Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Big Five Oh, part 4: Pulse

Robert Boyd

After Ford, LM, DC and I left JHB Gallery, Ford decided he was ready to check out some non-visual art aspects of New York. He wanted to hit the big comic stores and record stores and musical instrument stores and cool bars in Brooklyn and so forth. He had a list which DC, who has lived in NYC for decades, was able to add to and annotate for him.  Ford went off on his own adventure while LM, DC and I went to Pulse.

Last year, Pulse struck me as the cheesiest, most pandering of the three art fairs I went to New York. It retains its position this year, but the thing about art fairs is that the content can vary so much from gallery to gallery and even within a single gallery. There is an economic imperative that pushes work in a certain direction.
  1. Galleries pay a lot of money to be at Pulse
  2. Therefore, they necessarily must bring their work that is most likely to sell
  3. Which may include work with a high T 'n' A quotient
  4. Or work that makes viewers say things like "Boy, that's clever!" or "That's look great in the living room!"

Jordan Doner, Auto Dali II, 2006, C-Print, printed 2013 at Steven Kasher Gallery

Steven Kasher Gallery was a somewhat schizo gallery in that regard. You had high pander-rate photos like Auto Dali II (which recreates the famous 1951 Dali photo In Voluptas Mors but with modern sleek skinny models). But then you had super-charming photos like Untitled (Boy with Pipe at Shoreline) by Vivian Maier.

Vivian Maier, Untitled (Boy with Pipe at Shoreline), ca. 1960s, gelatin silver, printed 2012, 20 x 16 inches

You had this split-beaver collage by Ashkan Honarvar.

Ashkan Honarvar, Creed, The Apple 1, 2013, collage, 10.6 x 26.8 inches

But you also had these classic subway graffiti photos by Henry Chalfant. (I had and treasured copies of his books Subway Art and Spraycan Art in the 80s, which encouraged me to do my own large scale graffiti pieces in 1988.)

Henry Chalfant, top to bottom: Untitled (Soup Cans), ca. 1980; Crash Dealt, 1980; Revolt Min, 1979; Blades, 1979, printed 2011, Kodak Professional Endura metallic paper, 11 x 42 inches each

And some naked Kate Moss courtesy of Chuck Close is an easy 65 grand for Adamson Gallery. (Actually, I have no idea if this is true. Even for Kate, that's a lot of money.)

Chuck Close, Untitled (Kate), 2008, archival pigment print on Innova-F gloss paper, Chine-colléd to Fabriano watercolor paper, 60 x 40 inches

Then there was art that was cutesy and "clever", like the pieces by Jorge Perianes at PanAmerican Art Projects.

Jorge Perianes, Untitled, 2008, mixed media, 36 x 40 inches

But the work I hated most of all can at least say it wasn't trying to pander to anyone's baser tastes.

Kim Rugg, Are You Sitting Comfortably, 2012, hand-woven needlepoint on found object and carved wood chair, 32 x 23 x 21 inches at Davidson Contemporary

Kim Rugg's Are You Sitting Comfortably was so smug and self-righteous that I really did want to sit comfortably on it and maybe even take a nap.

But all in all, this year's Pulse didn't seem quite as crass as last year's Pulse. I saw plenty of art I liked such as this beautiful abstract photo by Amanda Means.

Amanda Means, Grid Abstraction #39, 2005, developer on Ilford matte gelatin silver fiber paper, 24 x 20 inches at Von Lintel Gallery

Aylin Langreuter at Galerie Wittenbrink

Aylin Langreuter had several "cars in the jungle" pieces, of which this was the best one.

Dawn Black, Conceal Project (24 Panels), 2013, Watercolor and gouache on paper, 5 1/2 x 7 1/2 each

Dawn Black, one of the panels in Conceal Project (24 Panels), 2013, Watercolor and gouache on paper, 5 1/2 x 7 1/2 each

I loved these weird little portraits by Dawn Black at Cynthia Reeves.

Jeffrey Gibson, Dances Hard for Who We Were, 2013 Wool US Army blankets, artist's own repurposed painting, glass beads, steel, artificial sinew, acrylic paint 60 x 16 x 16 inches

 Dances Hard for Who We Were by Jeffrey Gibson is a piece I'd be proud to hang in my gym.

