The Frieze Art Fair in New York is an annual event on Randall’s Island. It’s in it’s sixth year. The fair includes over 200 modern contemporary art galleries from over 30 countries. This fair is like a tiny city brimming with the who’s who of the art world, and the finest work made today. The tent was densely filled with top-drawer art. Visitors poured over the work in hopes of acquisition or just for their own visual delight.
Our visit to the fair this year was profitable. We gathered together with colleagues, artists, and friends from around the world. We saw works by artists we love, discovered works by artists we did not know, and remembered artists we had forgotten. We scheduled studio visits, met up with old friends and made new ones. We ended the trip excited to return again next year.
Below are some of the artists and their work that we relished in viewing this year at Frieze.
The Gagosian’s spotlight booth was one of the most thorough displays at the fair. The museum grey walls displayed over 100 gilt framed drawings by John Currin hung in salon style. The works, chosen by Currin, were shown for the first time and spanned more than a decade. Currin is well known for his lush caricature paintings of contemporary figures. He’s revered for both his humor and a draftsmanship, that is impressively comparable to Durer.
The works ranged from casual yet exquisite doodles, to finely rendered and fully resolved drawings. Each titillating scene has some element of explicit perversity mixed with a rash sense of humor. The drawings are made as if he was a Mannerist in the 16th century. Currin’s choice to hark back to this era is not a coincidence. Instead it is a decision made with exacting calculation. The Mannerists were incredibly skilled at the art of exaggeration and manipulation. Often using bright unrealistic colors to describe the most luscious and decadent beauty. One might call both the Mannerists and Currin visual hedonists. Both parties enjoying the employment of their own rendering skills to envision what they desire. These lush scenarios are both sweet and sickening. That strange beauty is exactly what gives Currin’s work such a strong draw.
In an interview with ARTNews Nate Freeman asks the artist if there is any unrealized sketch he would like to return to, Currin responded, “ Well, something I’ve always wished I made a painting of is a drawing of three doctors,” he said. “One is white, one is black, and in the middle is Jesus, or God, and he’s got a beard and the whole bit, and they’re looking over X-rays, and… actually, maybe it’s best as a drawing.” Drawing for Currin seems to be about envisioning fantasies, either in the forms of jokes or of sexual desires. In this way, he speaks to the dirty secrets we all share.
Walking into Honor Fraser’s both was like taking a step back in time into the 80s East Village art scene. The booth featured a spotlight on Kenny Scharf. Each work was made between 1978 and 1985 and was clad with sci-fi arcade motifs. The work exemplifies youthful energy, pop culture and an unrepentant stylistic gumption. The walls were adorned with hot colored mixed media paintings, and a small section was dedicated to salon hung collages. Plexi-case plinths displayed Scharf’s quintessential unique assemblages sculptures.
One of the most thorough and engaging solo booths at the fair displayed an impressive collection of Amilcar de Castro. The artist was involved with the Neo-Concrete movement in Brazil in the 1950’s. Similar to that of Lygia Pape, whose fantastic retrospective is currently on view at the Met Brauer, de Castro plays with geometry in paper, and metal. In the exhibition, larger sculptural pieces lived in the centre of the booth, one wall had shelves with smaller scale metal works, and one wall showed his diagrammatic geometric drawings. These drawings, full of subtlety and simplicity were what captivated me most. Their thoughtful pensive graphite lines, in the most minimal execution, alluded to the poetics of three dimensional space with the least amount of effort.
Sam Moyer’s work at Sean Kelly immediately demanded my attention. Known for her diverse body of work including paintings, structures, and sculptural objects, Moyer’s practice draws inspiration from architectural space and the materiality of utilitarian objects. She became notable at the beginning of her career for dying fabrics outside to make them look like like marble. Her practice has expanded to include an array of materials. Now she has begun to incorporate marble slabs into the work with fabric and paint. She has even started to re-create brush stroked with marble imbedded in canvas. This twisting and confusion of materials, blending of their edges, confusing their fidelity, and simulating their surfaces, is at the crux of her work. This innovation of combining textures of materials speaks to the transformation and mutability of objects. She manipulates these materials into beautifully abstract works whose formal devices push the margins of artistic vocabulary and mixed media.
