Art fairs: all three in one weekend

Two years ago, in 2011 I launched this blog with a brief and light coverage of The Armory Show.  As one way of celebrating my small anniversary, I am writing to report The Armory Show of 2013 and two other art fairs (The Independent and ADAA) that happened to take place during the same weekend. Rather than trying to say too much with words, I shall explain a few details about each of the images.

On Wednesday night I started off by visiting The Armory Show.  The atmosphere felt convivial in general.  Apart from unexpectedly stopped by a photographer from White Wall Magazine to take a photo of me in a "teddy-bear skin" coat that my mother gave me as a Christmas present (my picture is the 3rd one in their image gallery, if you are interested), overall it was a fun time to catch up with friends and others that I had not seen in awhile.

For the Armory, Max Wigram Gallery (London) presented artist Valeska Soares as one of the chosen artists for this art fair.  Timeline (2012), composed of aged and yellow-colored pages taken from vintage books each indicated the passage of time or a record of time in one way or another.  The seemingly flimsy presentation also seemed whimsically poetic. 

Valeska Soares
Timeline, 2012
35 Archival book pages, cooper wire
Max Wigram Gallery
Photo: taken during The Armory Show

Valeska Soares
Timeline, 2012
35 Archival book pages, cooper wire
Max Wigram Gallery
Photo: taken during The Armory Show

Valeska Soares
Timeline, 2012
35 Archival book pages, cooper wire
Max Wigram Gallery
Photo: taken during The Armory Show

Valeska Soares
Timeline, 2012
35 Archival book pages, cooper wire
Max Wigram Gallery
Photo: taken during The Armory Show

Valeska Soares
Timeline, 2012
35 Archival book pages, cooper wire
Max Wigram Gallery
Photo: taken during The Armory Show

Josée Bienvenue Gallery
(New York) presented Black and Blue Woven, a sculptural piece with tiny speakers weaved in between the colorful wires by artist Julianne Swartz.  Although the sound was difficult to decipher during the art fair, as there were crowds and various talking noise from other people.  For this piece, the artist used fragmented sounds collected from every-day life, nature and musical instruments.  The overall composition of the sound was quite like its visual presentation, and that it was like an intricate web weaved together with bits and pieces of color and texture that we experience in our lives. 

Julianne Swartz
Black and Blue Woven, 2012
Wire-speakers, electronics, original soundtrack
Josée Bienvenue Gallery
Photo: taken during The Armory Show

Julianne Swartz
Black and Blue Woven, 2012
Wire-speakers, electronics, original soundtrack
Josée Bienvenue Gallery
Photo: taken during The Armory Show

From Iceland, i8 Gallery (Reykjavik) had a few works that I liked.  The first one was this Olafur Eliasson glass work called Your Emergence (dark orange to turquoise), 2013.  The lighting effects of Aurora (or aurora borealis named after the Roman goddess of dawn) came to my mind when I first noticed this transparent layered glass sculpture.  Olafur Eliasson has made other works from natural inspirations of his native Scandinavia and re-contextualizing natural phenomena, then perhaps it was no surprise that this had made me think of Aurora.

Olafur Eliasson
Your Emergence (dark orange to turquoise), 2013
Colored glass; stainless steel; driftwood
!8 Gallery
Photo: taken during The Armory Show

Olafur Eliasson
Your Emergence (dark orange to turquoise), 2013
Colored glass; stainless steel; driftwood
!8 Gallery
Photo: taken during The Armory Show

Also presented by !8 Gallery, these photographs of interiors by Orri Jónsson looked melancholy and at the same time narrative.  Melancholy, probably because the images were depicting empty spaces.  Yet, the empty spaces also left for open endings and possibilities of narrative interpretations. 

Orri Jónsson
Interiors #31, 2011; #17, 2010; #59, 2009
C-prints
!8 Gallery
Photo: taken during The Armory Show

Next stop was to The Independent.  It had snowed all day as if Christmas time in Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl.  When I arrived in Chelsea, the art fair felt somewhat empty, perhaps everyone was just waiting for the snow to subside.

Among many other works, Jack Hanley Gallery (New York) presented these tree photographs by artist Jessica Rath.  The bare branches looked as if something from Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights.   The shallowness in depth-of-field deliberately made the extending branches appear as if line-drawings on a piece of white paper. 