Liset Castillo, Shopping Bag, 2011, Sand, cable, fabric, resin water, Matte Super Heavy Gel Medium and Plexiglass Box at Habana

Shopping Bag by Liset Castillo belongs in that category of art I noticed at Frieze: sculptures of modest containers.

And then there were pieces that made me laugh, and I value that highly.

Yoan Capote, Juntos, 2006, metal, wood, fabric at Habana

Juntos by Yoan Capote prompted DC, LM and I to speculate on the practical design of an umbrella for couples.

Michael Scoggins, Conan the Barbarian, 2008, marker,prismacolor on paper, 67 x 51 inches at Freight + Volume

Michael Scoggins' tribute to junior high notebook art is even funnier in person given that it is over five feet tall.

Adam Parker Smith, Untitled (Poster), 2013, acrylic on paper, 30 x 20 inches at Davidson Contemporary

It's hilarious that Davidson Contemporary felt it necessary to include a hand-written note reading "PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH!!!" on the wall label for Adam Parker Smith's piece. I guess people tried to rip the phone numbers off.

Book Art

If there was a trend at Pulse, it was art made our of books.

LongBin Chen, Bach, from Composer Series, 2013 at the West Collection

LongBin Chen, Bach, from Composer Series, 2013 at the West Collection

Jessica Drenk, Bibliophylum, books, wax, pins at Adeh Rose

Jessica Drenk somehow took books and carved them into these little feather-like objects.

Rune Guneriussen, Discipline Comsidered an Option, C-Print, 45 x 69 inches at Galerie Olivier Waltman

Pulse Projects

Every art fair brings in sculptures and performances as part of the experience. Pulse describes Pulse Projects as "the presentation and promotion of audience- engaging large-scale sculptures, installations and performances." I commend Pulse for this because I generally prefer this kind of work to audience-repelling sculptures, installations and performances.

Russell Maltz, Painted/Stacked, ongoing, Day-Glo enamel on concrete block with wood palette and banding iron; dimensions variable

Tristin Lowe, Comet: Nature, 2011, neon, glass, transformers, aluminum, steel; 101 x 29 inches



One of the inspirations for The Great God Pan Is Dead was Coagula. Coagula played with being a gossip tabloid in format, but what appealed to me is that in doing so, it went below the surface of the art world to display the machinations and personalities that animated it. It assumed that art could not be somehow isolated from the world in which it exists. After a few naive years of pollyanna idealism, this has become my belief, too. That's why this blog is so interested in such things as the mechanics of art fairs, for example.

Anyway, Coagula now puts its money where its mouth is with its own gallery space, Coagula Curatorial. They had one of the most interesting booths at Pulse. As for the magazine, it still exists on-line and you can read editor/publisher Mat Gleason's pieces regularly on HuffPost.

Mat Gleason (with the shocking red hair) at the Coagula booth

David Horii, Boys' Life (Henry), 2011, acrylic on canvas, 18 x 18 inches at Coagula

panties by Leigh Salgado at Coagula

Tim Youd, Typing Tropic, 2013, ongoing performance

Coagula had a performance in their booth, which set them apart from every other exhibitor as far as I could tell. Tim Youd was typing a copy of Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller on two pieces of paper run through the typewriter over and over again. The top piece gets the ink (as you can see in the photo below), some of which eventually leaks through to the bottom piece, I assume. The typewriter itself was the exact model that Henry Miller used to compose this novel.

This is the kind of pointless, absurd act that I associate with a certain strain of performance. The Art Guys' best performances are along these lines. It's the kind of performance that no one sees the entirety of. It's not theatrical or about entertainment. It's barely even about expression. It's about taking a banal act (like typing) and pushing it so far that it forces you to think about it in a different way. In engaging in this performance, Tim Youd is acquiring a new awareness of the act of typing and of Henry Miller and Tropic of Capricorn. And we get to watch.

Tim Youd, Typing Tropic, 2013, ongoing performance

Gleason printed up a newspaper give-away issue of Coagula for the show featuring interviews with the artists he showed. But true to Coagula's spirit, the cover article was about a Facebook flame war with David Rimanelli.

We Think Hard About Buying Some Art

Over at Adah Rose Gallery, DC noticed these paintings on metal tubes and square conduits by Brian Dupont. He was quite taken with them, and as it turned out, I knew Dupont. He had been in a two man show with Chris Rusak at Skydive in 2012. I even owned a postcard-sized piece by Dupont--my premium for supporting the Kickstarter that he and Rusak had to finance their travel and shipping. But my glancing familiarity with the artist wasn't what got DC interested--he saw the pieces before I even noticed them. But he was eager to get my opinion. We talked about them for a bit and then I moved on.

