Another snowy, terrible New York City afternoon (a people-watching game to play with younger fairgoers is “snot bubble or tiny septum piercing?”) was no deterrent for a flock of art enthusiasts descending on today’s Independent art fair in Chelsea. Some of them were even too eager to speak: “There’s a time to look and a time to talk, and I’m looking right now,” collector Mera Rubell said in the fair’s opening hour. At least at Independent, there is a relatively (compared to the harrowing Armory) manageable amount of stuff to see.
Hanging out at the booth of Berlin’s Société gallery is a giant lightbox photograph by the German-Mongolian artist Timur Si-Qin approximating the aesthetics of an Abercrombie & Fitch ad campaign. In the photo, two absurdly hunky young white male models share a draped American flag around their oh-so-broad shoulders.
Si-Qin has in the past worked with materials as disparate as swords and Axe Body Spray (side note: we look forward to that inevitable moment when Axe Body spray sponsors an art fair), so for him to take on the aesthetics of an Abercrombie campaign fits nicely in line with his style as an artist, which for now is represented by a Yin-Yang crest with the words PEACE in all-caps below it, a signature that can be seen in the corner of his work on display at the Independent and on most of his works.
New York’s Real Fine Arts brought to the fair a giant Cookie Monster-esque sculpture by the artist Stefan Tcherepnin, originally made for a movie included in the artist’s recent exhibition at the gallery. “It had a Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome in it as a setting,” said RFA cofounder Tyler Dobson, explaining the video, “so they were walking around in this atmosphere, and a few sculptures came out of that film.” Dobson described the flick as having a “dystopian, abstract narrative,” and although actual actors donned the suit in the movie, at the Independent the monster was merely stuffed.
In order to reach the piece, one has to navigate a series of very small sculptures by Sam Anderson (on display at Tanya Leighton), a perilous path guarded in part by Dobson and a very attentive security guard. The guard stationed in front of Anderson’s miniatures is probably in for a very long shift. “I’m gonna have a heart attack myself,” she said after seeing a visitor nearly stomp a small sculpture of a dog wrapped in some sort of sheet. (Canada Gallery’s Phil Grauer, perhaps noticing a reporter’s slack-jawed fascination with Tcherepnin’s monster, offered a pithy explanation of the work his gallery had on display: “This booth is very serious art, it might not work for you, move along.” The art in question was from the deceased first generation conceptual artist Gerald Ferguson, hailing from—incidentally—Nova Scotia.)
A less stressful installation came from Karma, tucked in a corner by a window, showing photographs by the sculptor Robert Grosvenor—sexy cars, large-scale toy ships, a gorgeous pair of green doughnuts floating, Ophelia-like, on water. Another piece, not on view, unfortunately: a rat surfing on a life preserver. The works are a kind of preview for a show opening Friday at the gallery, “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE ARE FLOATING IN SPACE,” which features Grosvenor and some of his contemporaries, like John McCracken, Brice Marden, Charlotte Posenenske, Robert Smithson, Ken Price, and Anne Truitt.
Speaking of floating around up in space somewhere, there was Jose Martos, owner of Martos Gallery, displaying Jory Rabinovitz’s untitled copper installation. Trimmed in oxidized-green fabric tubes, copper squares missing penny-sized holes are mounted as a sort of conceptual shrine to the lowest denomination of the American dollar. The missing copper, like indulgence change, is scattered just below the Ur-plates of metal. Martos was quick to summarize the history of the American penny to a willing listener—how it was once made of pure copper, until the government switched to a copper and zinc alloy and the actual material worth of the coin dropped. He compared a set of white steps scattered with pennies to Fascist architecture, and his eyes lit up.
“I love Fascist architecture,” Martos declared. “And Futurism.” We also learned that he admires Alfred Hitchcock’s fastidious eye for design, particularly the cavernous theaters in Spellbound; periodically, he goes through and rewatches Hitchcock’s entire filmography. The James Bond series receives equal attention. He asked if we’d like to meet his assistant, claiming she was much better at talking than him. That’s doubtful.
Tyson Reeder, represented by Canada Gallery, had a few paintings on view courtesy Brussels’s Office Baroque; one of them, Untitled, depicts a spirited longhaired rock band jamming out in front of an artificial brick wall. Elsewhere, Matthew Higgs, director of White Columns and one of Independent’s co-founders, was discussing a forthcoming vinyl LP produced by White Columns of the noisy and not entirely musical Piano Party—pretty much exactly what it sounds like—Reeder threw at Canada earlier this winter. (Today, however, Higgs was selling records out of his booth by Emily Sundblad and Matt Sweeney, which were, according to Higgs, “Much more conventional.”) Higgs also had a work on view by the dealer Gavin Brown. Brown was a floor above, selling watercolors by the German, L.A.-based artist Silke Otto Knapp. Brown’s piece was a rendering of his own hands, one spray-painted neon pink and the other black, each mounted on a circular mirror. Small world.
For more Armory Week coverage, go here.