Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pan Recommends for the week of June 27 to July 3

Robert Boyd

There is actually quite a lot of stuff happening in Houston's art world this weekend--a little surprising for the middle of summer. Below are just a few of the events we'll be braving the triple digits to check out this weekend.


Presumably no paint will be involved in this hand-shaking performance

Shake Hands With The Art Guys in the Tunnel System Beneath The Esperson Building, 7 am – 3 pm.  Press the flesh with Massing and Galbreth downtown Thursday as they continue their year-long celebration of 30 years collaborating.

Jay Giroux

Jay Giroux: Ideas Are Free at Devin Borden Gallery, 6-8 pm, with a talk by the artist on June 29 at noon. From the outstanding 2011 UH MFA class, now in Brooklyn, Giroux returns to Houston with new work.

Erik Shane Swanson, Polychromatic Pentaptych, 2013, enamel and acetone on panel, 19 x 75 inches

Under the Moon Tower at David Shelton Gallery featuring Peter Abrami, Janaye Brown, Georgia Carter, Adriana Corral, Aaron Meyers, James Scheuren and Erik Shane Swanson, 6-8 pm. All right all right all right, party at the moon tower with seven graduates and candidates from the 2013-2015 UT MBA classes. There's a new fiesta in the making as we speak. Everybody's gonna be there--you outta go.

Michael Menchaca, Sweven , 2013

Fahamu Pecou: All Dat Glitters Ain't Goals and Michael Menchaca: SWEVEN at BLUEorange, 6:00 - 9:00 pm. Atlanta artist Fahamu Pecou and San Antonio artist Michael Menchaca each have shows at BLUEorange, one of Houston's newer galleries. I saw the Pecou show in Austin, and it's great. And Menchaca's graphic work looks totally insane.

I think that's a Rabéa Ballin on the left and an Ann Johnson on the right, but I'm not quite sure!

Bās featuring Rabéa Ballin, Ann Johnson, Delita Martin, Lovie Olivia at the Art League Houston, 6 ­ to 9 PM with the artists speaking at 7:00 PM. These four artists have been having joint exhibits for four years. I've been a fan of Ballin's for years, and Johnson's technique of photo printing on surfaces like dried leaves allows her to create some haunting images.

Carter Ernst

Carter Ernst: Fur Bitten, Ken Mazzu: Echoes of Oblivion, and Pat Johnson: Artist Tries to Save the World at the Art Car Museum, 7 to 10 pm. If you missed her show at the Nave Museum, you still have a chance to see Carter Ernst's sculpture show, along with additional shows by Ken Mazzu and Pat Johnson (I wonder if this is the same Pat Johnson who was an art critic here in town for so long?)


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tony Garbarini at galleryHOMELAND

Robert Boyd

Tony Garbarini, Top

Tony Garbarini, Seated Lady Figure, 2013, wood, yarn, fleece, aqua resin, enamel paint, found objects, 50 x 33 x 11.5 inches

Little pieces of black yarn hang off the green-painted wooden post, looking for all the world like stubble on an unshaven cartoon character. Ironically, this piece is called Seated Lady Figure, but the graphic cartoony visual image provides a way into the work of Tony Garbarini in Top a show of work at galleryHOMELAND. The work consists of a video, two wall pieces, and four free-standing sculptures. It's the sculptures that seem the most cartoonish--they have an antic screwball feeling that makes me think of early animated cartoons by the Fleischer Brothers or comics by Rube Goldberg or Bill Holman and Will Elder. The work comes out of a tradition of assemblage, but it has none of the grungy feel of assemblagists like Rauschenberg or Kienholz of Herms or even Jessica Stockholder, although Garbarini shares her love of bright color. It's the humorous juxtaposition of disparate elements--often boldly painted and containing visual puns--that makes me think of Bill Holman, and his comic strip Smokey Stover.