Zhang Wei is considered one of the first abstract painters in China. In the early 1980’s , Wei encountered Abstract Expressionists and its protagonists such as Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg. This influence offered Wei a different view on his own artistic practice. It encouraged him to aim for personal freedom of expression in his work. He accomplished this through taking on non-representational form. His paintings take on intuitive and immediate approaches indicative of action painting. Wei combines this western impact with a traditional Chinese history. His ab-ex inspired works re-present marks associated with Chinese ink and calligraphy techniques. Action painters probably looked to eastern calligraphy as inspiration. So it makes sense that Wei would have keen interests in tying the two modes of making together.
Laurent Grasso is a sophisticated artist. His work although conceptual in spirit dives deeply into a re-presentation of art history. He often uses early renaissance paintings as inspiration into new painted work. He creates these divine oil paintings in tandem with minimalist sculpture. At Edouard Malingue Gallery he presented “Anechoic Wall” is a mesmerizing sculpture. This piece is part of a series of sculptures of different forms and materials including wood, metal and marble that are inspired by fossilized sound. These sculptures take advantage of geometry to replicate the sound effects in Anechoic rooms in which sound waves and magnetics and muted. The artwork presented at Frieze was constructed of copper a material known for its incredible conductive properties but also its strong capacity of reflection. Not only does this piece create an incredible and breathtaking sound intervention in space, it doubles as an incredible reflector, and gorgeous minimalist object.
Rochelle Feinstein is a celebrated New York based artist. She is a senior female painter, video artist and sculptor. Her work lives in a slippery place where modernist history intersects with popular culture and personal history. This fearless approach to make fine art messy with the inclusion of the personal is precisely what makes her work powerful. In her early work ,she created images of grids that revisited the popular modernist motifs but combined them with representations of everyday objects. The paintings included allusions to the field, the tv monitor, dish towels and stain glass. Recently, she has continued with her explorations of written word. She explores text both through its content and the influence of its style. In the booth for On Stellar Rays, she lines the walls with hand written confessional style notes scribbled on 8.5 x 11 inch paper in black ink. This make-shift wall paper creates a strange circumstance for more conservative abstract works on canvas, and a plinth mounted singular sculpture. This intermixing of diaristic style writing with works that recall iconic styles of ‘fine art’ is a perfect introduction to the ethics in Rochelle Feinstein’s work.
The large color-rich acrylic paintings by Virginia Jaramillo at Hales booth at Frieze almost seemed to dance and talk to one another. Each curvilinear pictograph on the paintings seem to echo slight and elegant movements at one another. The paintings were made in the 1970’s. In addition to being featured in the recently opened and fantastic exhibition, “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” at the Brooklyn Museum. Jaramillo had a 1971 work bought by the museum through the inaugural Frieze Brooklyn Museum Fund—Yahtzee! During the VIP preview this year. In 1971, She was included in an amazing exhibition in Houston called “The DeLuxe Show”sponsored by the one and only Dominique de Menil. It was one of the first racially integrated exhibitions, and she was one of the few female artists involved. Her work represent an great historical legacy
Jaramillo was an early pioneer of “felt-abstraction”, a movement that encouraged abstract, spare and elegant forms that owed some inspiration to the Hard-Edge school of making. Jaramillo’s minimal, color saturated, and specific abstractions seem to be more than the representation of a school of thought. They have an inexplicable feeling of sincerity. Her compositions evolved from the linear style of Green Dawn Number 1 (1972), which was shown at the Whitney, to works that are curvilinear and invested in the formal qualities of the edge of the canvas. From bold abstract canvases and sculptural mixed media compositions to meticulously formed pulp paintings, Jaramillo has forged a unique voice, experimenting with material and process to pursue her ongoing explorations of human perception of reality.
Anish Kapoor’s densely pigmented or chrome half domes were a sensation at Frieze. The artist is commonly referred to as one of our Contemporary masters. This wall work is in a vibrant cadmium yellow. It’s perfect geometry and inviting proportions almost suck a viewer into it’s half planet orbit. Anish Kapoor is one of the most influential sculptors of his generation. He’s known most for his public sculptures that are both adventures in form and feats of engineering. He manoeuvres between vastly different scales and across numerous series of work.