Monday, May 14, 2012

Frieze NY: Pictures from the Fair

Frieze really does art fairs right. In terms of logistics, scale and ambience, the Armory show could learn a lot from the organizers of Frieze. The physical space of the exhibitions was perfect: spacious enough that despite attracting a lot of visitors, it never felt crowded. It was also well lit, and well ventilated – Armory please take note of the last two points. Yes, it matters when you’re spending 2-3 hours looking at art. And getting to Randall’s Island by ferry is both fun and sets an expectant tone for the art you’re about to see.  On the island, you lose all sense of being in the city. As for the fair itself, many out of town (as well as out of country) galleries participated, providing the opportunity to see the work of many artists previously unknown to me.

A sign for the times, one side of this pathetically funny piece by David Shrigley elegantly expresses the fading optimism and sinking feeling that comes at the onset of realizing that things aren’t going to turn out as planned.

Sfeir-Semler showed an example from the series Bodybuilders, by Lebanese artist and curator Akram Zaatari. Derived from found damaged negatives taken in the late 1940’s, the images in the series are a visually beautiful blend of power, virility, entropy and decay.

Also at Sfeir-Semler was Walid Raad’s, I feel a great desire to meet the masses again, a set of 96 images in which foreground and buildings have been removed, leaving only the sky. What was the significance of the sky? This is what Raad has to say about it:

For months after 9/11, I could not remember the color of the sky over New York on that day. For some reason, I needed to see that blue again, desperately looking for it in photo and video archives, and on color swatches in paint stores.

Over time, I forgot about the sky. That is, until the beginning of various terrorist-related trials a few years later. I was taken aback that almost every prosecutor and defense attorney in the US began their respective opening statements with lengthy descriptions of the clear blue sky on 9/11.

I still cannot remember the exact color of the sky on that fateful September day, but the trials in Seattle, Portland, Detroit, and Alexandria have helped me narrow it down to ninety-six shades of blue.

Casey Kaplan  showed the work of Garth Weiser, which look like enlarged moiré patterns or wood grain overlaid on top of another surface. The work is cool in the detached sense, textural, and optical. The images that result from his process are suggestive of both the specificity of scientific investigation and pure abstraction.

Some other work I found interesting:

Kris Martin at Sies + Hoke 

Walead Beshty at Regen Projects

 Darren Almond at Alfonso Artiaco

Jon Pestoni at David Kordansky Gallery

Some work bearing the influence of Richter:

Thomas Fougeirol at Galerie Praz-Delavallade

Johannes Kahrs at Zeno X Gallery

I found the subtlety of color just amazing in the work of Scott Lyall.

Scott Lyall at Miguel Abreu

I was intrigued by the combination of eroticism and formalism in the work of Talia Chetrit.

Talia Chetrit at Renwick Gallery

A few things I didn't like:

The photograms of Amy Granat are just too close to those of Kunie Sugiura.

Amy Granat at Galerie Eva Presenhuber

Whatever the merits of Josh Smith's work, this isn't his best.

Josh Smith 

I hope next time Frieze has more work in the outdoor sculpture section.  There was a great tubular wasp nest form by Louise Bourgeois suspended from a tree.

From a distance, Subodh Gupta's Et tu, Duchamp? appeared initially like a seated buddha; getting closer, it seemed to suggest Jesus. That mixture was pretty interesting, but upon approach the sculpture turns out to be just another riff on early 20th century art history.

All in all, it was a great way to spend an afternoon. If you thought about going this year and didn't, make a point of seeing it next year. I know I will.