Bill Holman, Smokey Stover, Nov 20, 1938

Bill Holman, Smokey Stover, February 14, 1943

The objects in the Smokey Stover's home and in the firehouse where he works are the ancestors of Tony Garbarini's sculptural objects. I don't know if Garbarini is aware of Bill Holman's comic strips--probably not. Smokey Stover ran until 1973 and the strips have only been occasionally reprinted. But this kind of absurdity has remained an undercurrent in American culture. The idea that Garbarini is influenced by the long history of assemblage in art is obvious. He has a serious art education where it would have been difficult for him not to become aware of this history. But the link between Garbarini and Bill Holman (or Rube Goldberg or Milt Gross or any other "screwball" newspaper comic artist) may exist purely in my mind--this isn't the kind of art history they teach in art school, after all.

Tony Garbarini, The Education of Apocalumps, 2013, fiberglass, epoxy, resin, aqua resin, acrylic paint, found objects, 60 x 30 x 24 inches

I can't see The Education of Apocalumps without also seeing Smokey Stover with a bowling ball on his head. Its meaning is obscure--the model volcano and books suggest "education" or "school," and the knife driven into a sphere could be read as an apocalyptic event, the destruction of a planet. But trying to find symbolism or metaphors or metonymy here is not likely to provide a big payoff. Perhaps better to think about it in formal terms, as a three-dimensional object in a space. But such an analysis would involve ignoring the absurdity of The Education of Apocalumps. Maybe the books provide clues. One is a book folk medicine and another is called Apocalypse Code by Hal Lindsey, an evangelical whose book tying the book of Revelations to current events, The Late Great Planet Earth, was popular in the 1970s. Lindsey is a disturbing fear-mongerer, but the sculpture is more wacky than ominous. Perhaps by being wacky, it satirizes the humorless death worship of Christian Zionism/premillennialism. But that interpretation almost feels too serious because it sucks some of the fun out of the work.

Tony Garbarini, Cheese Slug, 2013, grout sponges, polyurethane foam, yarn, pencils, 40 x 33 x 11.5 inches

The Cheese Slug slithers with two knitting hands growing out of it. The yellow sponges look like cheese a bit. The pencils are not visible--maybe they are inside the structure, holding it all together. The hands, molded with polyurethane foam, are a kind of deathly white. They add a slightly disquieting element to an otherwise humorous piece. They seem ghostly, and the fact that they are rising out an amorphous shape adds an element of the supernatural. 

Tony Garbarini, Columbust, 2013, plaster, aqua resin, epoxy resin, yarn, enamel paint, found objects, 42 x 36 x 26 inches

Traditionally, a pedestal has been a neutral element designed to lift a sculpture off the floor and closer to the viewer. But in both Seated Lady Figure and Columbust, Garbarini explicitly incorporates the pedestal into the sculpture. Seated Lady Figure features a saw resting under the pedestal. Columbust has a dial embedded in the pedestal. Plus, it plays with the idea of a pedestal by having two of them--the modern white box and the classical column. Two pedestals implies that the topper is going to be special indeed! And it's... a trashcan lid, some white yarn and blue resin which sculpturally depicts standing water.

Tony Garbarini, Untitled (Soldier, ship, trophy), 2013, oil painting ordered from , wood, found objects, 84 x 44 x 4 inches

Then there are the two Unititleds, both of which feature paintings created by Europic Art & Craft Company. Here's how Europic describes itself:
Europic Art & Craft Co., Ltd,a fast growing and now is a leading art company in China, focuses on the oil painting reproductions, oil paintings from photos and other related arts for a low price. We are located in Xiamen, the premier oil paintings reproducing center in China. All our artworks are genuine hand-painted oil paintings on canvas. No machine printing or computer spraying is used. Our artists are talented graduates of the art schools for professionals, thus, museum quality is guaranteed.
Garbarini got them to make paintings of three gruesome images--a child soldier from Liberia with a skull on a pike behind him, a sinking ship and a mutilated elephant. The paintings are arranged so that their top edges are lined up. Resting on top of the paintings are a bunch of colorful cheap geegaws, things that you might expect to see in a child's room. There is obvious tension between the horribleness of the paintings' subject matter and the childlike playthings above them, but this feels like easy irony to me. What is more interesting is that he chose to have someone else paint these images, specifically laborers in a Chinese factory. In the late 60s, there was a short-lived group in New York called the Art Workers Coalition. But the people who work at Europic are real art workers, churning out product for a pay stub like any other industrial worker. I am reminded of what John Berger wrote in Ways of Seeing: "Hack work is not the result of either clumsiness or provincialism; it is the result of the market making more insistent demands than the art." The Europic painters are the ultimate hacks, but are blameless. Presumably no one does this for artistic satisfaction; they do it to put food one the table.

