Saturday, June 15, 2013

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.


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