NADA New York runs at Skylight Clarkson North in Downtown Manhattan through Sunday, March 5. On opening day, March 2, Anne Doran and Andrew Russeth perused the fair’s aisles, selecting their favorite works. —The Editors
Original Pictures artist Paul McMahon’s vintage works on paper—altered postcards, scrawled rants, and MTA posters stolen, altered, and replaced where they were found—looked funky and subversive at Brooklyn’s 321 Gallery. Also on view: a photograph of the artist’s baby daughter with a cartoon face drawn on top of the picture by its young subject.
At the Paris gallery Eric Hussenot, the adept draftsman Josh Mannis, whose drawings—full of sex and politics—update the work of George Grosz, Otto Dix, and Max Beckman for our own time, is showing two drawings: one of some sort of woman-run control center, perhaps for a missile; the other of a jungle-dwelling anarchist who seems to be trying to set himself alight. They are accompanied by a terrific new painting by the artist of a group of women huddled together in an office overlooking the White House. They’re caught in the act of dropping their files and picking up guns.
Rose Marcus’s signature large-scale photographs, partially obscured with fabric, looked great at both David Petersen Gallery from Minneapolis, and Los Angeles’s Night Gallery.
Alden Projects, a New York purveyor of ephemera, mounted a booth pitting New York against Los Angeles, with vintage works by Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Jenny Holzer going up against early conceptual pieces by Suzanne Lacey and John Baldessari.
At Super Dakota from Brussels, Chris Dorland, who has lately been doing a great job as director of the Lower East Side gallery Magenta Plains, presented a solo show of digitally morphed Victoria’s Secret and Samsung ads.
L.A.’s Moran Bonderoff (formerly OHWOW), whose booth was devoted to Jacolby Satterwaite’s digitally produced Afrofuturist voguing extravaganzas, was where the action was. These were mounted on walls papered with images from the videos and scrawled with words in colorful 3-D paint. The charming Satterwaite, on hand to explain his work, was holding a large crowd of fair goers enthralled. (An example of what not to do with video: AES+F‘s creepy Inverso Mundus, 2015–17, presented by Mobius and Transfer galleries, respectively from Bucharest and Bushwick.)
Chicagoan Shane Campbell’s booth combined appliqué felt works by William J. O’Brien, cast pretzel and paint-can sculptures by Chris Bradley, and works on paper by David Leggett, who tackles racial issues in irreverent collages of craft materials, googly eyes, and Polaroids, among other found objects.
In addition to tasty first-edition art books and magazines, Harper’s Books from East Hampton paired paintings by Sadie Laska and Don Christiansen to great effect.
At Marvin Gardens from Ridgewood, Queens, everybody loved Susumu Kamijo’s Warholian drawings of poodles, which, with Josh Mannis’s drawings, might be ushering in a new age of figurative drawing. (Figurative painting, on the other hand, was lackluster here, with too many third-generation Caitlin Keoghs, Sue Williams, and Katherine Bernhardts, as well as a wash of faux outsider art.)
Other highlights were a sculpture of two squashed globes entangled in a mass of threads by Aidas Bareikis at New York’s Canada gallery; Becky Kolsrud’s paintings of women at L.A. gallery Tif Sigrids; a timely 1997 Fred Lonidier text piece about NAFTA at Benevento Los Angeles; Thomas Kovachevich’s lush botanically themed paintings on dark grounds—like trippier Ernst Haeckels or Karl Blossfeldts—at L.E.S. gallery Callicoon Fine Arts; a smackdown between Walter Robinson’s paintings based on clothing catalogs and the late Alan Vega’s expressionist drawings of faces at Galerie Sébastien Bertrand of Geneva; at F magazine’s space, NOWORK‘s photographs of storefronts on New York’s 28th Street, transformed into flashy ads; and, at Microscope from Brooklyn, a grouping of process-oriented photography by three young artists: Takahiko Iimura, Ben Coonley, and Zach Nader.
But perhaps the most intriguing work at the fair, standing out from a sea of messy, lumpy, or squishy paintings and sculptures, was an installation by Andi Schmied at the Budapest gallery Trapéz. A large model of a fictional Japanese city, rather like a three-dimensional mandala in its use of symbols for things, was accompanied by photographs of such things as a deer eating a banana in a public bathroom and a playground covered in snow. I have no idea what it meant, but it was fantastic.
Though I miss shooting hoops outside Basketball City, I am a fan of NADA’s new location. It’s almost comically spacious—there’s room to breathe, and there are long sight lines. It is so big, in fact, that it feels like the booths should be bigger.