Tony Garbarini, Untitled (Wit and Without), 2013, oil painting ordered from , wood, found objects, 63.5 x 32 x 4 inches

I find the use of these paintings slightly disturbing. Garbarini is toying with our conception of an oil painting (a valuable unique object that can be bought and sold), but to play this game, he becomes an exploiter of cheap Chinese artistic labor--just as someone who purchases the toys that rest above the paintings is purchaser of cheap Chinese factory labor. The paintings really mitigate the sense of fun that the sculptures embody. Looking at these paintings, I felt a sudden sensation of taking a "cheap holiday in other people's misery." Fortunately, the opening feature free alcoholic beverages. After I looked at the art, I went outside, sat in the sun and sipped my beer.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kim Thompson, 1956 - 2013

Robert Boyd

Kim Thompson as drawn by Adrian Tomine from "Shamrock Squid: Autobiographical Cartoonist!" by Peter Bagge and Adrian Tomine, 1997

For four years (1989 to 1993), Kim Thompson was one of my two bosses. Along with his business partner Gary Groth,  he co-owned and co-ran Fantagraphics Books. Kim Thompson died yesterday. He was 56 years old.

With a small publisher like Fantagraphics, there is really no distinction between publisher and editor. There were many times I unloaded trucks full of books with Kim. He was in the trenches every day. When I started there, I was 25 years old and Kim definitely seemed like my "elder". He was the right age to be a mentor. (Now six years difference seems like nothing. It makes his passing all the more shocking.)

I realize that the readers of this blog might not understand why Kim Thompson was an important person--not just to me, but to art. The world of comics and the art world are distinct, intersecting only occasionally. The thing to remember is that for most of their existence, comics have been an art that existed primarily to make money.  Some of the comics nonetheless were excellent pieces of art, but economic imperatives constantly drove the business side of comics towards assembly line production, corporate ownership of creative work, and marketing to the lowest common denominator--all of which mitigated against artistic quality. In the 60s, the underground cartoonists for the first time published comics whose main reason for existing was not economic. But this was a short-lived flowering--by the late 70s, underground comics were nearly extinct.

But at the same time, comic book stores were popping up all over the country, as well as specialized comics distributors. Now it's hard to imagine spaces more uncongenial to "comics as art" than comic stores, which for the most part were run by corporate comics fanboys for corporate comics fanboys. But the door was opened a crack for small publishers, and publishers sprung up to take advantage of the opening. Fantagraphics, which had published a fanzine, The Comics Journal, started adding comics to their publishing program in 1981. (Kim started working for Fantagraphics in 1977, I think, and became co-owner in 1978.)

Comics as art were revived at that time, thanks in large part to the publishing efforts of Fantagraphics. They published Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Peter Bagge, Ivan Brunetti, Carol Tyler and so many other great cartoonists, and are still doing it today. When you compare the publishing achievements of the underground comics generation (a brief brilliant flame) to Fantagraphics (and its peers, like Drawn & Quarterly), it's hardly a contest. Fantagraphics is one of the greatest publishers of comics in any language of all time and one of the strongest promulgators of the art of comics in existence. And Kim Thompson was crucial to that 30+ years of artistic success.

Any artistic form needs its impresarios and enablers. Art dealers, curators, publishers, editors, etc.--without them, art can't flourish. Kim encouraged and cajoled many cartoonists to produce art they never otherwise would have dreamed possible. I imagine that if Fantagraphics had not been there in 1982, Jaime Hernandez might have gone on to a successful, respectable career as a penciller for Marvel and DC. Instead, he has created a body of highly personal comics art that broke many artistic barriers and places him in the pantheon of great artists of his time.