Brian Dupont, Pipe Piece III, oil on aluminum

A little while later, I returned to the Adah Rose booth, and DC was still there! He was chatting with the gallerist who had pulled out several more Brian Duponts from the back to show him. He was really weighing them carefully, examining each one. Many of them have fragments of text painted on them, and he wanted to know the source for each text piece. In the end, he didn't buy one there because if he liked the source of the text on a piece, he didn't like the painting, and when he liked the painting, he didn't like the text. In other words, he wanted the perfect combination of text and painting. But I also think he wasn't into the three-dimensionality of the pieces. That demands a lot of the viewer (there is a reason why paintings on tubes is not really a thing).

But a few weeks later, he asked me to look at some Dupont drawings online and give him my opinion. This is how DC buys art. He takes his time. He is the opposite of impulsive. In a sense, that makes him not the ideal art fair collector, but for DC, the benefit of an art fair is that you get introduced to a lot of artists' work. It's like speed-dating. And if after the introduction, you want to take that relationship deeper, you can.

Miki Taira, A Tale of Two Brother: the Long-armed Brother and His Long-Legged Sibling, 2013, linen, sumi ink, hanging scroll, acrylic mirror, 245 x 200 x 100 cm at Tokyo Gallery/Beijing Tokyo Art Projects

Miki Taira is a Japanese artist who studied calligraphy and now employs it in a way that deftly combines the contemporary with the folkloric. She writes out folktales onto linen and then makes objects (usually strange doll-like figures, but not always) with the linen.

Miki Taira, Charcoal-roasting Millionaire, 2012, linen, sumi ink,vinyl sheet, silk, acrylic case, 40.8 x 15.5 x 15.5 cm at Tokyo Gallery/Beijing Tokyo Art Projects

LM had first seen her work at an art fair in Hong Kong (And I think he said he bought one there). He had come to Pulse earlier in the week and bought another one. For an artist, this has to be one of the advantages of having your work shown at an art fair. It becomes possible for you to develop international collectors. 

There was an elaborate (and beautiful) process for packing up Miki Taira's piece. This level of attention to wrapping it up seems stereotypically Japanese. But I'm sure it is also highly practical when it comes to shipping the work.

LM had become acquainted with Galería Nieves Fernández in Spain at ARCO (LM is something of an art fair road warrior).  So gallerist Nerea Fernández took us on a guided tour of the work in her booth, including this suite of works by Danica Phelps. What Phelps does is to draw a picture of something she bought. The drawings are beautiful pencil contour drawings with no chiaroscuro for the most part. Then she indicates how much she paid for the thing with red hashmarks painted below the drawing. If she sells the drawing, she makes a copy of it (by hand), with the same red hashmarks, but adds green hashmarks to indicate how much she was paid for the drawing. She also includes on the new drawing the name of the person who bought the previous drawing and where it was bought. So she could conceivably sell drawings of the same subject many time, with the green painted hashmark area getting bigger in each iteration. And perhaps most eccentric of all, she puts a price on each piece.

Danica Phelps, McDonald's Coffee and Cookies, March 16, 2013, 2013, pencil on vellum, mounted onto paper which is in turn mounted onto wood

So I was looking at each of these drawings when I noticed that McDonald's Coffee and Cookies, March 16, 2013 had a price of $200 on it. That couldn't be right. I asked Fernández about it, and she confirmed with a sigh that this drawing was indeed selling for $200. (I later wrote to Phelps and asked about it--she said "It is an important part of my work that it be accessible to all kinds of different people." Including people like me!) I impulsively decided to buy it. I only had $180 in cash on me, so LM kicked in an additional $20.

Even though the first generation had been made less than two months earlier, it had already sold once to a guy named Knut Marten at the Cologne Art Fair. Phelps got $100 after the gallery's cut, which is indicated by the 100 green hashmarks. If she does another version of McDonald's Coffee and Cookies, March 16, 2013, it will have 200 green hasmarks on it and my name as the second buyer.

That was our Pulse experience. DC had to leave us at this point--he had a wife and children at home who wanted their daddy back. But LM, like me, was maximizing his art experience and had one more stop to make. He invited me along, and that's the subject of part 5.


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