Jack Hanley Gallery at The Independent
Photo: taken during The Independent

Jessica Rath
Jack Hanley Gallery
Photo: taken during The Independent

Jessica Rath (left)
Jack Hanley Gallery
Photo: taken during The Independent

From Holland, Wildred Lentz (Rotterdam) installed a specially-designed wall to present two of their artists- Doug Ashford whose small abstract paintings seemed to complement James Beckett's diorama installations.

I only managed to get one photo of a close-up for James Beckett's work.  In comparison Doug Ashford's paintings looked too small in the other photographs I took on site.  Nonetheless, If you wish to see examples of Ashford's work then click here

Passionate Advocate for a Poisoned Earth (2013) was inspired by Rachel Caron, an environmentalist whom in her book Silent Spring (1962) addressed the grave issues and dire consequences of the use of pesticides.  For these works, Beckett presented his exploration of the potential mystical properties of the chemical DDT.  The result is a mix of credible documentation with fictional elements that were used to emphasis the artist's concern and fascination. 

What attracted me about this piece in fact was something quite different from the information that I later gathered.  Recently I am in the process of finishing up my reading of The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, inevitably when I noticed something that remotely resembled the structure of DNA, I went toward it to find out the details. 


James Beckett
Wilfred Lentz
Passionate Advocate for a Poisoned Earth, 2013
Cavity 1,21 x 1,91 x 0,2 meter
multiplex wood, glass bottles, steel mounting brackets, vintage photographs
Photo: taken during The Independent

ADAA at Park Avenue Armory felt the most formal and the setting was a little rigid in terms of its art fair design and lay-out.  After two art fairs, I did not mind arriving at a fair that had its agenda quite simplified as show works and acquaint clients.  Apart from presenting interesting works, art fairs are designed mainly for the purpose of making sales and promoting artists.  Depending on the strategy and the type of clients, inevitably the style and atmosphere also differ from one place to the other. 

While some booths had a more traditional approach and showed well-known artists, nevertheless they also had very interesting works. 

Marlborough Gallery had a booth dedicated entirely to Robert Motherwell and works produced during later years of his career as an artist.  One of the works that I liked was this paper collage style composition of which the artist used torn bits of papers and marked over parts with the use of crayon.  The sail with its sky blue color conveyed a happy feeling of a summer holiday. I was also attracted to the exploration of negative and positive space with layered juxtapositions of different colored papers. (Pardon the appearance of this image, it is a little too dark, but in the detail shot you can see the vibrant colors a little better.)

Robert Motherwell
Australia II, 1983
Pasted papers, crayon on Tycore panel
Marlborough Gallery
Photo: taken during ADAA

Robert Motherwell
Australia II, 1983
Pasted papers, crayon on Tycore panel
Marlborough Gallery
Photo: taken during ADAA
While walking through the art fair, I found myself once again fixating on images of trees (see the part I wrote about The Independent).  These works by Tacita Dean presented by Marian Goodman Gallery were of found images but then hand-painted by the artist. 


Tacita Dean
Swallow Tail, 2013
Gouache on 1 of 2 found postcards
Marian Goodman Gallery
Photo: taken during ADAA

Tacita Dean
Swallow Tail, 2013
Gouache on 1 of 2 found postcards
Marian Goodman Gallery
Photo: taken during ADAA

Toward the end of my ADAA visit, I stopped and looked at some Mona Hatoum works.  Alexander and Bonin had their booth dedicated entirely to this UK-based Lebanese artist (and who is also one of my favorite artists).  In the past, I wrote about her work when one of her pieces called Home was shown at David Zwirner.  This time, these works were a little less heart-breaking than the last one I saw. 

Less heart-breaking perhaps due to the context of which I saw these works, but also the visual presentations of these two pieces contained some humor.  Even though the implication of intimacy and struggle were quite hard to miss in these pieces, yet upon seeing a caged heart or breast squeezing the death out of itself trying to either escape or be contained did bring a little smile to my face.  Then there was a necklace made of hair balls that came with its own plexi-glass vitrine also suggested the delicate but cautious nature which seemed prevalent in Hatoum's other great works. 

Mona Hatoum
Kapancik, 2012
Metal and glass
Alexander and Bonin
Photo: taken during ADAA

Mona Hatoum
Hair Necklace, 1995
Human hair, wood and leather bust, and Plexiglas vitrine
Alexander and Bonin
Photo: taken during ADAA


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