When I started working for Fantagraphics, I lived with Kim and Gary Groth. For them, there was little distance between their private lives and their work lives--Fantagraphics bought a house that they both lived in, along with me and Kim's brother Mark. Once Kim acquired a girlfriend (Lynn Emmert, who subsequently became Kim's wife and who wrote moving journal entries detailing Kim's last months), he moved out of that testosterone-packed environment. Prior to that, he wore a daily uniform of sweatpants and a T-shirt. Lynn gradually converted him to dressing like a responsible adult. Still, his casual wear set the tone for the Fantagraphics office--Tom Spurgeon once wrote that the dress code there was "pants."

Despite his aging fanboy wardrobe, Kim was a model of maturity. I remember when we had an upcoming issue of The Comics Journal with a Lynda Barry interview (November 1989). In it, we also ran an interview with Paul Chadwick. At the time, I complained that we should not be interviewing Chadwick because he was, to my mind, "totally mainstream." And Kim wisely pointed out that Chadwick may seem mainstream to you and me, but for many comics readers he is a radical alternative to what they're used to. He shook me out of my snotty smugness.

Another thing I remember about Kim with fondness was his love of music. He was always eager to be hip to whatever was happening right now. In our common work area where The Comics Journal was produced, Kim had a stereo and an ever-growing selection of CDs. It was the loudest office environment ever--and the selections would range from the Pixies to John Zorn to Body Count and beyond. (I was appalled the day Kim brought in Use your Illusion.) And he liked to see live music; we saw Neil Young and Sonic Youth together, for example. But his greatest love was 70s glam rock and especially David Bowie. Once a bunch of us went to Rebar, a dance club in Seattle. When the DJ cued up "Young Americans," Kim joyfully shouted out, "This is the Motown of our generation!" as he danced.

Kim and I stayed in touch over the years, mostly through email. Our last correspondence was in January, discussing how to translate the title of Joost Swarte's Passi Messa. I suggested "Not This, That" but Kim wrote:
Yes, but graphically the two have to be the same length for it to work in the layouts.

You could say "Not This, But That" but it doesn't have the prescriptive implication. "Zo" means "in this way" but "this" can just mean "this thing."
"Not Like This, But Like That" gets the sense across, but then is clunky and unwieldy.

Well, we've got five months to figure it out. Maybe there's some popular expression I haven't remembered.
Tragically, he didn't have five months to figure it out. He never was a smoker, but somehow it was lung cancer that got him in the end. The same thing that got my dad. Kim was sort of a father figure for many young editors and designers who passed through the Fantagraphics offices as I did. We all learned so much from him. I'm lucky to be able to say that he was my friend and mentor.


Pan Recommends for the week of June 20 to June 26

Robert Boyd

Here a few art things to do this weekend. 


Britt Ragsdale, Run Through 1, from The Chase series, 2013, video. Photo courtesy of the artist 

Playback: An exhibition of new video works by Britt Ragsdale, curated by Paul Middendorf at Fresh Arts' Winter Street Gallery, 6 to 8 pm (runs through July 12). Britt Ragsdale's videos dissect popular film culture by laser focusing on one specific part of that language--being chased in The Chase series or romantic embraces in Duets.

LaToya Ruby Frazier, Holland Avenue Parking Lot, 2011. Silver gelatin print, 30 x 40 inches

LaToya Ruby Frazier: Witness at CAMH, 6:30 to 9:00 pm. You're thinking, summer's going great! I'm so happy! I need a splash of cold, depressing reality! Come see the LaToya Ruby Frazier exhibit which documents her hometown of Braddock, PA, a post-industrial town that has seen its population plummet from over twenty thousand to less than five thousand. Fun!


Kathryn Spence's scrappy fox sculpture

Kathryn Spence at Front Gallery, 4 to 6 pm (runs through July 27). Kathryn Spence makes sculptural objects through the time-honored method of combining crap with crap. Among the crap used to create this exhibit is string, wire, mud, "how to wash" labels, "do not remove" upholstery and mattress tags, "do not eat" desiccant packets, hair, money, beanie babies, "Ken" dolls, and petroleum jelly.

Work in progress--beading Rosine Kouamen's piece for Coming Through the Gap in the Mountain on an Elephant

Coming Through the Gap in the Mountain on an Elephant featuring Regina Agu, Gregory Michael Carter,  Nathaniel Donnett, Robert Hodge, Autumn Knight, Rosine Kouamen, Lovie Olivia, Phillip Pyle II, Sehba Sarwar, Michael Kahlil Taylor, and Monica Villareal and curated by Robert Pruitt at Texas Southern University - University Museum, 7:30 pm (runs through August 25). This show has something to do with old World's Fairs, and the title seems to reference Hannibal. That's all I know, but this line-up of artists makes it a pretty safe bet!


