As the bigger and brawnier Armory Show aims to start anew on the western edge of Manhattan, the Independent art fair has taken up its typically cooler, cozier station in a new location near the island’s southernmost tip. Starting with a preview on Thursday and continuing through the weekend, the slightly slimmed-down satellite fair—with 42 galleries this year, compared to the more normal 50 to 60—fits nicely in the Beaux-Arts–style Battery Maritime Building, recently restored as a home for Cipriani South Street. The ceilings soar, and a terrace out front offers a good perch for people-watching. On the first day, a subdued but solid crowd perused booths presented by domestic galleries from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Oakland, and Portland as well as international vendors from Vancouver, London, Oslo, Berlin, Cologne, Paris, and Antwerp. Herewith, see works from the six best booths at Independent.
Ken Nevadomi at New Canons
Ken Nevadomi, Bernini Visits Louis XIII in His Toilet, 1974.
An 82-year-old Neo-Expressionist from Cleveland, Ken Nevadomi is having a moment with his first solo presentation in New York at the booth for New Canons, a “nomadic curatorial office and contemporary art think tank” also opening a month-long show of Nevadomi’s work at a space in Tribeca. The paintings at Independent are entrancing and enigmatic, in an array of styles that are hard to reconcile as the work of only one artist. And the elusive but evocative subject matter drifts between strange fever-dream visions and sly allusions to the artist’s past as a commercial illustrator for American Greetings alongside the likes of Harvey Pekar and R. Crumb. A fish bursting through the nozzle of a spay can in Bernini Visits Louis XIII in His Toilet is a good example of Nevadomi’s “restless symbolism,” as described by New Canons founder Maxwell Wolf (also known for his work in the past as director and chief curator of Red Bull Arts).
Cory Arcangel + JODI at Lisson Gallery
Nonsense is in high supply in the booth for Lisson Gallery—or 404.lissongallery.com, as it has been rechristened for a signal-scrambling show of works by Cory Arcangel and the decades-old internet-art duo known as JODI. Arcangel is showing a pair of computers sending out-of-office email auto-replies back and forth to one another in real time (with the great title Permanent Vacation) as well as a tall stack of screens featuring bots scrolling the preposterous Twitter feeds for the corporate brands Facebook, Ford, and Fujitsu as well as the Pope. JODI has a series of works showing source code for websites on display in addition to an NFT work made “as a way of mocking NFTs,” according to Lisson director Alex Logsdail. “JODI have been making internet art for 30 years, so the idea that it’s now new is a little bit silly.”
Stanislava Kovalcikova at Peres Projects
Image: Stanislava Kovalcikova, Goldkopf, 2021.
Born in 1988 in Slovakia, Stanislava Kovalcikova is a young artist based in Düsseldorf who is “very influenced by Eastern Orthodox philosophy and mysticism,” according to Peres Projects director Javier Peres. “When you look long enough, you realize she’s traveled with the canvas over years, painting and abandoning it and then coming back to it. The gold leaf is coming off in different areas, almost like Orthodox icons.” The corners of her painting Goldkopf are indeed crumpled by what seems like not just years but centuries of wear, and the way the gold leaf glimmers against the yellows and browns makes one wonder what it must have been like to see paintings ages ago with the aid of illumination that came by way of paint itself.
Bosco Sodi at Axel Vervoordt
Striking a solemn note as a prelude to more mellifluous readings, Bosco Sodi made three shaped paintings to pay tribute to Kazimir Malevich, who painted his first epochal Black Square in the 1910s when “the world was in chaos.” So suggests a bit of text on display in a booth populated exclusively by a trio of looming works whose textures are easy to get lost in. “I love the concept of this kind of blackness where you focus mostly on the texture,” said Sodi, while paying a visit to the fair. He went on to describe the color. After wanting to work with Anish Kapoor’s storied Vantablack but failing to be granted access to a supply, he found an even darker material that he came to love. “This is even blacker than Anish Kapoor’s,” he said. “They sell it to everybody but Anish Kapoor. You have to send them a letter saying you’re not Anish Kapoor.”
Rute Merk at Downs & Ross
Image: Rute Merk, Clarice, 2021.
A Lithuanian artist now based in Berlin, Rute Merk makes paintings “meant to induce a sort of transitivity between the analogue and digital domains,” according to Downs & Ross director Alex Ross. “They speak to painting’s capacity to produce portraiture in an age of the industrialized image and networked identity.” They also hover in a state somewhere between hyperclarity and an otherworldly blur. The longer you look, the more they go in and out of focus—enough so to suggest that both states are, in essence, one and the same.
Pat Adams at Alexandre
Image: Pat Adams, Out Come Out, 1980.
Now 94, Pat Adams lives and works in Bennington, Vermont, where she made the paintings from the 1970s and ’80s hung in a great grouping in the booth for Alexandre gallery in New York. “We did this salon-style because she is not that well-known and we wanted to give people the full range of her work,” Philippe Alexandre said of work he sees in the context of Color Field painting in Bennington by the likes of Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski—but only up to a point. “She shares a sensibility with that Color Field school,” he said, “but hers is a much more lyrical, gestural style.” Off to the side on its own wall is Out Come Out, a large painting (nearly 7 by 7 feet) that looks both timely and out of time. It’s like a secret you once heard but had forgotten—until it gets ushered back into your consciousness again.