So long at the fair. After trolling the aisles, tripping over service dogs, and passing by booths to find a sea of abstract paintings old and new, foreign and national—by artists ranging from the minimalist “artist’s artist” Nancy Haynes and the ubiquitous nonogenarian poetic colorist Etel Adnan at Canada gallery to the painter-collagist Wardell-Milan at David Nolan—I alighted upon a quirky selection of works curated by Toby Kamps for the fair’s Spotlight section celebrating “underappreciated” artists of the 20th century, including Dieter Krieg and his disturbing expressionistic paintings at the Galerie Klaus Gerrit Friese booth.
But I’m often most struck by more modest-seeming entries that catch me unawares. One was by the conceptually timely and slyly subtle Spanish artist Asunción Molinos Gordo, who seduces visitors into the booth of the Spanish-Mexican gallery Travesia Cuatro with her bedroom-pink and pale-blue neon sign reading, “Buy the Rumor” and “Sell the News.” The 38-year-old artist, who is married to an Egyptian and lives between Egypt, Oman, and Spain, is a collagist of ideas and cultures, here mixing social and political issues and materials.
Titled Speculation and addressing food commodity prices, the neon sign is, in the artist’s words, “the motto of the stock market.” It addresses the futures market, agriculture, and international trade. It’s interesting because futures markets deal not in real events and products but in probability and expectations based on mathematical models. Molinos Gordo’s works often begin with food. In Egypt in 2012, for example, she established a non-Egyptian restaurant to serve, in her words, as “an instrument for common critical analysis to help understand the reasons behind Egyptians’ diminishing access to food.”
She asked local people to cook a variety of meals, some using fancy ingredients, others beginning with ingredients that were affordable for low-income people. Images for the recipes look simple and appealing, but the captions indicate their complexities and ironies—such as the ingredients having been soaked in wastewater and pesticides—and instructions for use come in languages unintelligible to those working with them. In this work and Speculation both, food is the starting point for addressing Molino Gordo’s many concerns, and the work she produces is amazingly succinct, poetic, and artful.