The art? It’s a mixed bag, as it is at every art fair. One of my favorite quotes comes from Alex Katz, who once said, “If we only wanted to look at masterpieces, we’d spend all our time at the Frick.” It’s true! We go to the fairs to see what working artists are cooking up, and what enterprising dealers are trying to draw attention to—or at least trying to to sell. Most of what is shown won’t survive 10 years, much less 100, but it’s always a pleasure to wade through it all.
A strong contender for best in show was a suite of Thomas Kovachevich paintings that New York gallery Callicoon Fine Arts presented in a booth with black walls. Kovachevich, who appeared in Documenta 5, back in 1972, and who then spent decades working as a doctor in New York, has been on the rise in recent years, with stunning shows of elegant and unabashedly beautiful post-minimal works that he makes with tape, Post-It notes, and other types of paper. In these new paintings he is going big and exuberant, painting what seem to be mysterious underwater creatures—plants, maybe, or undiscovered species of jellyfish—on black corrugated plastic. We could be deep beneath a fantastical sea, or reveling in a psyched-out lost scene from Fantasia. They radiate light. They astound.
Paintings keep getting fatter and denser and heavier. One of these days they’re going to fail off the wall and become sculptures, but that day has not quite arrived. The Lower East Side’s 247365 Gallery has Brian Belott paintings festooned with impressive mounds, plus the odd calculator or bouquet of glowing fiber optics. At ADA Gallery of Richmond, Virginia, Whitney Oldenburg has impressively volumetric paintings that she’s loaded up with rocks and paint. In the most dramatic case, she has combined a bunch of beachballs covered with pacifiers to make something that resembles a cluster of naval mines and painted the whole thing black and white so that it suggests a sad Felix the Cat. She has managed a rare feat: a painting that is both menacing and funny.
The 247365 gang also has a remarkably overwrought (I mean this as high praise) science fair-like wall piece by a three-person collective that goes by the name Bobo. It’s filled with stuff—two small screens flashing text that tells stories about adventures on the open ocean and on the surface of Mars, collages with all sorts of wild digital characters, and vitrines harboring whimsical little sculptures made with everything from clay to canned coffee. Ashley Bickerton would approve. There’s a lot going on here, and even more going on behind the scenes. Bobo is also a band, I was informed, and it used to be a gallery in Baltimore about a decade ago. What’s next? I have no clue, but I suspect you could stare at this thing, with equal parts delight and repulsions, for quite a while.
I second Anne’s enthusiasm for Paul McMahon, an under-sung macher of the Pictures movement. The display of his mordant, wild appropriations of found images from the 1970s and ’80s was a superb surprise at the booth of Brooklyn’s 321 Gallery. As Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III clings to power in Washington D.C., it was an especial pleasure to see an image of the Washington Monument scrawled with DIRTY/FILTHY/SLOPPY/SCUM. Someone give McMahon a proper museum show!
The tiny project booths are not easy to deal with, but the young New York-based artist Sydney Shen nicely handled the one belonging to Toronto gallery Roberta Pelan, setting up a concise display that has at its center a piano bench whose top has been opened to reveal a maze sized for mice. Messages have been carved into the seat. PUNISHMENT, it says in one place. MetroCards punched with holes litter the ground, looking like cheese. The back wall has two takeout containers that have been turned into clocks, each filled with bread, which will presumably grow moldy over the next few days. Systems of order—of time, of movement—are rotting here, and perhaps being replaced by something darker.
Over at the booth of the reliably freethinking Shoot the Lobster (of New York and Los Angeles), another young artist, Athena Papadopoulos, of London, kept the abject, horror-movie mood going nicely, stringing up with chains cushiony blood-red sculptures that recall fine cured meats, each emblazoned with all sorts of patches, including one of a rather frightening spider. They’re great for aficionados of charcuterie and extreme bondage and, believe it or not, painting—their surfaces are very attractive. Papadopoulos also has a warm-looking coat made of fluffy swaths of pink, red, and blue, and hulking keychains that you can sling over your shoulder.
And Company, which is based in New York, has thrilling work by Raúl de Nieves, who had a show at the gallery last year and recently staged a masterpiece of an absurdist performance at the Kitchen. Among its offerings are a craggily totem, adorned with every color of effervescent fake pearls, and a wall piece, made of painstakingly arranged fake jewels. In the latter work, a man in a beret-like hat is pushing a giant flaming cross—a religious symbol, a slice of orange, a sun?—into the sky. Its look suggests the effortless splicing together of medieval art and the dance club. Near the bottom of the work, it bears a single word, DILIGENCE—a good message to impart to viewers in a week overflowing with art.