork.

This ethos problematizes certain potentially interesting works, though. New York art angel Stephanie Diamond, whose Listings Project is emailed out to nearly 8,000 weekly subscribers and can feature studio sublets, equipment sales or services, set up Home Away From Home, an elevated space to “shop, rest, recharge, or just hang out.” Maybe escape should be in that list too. I spoke with Diamond who offers a wall of testaments to the listings projects success. She’s really dedicated and earnest in her efforts to connect the art community, and this attitude is remarkably incongruous with the belchy bravura of the show. Similarly, the nude Ellie Evelyn, in her performance presented by Grace Exhibition Space, the organization that programmed Fountain fair’s impressive performance roster, is overshadowed by all of the boob art that surrounds her. Her performance is really about interaction and lying to others about what transpired between you, but her naked playroom reeks more of bro fantasia than any cordial zone of confidence.

Installed on a swaying boat, Fountain fair’s truly experimental spirit was commendable, if somewhat lackluster. With 21 participating venues, the space was really more a performance venue and extension of the alternative institutions that displayed work on and around these makeshift walls. Microscope gallery offered a film-centric exhibition, showcasing the underground film fanzines of Nick Zed. A photograph by Michel Auder features a photo of his ex-wife, Cindy Sherman superimposed over someone’s balls, one labeled “Cindy” the other, “Sherman.” The whole interior was a carnival, replete with a monkey suit courtesy of Greg Haberny and an antique reliquary installation Lil’ Miss Fortune by EVO Love.

As an exciting retort to the Independent, a group of galleries banded together for the hotel fair The Dependent. For one night only 15 galleries, projects spaces and publications occupied two floors of Chelsea’s Sheraton hotel for an intimate and exciting install of some really noteworthy contemporary art. Cleopatra’s installation (for which artist Polly Apfelbaum was bemusedly on hand) was truly breathtaking with a bathroom installation exploding in fake and real flowers. This was an uncanny spectacle to behold. Impressing yet again, CANADA’s install was hilarious with a screeching terracotta monkey perched in the bathroom and a blackface painting over the bed. The folks at edition project 2 Up were absurdly nice and their use of both a pillow-as-projection screen and suitcases-as-pedestals really got my attention. For events like these, you really need a Shazaam for imagery as, somewhat in the vain of The Independent, I can only speak to many of these contexts and not to the particular artists, sadly. But the convivial atmosphere really made this affair a memorable one.

The lovely folks at Recess stuck photographic work right onto the metal door with magnets. The images rephotographed work from personal archives and many of these findings must be seen to be believed! Also pinned to the wall – this time of the bathroom – Joshua Thorson’s car calendar paintings at Soloway were wonderfully glib in this quotidian context. Bathrooms were really the best places to be and these insane little melting creatures at Paradise Gallery really stole the show for me. I have nothing critical to say of them, really. Just that I want one for my bathroom!

And here’s Nordeen’s day one, day two, and day three coverage of the big art fairs this past week in New York City, read em all! It’s epic…