Friday, May 17, 2013

Big Five Oh, part 1: Cutlog

Robert Boyd

So I just turned 50 last week. My nephew, Ford, has the same birthday as me, and he just turned 21. Given this coincidence, I thought I'd treat him to his first trip to New York. I was there to see art and he had my permission to do whatever the hell he wanted to. But for the first couple of days, at least, he stuck close to uncle Robert, perhaps because he didn't feel comfortable wandering around New York alone.

Our first stop was Cutlog, a French art fair that was having its first U.S. version this year. I got in on the preview Thursday because they gave me a press pass. (I'm grateful for that, especially since Frieze denied me one!) Of all the art fairs I went to that weekend, this one had the funkiest location, The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center Inc. The space was fairly ramshackle and galleries had no idea if they'd be in a room with a piano or next to people practicing capoeira. As for the art, it was very hit or miss, but I saw art here that was unlike any that I saw in the other fairs this weekend. Here's some of what I saw and liked.

Marion Tampon-Lajarriette at Galerie Dix9

I think my favorite gallery was Galerie Dix9, which had several works by Marion Tampon-Lajarriete. A couple were paintings based on night-vision photos she took that have that spooky, security camera look.

Marion Tampon-Lajarriette at Galerie Dix9

But my favorite was a video, Antichthones 1, where she took a first person tracking shot from an old movie and inserted herself in. What I liked was how she contrasted the color her image with the old black and white movie.

Marion Tampon-Lajarriette, still from Antichthones 1 at Galerie Dix9

Gallery director Hélène Lacharmoise was working on getting a piece by Sophia Pompéry up and working when I was there. Apparently part of the video sculpture had arrived late, and she and her assistant were scrambling. 

Sophia Pompéry, Lighting Up, Burning Down, 2009, video installation on television, colour, sound, 0'20'', loop

But Lighting Up, Burning Down by Pompéry was on view, and I liked it quite a lot. It's the perfect video art gift for your workaholic friend.

Another space I liked wasn't really a gallery space, but a space devoted to Ray Smith and friends.

Ray Smith Studio had three large drawings in it, each a "jam" drawing between Smith and various visitors to the studio. They had a real alternative/underground comics vibe--this is what happens when you get a bunch of cartoonists together in a bar or coffee shop. The only difference was the scale.

Ray Smith & friends jam drawing

Left: Ray Smith's daughter. Right: my nephew Ford

Ford really liked these pieces a lot. I did, too, and I also was charmed by the fact that the booth was manned by Smith's daughter. She told us how Smith's studio was flooded by Sandy last year, and that they were still recovering from that. I found it very interesting and commendable that Cutlog gave him a booth--art fairs usually don't allow artists to buy their own booths, presumably out of fear of angering galleries (who are, after all, the real clients of an art fair). And the fact that his booth was being worked by his daughter gave it a humble feeling; Cutlog was in general very unpretentious compared to the other art fairs I saw this weekend. (Smith showed work in Houston at Peveto last year, but it was quite different from the Cutlog pieces.)

And part of that lack of pretense was forced on the fair by the physical location.  Maybe Galerie Céline Moine would have preferred a clean white booth, but they got this instead and it really looked great. The big ink wash Thomas Henriot drawings wouldn't have looked nearly as good in an uncluttered white box.

Thomas Henriot at Galerie Céline Moine

But here they felt like they were literally spilling out of a closet, which made you feel almost like you were in the artist's studio.

Right across from Ray Smith Studio was Galerie d'Aléatoire, which was showing work from an abecedaria by Ivan Yazykov.

Ivan Yazykov, The Book of Letters "Я"

Of course, since Ivan Yazykov is Russian, The Book of Letters is a Cyrillic alphabet.

Ivan Yazykov, The Book of Letters "Щ"

I loved the beauty and cleverness of these drawings, and I also loved how atypical they were for an art fair. Charming illustrational works displaying high levels of craft and skill are not the norm in contemporary art. But they should be included in the mix, which was why I was glad to see these here.

Ivan Yazykov, Rebus

Another space that wasn't an art gallery was be poles. They publish lovely little pamphlets of photographs by a given photographer of a given city in a series called Portraits de Villes. What drew my eye to them was their beautiful display cases.

They also doubled as shipping cases (I assume) and were thus probably quite economical. The pamphlets themselves were beautifully produced--excellent paper and printing, saddle-stitched with thread, embossed covers--and the photos were lovely, too. I picked up Buenos Aires featuring photos by Jacques Borgetto. (be poles was one of the few booths in any art fair that was selling relatively inexpensive items.)

Some other pieces I liked:

Chris Burden, Untitled, 1974, lithograph with hand coloring, 20 x 16"

Chris Burden at Cirrus Gallery.

 Diane Carr, Mountain (top) and Branches (below), 2013, oil on canvas, 24 x 18"

Diane Carr (I can't remember what gallery she was showing with).

The Hole with Holton Rower paintings

Holton Rower's "Pour Paintings" at the Hole.

Holton Rower's Pour Paintings

Jean-luc Cornet, Tribut Telephone Sheep, 1989, installation, 60 cm high

Jean-luc Cornet's sheep made of old telephone parts at Gama Gallery.

Makiko Nakamura, Before a Sweet Rain--Autumn, oil on canvas, 35.5 x 35.5 inches

Makiko Nakamura at Edward Cutler Gallery (I think).

I can't say I actually liked Piers Secunda's Taliban Relief paintings (paintings made of the impressions of Taliban bullet holes on walls) at Per Partes Projects. I found them a worrying aestheticization of war. But considering the paltry responses of artists to our wars lately (wan "protest" art, for the most part; photography is the big exception here), Secunda's pieces were an interesting if unsuccessful attempt to capture the power and brutality of war.

Piers Secunda, Taliban Relief Painting

Piers Secunda, Taliban Relief Painting

Cutlog showed many artist projects and had performances running through the whole weekend. I missed the performances, but here are some of the projects interested me.

Marni Kotak, before photo

Marni Kotak, after plaque

Marni Kotak, Calorie Countdown

Marni Kotak achieved infamy a couple of years ago by giving birth to her son in a gallery. Frankly it felt a little old hat--the fictional artist J.J. from the Doonesbury strip gave birth to Alex Doonesbury as a performance on cable TV in 1988.

Garry Trudeau, Doonesbury, November 29, 1988

For Cutlog, her performance was Calorie Countdown, where she would ride a stationary bike at certain times to try to lose some weight. If she really wanted to lose weight, she should have done what I did--spend hours walking around every art fair in New York, as well as all through Harlem, the Lower East Side and Bushwick. I am not exaggerating when I say that I had to literally tighten my belt after this trip.

Timofey Radya, Figure #1: Stability

Timofey Radya, Figure #1: Stability

Timofey Radya, Figure #1: Stability

Nice use of the riot policeman shield medium by Timofey Radya.

Mark L. Power, Plate War, 2012, plastic

I can't tell if this piece by Mark L. Power is just a stack of plastic plates or a sculpture of a stack of plastic plates. And I like that I can't tell.

After all this, Ford said he had really liked it a lot, but he didn't understand one thing--why was all the art so expensive? 

Next stop on the big five oh tour--the monster: Frieze.


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