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Links From All Over

Robert Boyd

Ivan Brunetti is a genius who nonetheless believes that anyone can do what he does. And maybe he's right. In any case, I hope this little video encourages you to pick up Aesthetics: A Memoir, because it's boss!

And speaking of genius cartoonists, Dan Clowes is about to have an exhibit at the MCA in Chicago. (I wish a museum in Houston would give an exhibit to a cartoonist like Clowes.) There are a few photos from the install on his website.

It's nice to know you're right. Last year I saw Trenton Doyle Hancock's new exhibit at James Cohan Gallery, and commented that it seemed that he had left behind his "vegans and mounds" story in exchange for something that seemed much more personal. And that's exactly what happened!

Not a real solution

A fake solution to the Museum Tower/Nasher Sculpture Center reflected light controversy. Museum Tower is a mirror clad skyscraper that reflects bright hot light down into the Museum District in Dallas, including into the Nasher Sculpture Center. The two institutions have been fighting it out, and Museum Tower has essentially come up with a solution that involves replacing the Nasher's innovative roof with a variation on the current design that would prevent reflected light from Museum Tower from directly entering the building. But the problem is that it doesn't do anything for the Nasher's sculpture garden or the neighborhood around the Nasher. And as Walkable DFW puts it, it doesn't really address the real issue.
I've measured temperatures on the sidewalks exceeding 130 F. [T]he specifics of this spat are far less important than future zoning implications of every other property from here to eternity? How much can your property (and what is your right) to degrade the surrounding environment, public space, and properties? This has been answered throughout the years (see: lead smelters and various other LULUs or Locally Undesirable Land Uses), but progress has a way of always bringing new issues to the fore. In this case, that is LEED or (supposedly) green design which emphasizes cooling inside of buildings naturally through (in this case) reflectivity and in this case that means at the expense of everything around it. [...] I've maintained from the beginning this HAS to go to court to establish a precedent to how similar issues are addressed in the future. Less mess, more straight forward, but MT/Nasher spat is the battle to spare the war. [Walkable DFW, June 13, 2013]
Museum Tower put up a website about their proposed solution with a really slick video (which I can't embed, unfortunately) where they don't mention the temperature of the sculpture garden or the surrounding sidewalks at all. They solve the problem by just not talking about it.


Big Five Oh, part 7: NADA

Robert Boyd

My stroll through the Lower East Side had a destination--NADA. NADA is the New Art Dealers Alliance. Last year, NADA was in a narrow, cramped space in Chelsea. This year they were located in Basketball City, a giant space with 12 basketball courts.

NADA in Basketball City

NADA looked like this when you walked in

NADA from an inside balcony

It was a much more pleasant environment than last year's. The galleries had lots of space, there was ample space in the aisles and the overall floorplan was very open.

The funny thing about the art fairs in New York is that a lot of the exhibitors are from New York. Having just walked through and visited many LES galleries, it made me laugh to see these same galleries here. In some cases, they literally could have wheeled their art over from their gallery space to NADA in a shopping cart.

Debo Eller art in the On Stellar Rays booth

Debo Eilers, Overhaul, 2013, Metal, epoxy, urethane, acrylic paint belts, foam ,59 by 48 by 12 inches

I had just been to On Stellar Rays and here they were again, 13 small blocks away. And presumably they paid thousands of dollars for the privilege.  But I liked the art they had at NADA, a suite of pieces by Debo Eilers, better than their then current gallery show. Both shows shared a slightly creepy, squeamish esthetic, though. I don't know if that typifies On Stellar Rays or not.

Scott Reeder at Lisa Cooley Gallery

Lisa Cooley is another gallery that traveled just a few blocks to get to NADA. I thought these Scott Reeder paintings, which look like amateur Ed Ruscha pastiches, were funny.

Andy Coolquitt at Lisa Cooley Gallery

And Andy Coolquitt raised the flag for Texas there.

