Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Lithium Art Fair, part 2

Robert Boyd

(If you haven't read "The Lithium Art Fair, part 1," please feel free. These two posts discuss the art at the art at the Texas Contemporary Art Fair.)

Ernest Jolly, Fetish Fistic 1-17, 2013, mixed media, various sizes

These objects by Ernest Jolly at Patricia Sweetow Gallery were mysterious and perplexing. I couldn't quite decide what they reminded of--bowling pins? Yams? Pineapples? Speed bags? The title suggests the latter, but combining the word "fistic" with "fetish" adds another layer of mystery to the pieces.

Ernest Jolly, Fetish Fistic 1-17, 2013, mixed media, various sizes

And add all this to a wheelbarrow and you get I don't know what. But I loved the way they were made and the shape of the objects. You don't have to understand something to appreciate it.

Red Truck Gallery's booth

You could tell Red Truck Gallery from New Orleans was an odd duck at this fair. I hope they did well--I'd like to see them back. For the most part, the galleries here showed art that belonged to genre of "contemporary art." Despite a name that suggests that it consists of all art being made currently, it's actually a fairly narrow genre. It's not defined stylistically but by its position in society. It's the art of white wall galleries, of Artforum, of Jerry Saltz, of the Contemporary Art Museum (obviously). I'm not sure what I'd call the genre of art that Red Truck shows. But it's the art of It Came from the Bayou or Austin's Yard Dog. Occasionally it overlaps with the contemporary art genre--like when Robert Williams was shown in Helter Skelter at MOCA, or with the work of Tony Fitzpatrick, or here at TCAF, where among all the contemporary art galleries, Red Truck really stood out.

They used their booth in a way that was quite different from most of the other exhibitors. The work was hung from the floor up. filling every nook and cranny up to about 7 or 8 feet high. None of the works was large. The work imitated carnival painting and old commercial signs and "outsider" art.

Bryan Cunningham, Señor Dinero, Mixed Media

Bryan Cunningham was one of the primary artists on display at Red Truck. His work showed a high level of craft while affecting a deliberate naiveté.

Red Truck was in the very back of the floor space. One gallerist I know called that area "across the tracks" and suggested that it was where all the lame galleries were put. But a better way to describe it would be to say it was where the galleries that strayed to one degree or another from the "contemporary art" genre were put. Red Truck was quite different from, say, Mixed Greens, even though I like both galleries a lot. Another way Red Truck was different? You could have purchased the above piece for $600.

Tara Tucker, Bigfoot Loves Minicorn, 2013, linen, denim, polyfil, foam rubber, acrylic paint, 9 x 12 x 5.5 feet

I have nothing to say Tara Tucker's stuffed sasquatch and unicorn ensemble (courtesy of Rena Blankston Gallery) except "awwwwww!"

Karen Carson, John Deere A400, 2013, acrylic on unstretched canvas. 10 x 12 feet

Rosamund Felsen Gallery from Santa Monica also had a one-artist booth. Karen Carson's huge paintings of tractors were on view. I hope Case IH and John Deere buy some of these for their boardroom. As for me, when I saw them, the old slogan for Tonka came to mind: "Tough tough toys for tough tough boys."

Stephen Mueller, various untitled paintings, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 inches each

I loved these little symmetrical abstractions by the late Stephen Mueller at Texas Gallery. Even though he is usually classed as a color field painter, these pieces seem too precise, too hard-edged and too small to be color field paintings. The colors make me think of certain Chicago painters like Ed Paschke and Roger Brown, but what they really remind me of is the fantastic architecture found in the drawings and paintings of Jim Woodring--particularly Woodrings painted work.

Stephen Mueller, various untitled paintings, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 inches each

Nancy Mintz, Lunabelle, 2012, steel, glass, felt, 59 x 13.75 x 13.75 inches

There is something simultaneously cute and megalomaniacal about having a moon under a bell jar. It's like the collection of a fastidious cosmic god. It makes me think of 19th century naturalists as does much of Nancy Mintz's other work (shown at Traywick Contemporary's booth), which combines elements of astronomy and biology from an era where dedicated amateurs were still some of the prime movers of science.

Erin Riley, Nude II, 2013, wool, cotton, 43 x 80 inches

The West Collection had a fantastic booth made from an unfolded shipping container. I'm pretty sure most of the art on display was from Philadelphia artists, although the collection contains internationally known artists from all over. The West Collection is owned by the West family and on permanent loan to SEI, a Philadephia company that provides services to the financial industry that is headed up by Alfred P. West, Jr.

I liked the "selfie" that Erin Riley apparently wove. It contrasts the casual private nature of such a self-portrait with a public, hand-made valuable object such as Nude II. I don't know if this is actually Erin Riley depicting herself but I suspect not. I bet she simply used one of the many images like this off the internet. (I just typed "nude selfie" into Google Image, and there are thousands and thousands of images similar to Nude II there.)

Daniel Petraitis, Dumpsters

I've mentioned how changing scale is a familiar trick in contemporary art. It appeals to viewers (including me) for reasons I don't quite understand. Some smart person should think about this. It's over my head. But whatever the mechanism that makes people like these shifts in scale, it's working on me when I look at these tiny dumpsters by Daniel Petraitis.

So overall, TCAF was pretty enjoyable. Apparently a lot of work was selling, too. But then, I heard that HFAF had a lot of sales, too. If so, Houston looks like it will continue to be a two-art-fair town. But I could imagine one great fair combining elements of both. The combined fair would mostly look like TCAF, but it would also include top Latin American galleries from HFAF, and artist run spaces like Alabama Song and LOCAL Arte Contemporaneo in full booths (not tiny microbooths), like HFAF.

We'll see what happens next year.


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