Thursday afternoon, out of the rain and through the broodingly dark wooden lobby of the Park Avenue Armory on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a much brighter carpeted showroom played host to the 23rd Annual IFPDA Print Fair, which opened Wednesday.
The fair, which focuses on all-things printmaking, showcases a wide spectrum of work, ranging from contemporary fare to Old Masters, and with a number of well-stocked booths, there are many opportunities to make discoveries.
Cincinnati’s Carl Solway Gallery filled its booth with new black-and-white prints by 65-year-old Kentucky-born artist Jay Bolotin called “The Book of Only Enoch.” Bolotin’s work deftly interlaces text etching and woodcut images, creating a dense narrative that unfolds throughout the series of prints, which are often the first step in a longer process that includes animation and music.
Bolotin—who was a musician in his 20s, living in Nashville, touring, and writing songs for everyone from Dan Fogelberg to David Allen Coe—was on hand for the fair. “I’ve often worked on series of prints that have resulted in theater pieces or song cycles,” he told ARTnews. “It almost always comes from the visual and the words seem to follow from that. It’s just the way I think.”
On the other end of the fair’s spectrum, private London art dealer Frederick Mulder Ltd. offered up a complete edition of Picasso’s “Vollard Suite,” a series of 100 neoclassical prints made between 1930 and 1937 and named for its publisher, 15 of them signed by the artist.
Frederick Mulder’s Hester Finch explained that the rare prints came “pretty much direct from the estate” of Vollard and were in immaculate condition. It could be purchased for prices “above $2 million,” according to Finch. The booth also had prints from Matisse’s “Jazz” collection, nicely timed with his current MoMA show, and available for prices ranging between $9,500 and $25,000.
A highlight within the contemporary end of the fair was EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS IS BECAUSE OF THE SUN, an edition of 15 portfolio of 12 colorful etchings by Chris Johanson at Berkeley’s Paulson Bott Press booth, unframed and available for $5,000. The pieces featured Johanson’s trademark figuration and handwriting, with statements like “WOW THIS IS GREAT MY SELF HATE LEVEL IS WAY DOWN NOW I CAN FOCUS MORE ON OTHER’S NEEDS BECAUSE I KNOW I AM PART OF A GREATER WHOLENESS” running out of the character’s cartoon text bubble and into negative space.
“We are always very excited [to be at the Print Fair] because the public is very interested in prints,” Sylvie Tocci-Prouté, of Paris’s Paul Prouté gallery, said, noting a “big difference” between the high level of interest in prints in New York compared to at French events. Tocci-Prouté was especially excited about a rare Louis Jean Desprez tomb etching called Tomb with a Sarcophagus with Reclining Naked Man, a plate from a series of four tombs made between 1780 and 1784, still available for $35,000.
That afternoon, the fair seemed somewhat subdued, but according to many exhibitors, the previous night’s opening was anything but. “Busiest opening we’ve ever had,” commented Barbra Krakow’s Andrew Witkin on the preview, adding that the gallery has sold “about 30 things” and singled out Mel Bochner’s measurement prints (going for $2,400 each) as a particular highlight.
Witkin also noticed “a lot more young people” at the first night of the fair. “The diversity of the ages was really nice,” he continued.
Thursday afternoon, that diversity rested generally within the upper-tiers of the age spectrum. A few bored teenagers (one wearing an Odd Future hoodie) checked their phones in the lobby, but beside that and a few scattered 20-somethings, the crowd skewed old.
Meanwhile, this miniature art-fair week in New York was rolling down in Chelsea, with the opening of the first edition of Independent Projects at the former Dia building, perhaps drawing people away from the Print Fair, which runs through Sunday at 9 p.m.