Another nearby gallery was American Contemporary, who were showing work by David Brooks (unrelated to the Times columnist, I assume).

David Brooks at American Contemporary

Brooks was one of the artists who had a large freestanding installation at NADA.

David Brooks, Stress Tests: Un-Sites No. 1-2 & 3-5 (homage to Gordon), 2013, extracted sections of Desert Rooftops, cable, hardware

I'm not sure what "Desert Rooftops" are, but "Gordon" surely refers to Gordon Matta-Clark and specifically Splitting: Four Corners.

Bill Komoski, Cluster, 2013, mixed media, 56 x 69 1/2 x 18 inches at Feature Inc.

Another LES Gallery at Nada was Feature Inc. They had work I liked a lot--it tended to be busy and colorful, like Cluster by Bill Komoski or An Unnamed Flowing by Douglas Melini (which could have been mine if I had $35 thousand of $15,500 respectively to blow). I liked these pieces a lot, in fact, but I wondered as I looked at them if part of the reason they appealed to me is that they caught my attention among the loud visual clutter that is the art fair. Art fairs favor certain kinds of art--big, brash, attention grabbing. Works that are subtle and quiet don't have much of a chance. It would be quite interesting if an art fair entrepreneur created an art fair that permitted only "quiet" works to be shown. Small pastel colored paintings, faint pencil drawings, conceptual projects marked primarily by absence and invisibility. In keeping with the convention of one-word art fair names, it could be called "Shy."

Douglas Melini, An Unnamed Flowering, 2013, acrylic paint on canvas with hand-painted frame, 67 1/2 x 45 1/2 x 1 3/4 inches at Feature Inc.

Like American Contemporary, Feature Inc. also had an artist who had a large scale sculpture hosted by NADA. And Collider by David Shaw definitely fit in with the general Feature Inc vibe.

David Shaw, Collider, 2013, aluminum and holographic laminate, 8' 9" x 15' 7" x 14' 4"

But while many of the galleries at NADA traveled a few blocks to be there, some come quite a distance. Braverman Gallery came from Tel Aviv.

Reuven Israel at Braverman Gallery

I liked these shapes pierced by poles by Reuven Israel. They made me think of the olives and cocktail onions in a martini. I suddenly felt thirsty for some reason.

Oliver Michaels at Cole Gallery

I think this piece is by Oliver Michaels. I liked its combination of Henry Moore and 70s rumpus room.

Richard Jackson sculpture at Parisa Kind

Another kind of art that stands out at art fairs (stand our to me, at least) is art that makes me laugh. For a long time, it seemed uncool for art to be funny. And there's at least one good reason for that. If you have a piece of art hanging on your wall ("you" being a collector or a museum) and it's a joke, well that joke is probably funny the first 100 or so times you see it. But humor fades away--we want the next joke, not the same one over and over.

But it seems like humor has really returned to art. Maybe it's a less serious time for art now. I just watched Beauty is Embarrassing about Wayne White, and he's very defensive of the fact that his art is funny. But the fact that Wayne White is accepted as part of the art world is itself a signal that humor is now OK. And sometimes the humor is really dumb stuff, like dogs peeing, which seems to be a specialty of Richard Jackson. Anyway, it made me laugh.

I had been to three art fairs in three days before I came over to NADA, but NADA was the first fair where I serendipitously ran into someone I knew (which reflects how few people in the art world I know, I guess). I was walking along and saw Houston painter Howard Sherman, who had been up in New York for a few weeks. The funny thing is that while we chatting, another person I knew came up. And this was the weirdest coincidence of all--it was Brian Dupont, the artist whose work my friend DC had really fallen for at Pulse the day before.

Brian Dupont left and Howard Sherman right exchanging digits

(The coincidences don't stop there--we later discovered that Dupont is married to a cousin of DC.) Anyway, that was about all the "networking" I managed this trip.

Derek Eller Gallery (which I'm pretty sure was one of the galleries that was pretty badly flooded by Sandy) was there.

Karl Wirsum piece at Derek Eller Gallery

They had three color drawings by one of my favorite artists, Karl Wirsum. The one above was my favorite of the three they had, all of which were pretty minor examples of Wirsum's work. Still, I was curious about the price since I've always coveted a Karl Wirsum. I asked, and they were all five figures--way out of my range. In a way, that was a relief--if they had been barely in my price range, I would have had to think hard about whether I wanted to spend a lot of money (for me) for lesser works by an artist I love.

I was reminded of a day of gallery-hopping in New York I spent with my friend Tom Devlin about 10 years ago as I recall. I we went to a gallery that represented Wirsum (I think it was Phyllis Kind) and the gallery director happened to be there and happened to be nice--he took us into the back room to show us the Karl Wirsums he had in inventory, including a giant mind-blowing painting from the 60s. On that day, I could have bought it for $5000. Of course, I had about $5 in my bank account, so I reluctantly passed. Ten years pass and I'm slightly more prosperous, but Karl Wirsum is still way out of my range.

Hundreds of copies of Do It by Hans Ulrich Obrist at Independent Curators International

Independent Curators International is a non-profit, and that's one thing I liked about NADA--non-profits were treated as equals to galleries. (Unlike the way the Texas Contemporary Art Fair does it, where most of the non-profits are shuffled off into tiny booths in Siberia.) Their main thing was selling copies of Do It: The Compendium by Hans Ulrich Obrist. This is a collection of instructions for projects by artists that Olbrich has been compiling for 20 years. Some are quite impractical (Nicholas Hlobo's reads in its entirety, "To an ambitious curator: install a work of mine on the moon.") Some aren't even really projects. But a bunch are things that one could actually do--they might be difficult to do or may seem absurd, but they are imminently doable. There are literally 330 pages of projects here. I've been browsing it, but I think I'd like to actually do some of the more achievable ones.

Stephen Kaltenbach, Open Before Deaccession at Independent Curators International

ICI also had some artworks, including Open Before Deaccession by Stephen Kaltenbach, which I am including because (wait for it!) I thought it was funny. I hope they send a copy of this piece to the Detroit Museum.

One problem with this type of art fair is that the booths are pretty much the same. It has to be this way because they are temporary modular structures. Usually galleries live with it--they're just in the booth for a few days, so why bother with too much customization? Besides, what can you do that makes your booth truly different?

Know More Games (which is, in fact, an art gallery in Brooklyn) actually came up with a clever variation on the typical booth display by copying that old mall standard, the poster display. I mentioned to them that it reminded me of places like Spencer's Gifts. They said that was precisely the inspiration.

Meg Cranston, Emerald City at Newman Popiashvili Gallery/Fitzroy Gallery

Meg Cranston used her booth space pretty well by turning the whole space into an installation called Emerald City. It would have been better if they could have done it without the booth attendant sitting there, but I guess there was no way around that. I thought it was pretty cool and Artadia agreed. They gave her an award for most bad-ass art fair booth or something like that.

Merkx & Gwynne, King Arthur Green Room (detail), mixed media

NADA gave a big corner of the floor over to Merkx & Gwynne for their ongoing installation/film set/performance/rock opera/Gesamkunstwerk KARO. This installment was called King Arthur Green Room.

Sculpture Center (another non-profit space with a nice booth) also hosted a performance by Megha Barnabas.

It was sort of a dance thing. I can't find a credit anywhere for the trumpeter, but he was really good.

I was surprised by how many children were around, transfixed by this performance. And indeed, by how many children were around, period. Of all the art fairs, NADA seemed the most overtly kid friendly. they even had tours just for kids (so mom and dad could drop them off and look at art on their own).

Finally, the greatest piece of art I saw in New York.

Anne-Lise Coste, You Text Too Much, 2103, airbrush and gesso on canvas, 14 x 11 inches at Eleven Rivington

Anne-Lise Coste's You Text Too Much is a towering statement of man's isolation. While not quite achieving the Olympian heights of Cory Archangel's Soggy Bowl of Cornflakes (a piece of art whose creation was the peak moment of human civilization), it nonetheless deserves a place in the pantheon.

And with that, my NADA experience was over for this year. I enjoyed all of the art fairs I went to that weekend--Frieze, Cutlog, Pulse and NADA, but if I had to choose, I'd say NADA was the best. But that was not the end of my day--my next stop (after grabbing some grub) was Bushwick.