Saturday, March 10, 2012

Art Fairs '12: Fountain

The Fountain Art Fair debuted at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lex and 25th, moving from the tugboat off 12th Ave of previous years. More than most of the other fairs, Fountain has an edge, a vivaciousness of art-making that some of the others lack. Here you'll see artists working at their booth, several street artists working on a giant piece, and live music. There are established galleries as well as individual artists doing the DIY thang, and what lacks in skill is usually made up with enthusiasm. Evo Love returned with a large, well designed booth featuring her outsider-ish assemblages. Some have a theme, like tributes to fallen hip hop stars, and others seem like simply a mash-up of materials. The thematic pieces work better, giving some more flesh to the pieces than just visual fun.
Several galleries from Korea were present, with a wide array of work from traditional still life to anime (which has a growing presence throughout all the fairs). Inyoung Seoung had intricate pen on canvas drawings of delicate anemone-like shapes. Across from them was 5Pointz Art Space with several pencil drawings by Soojin Kim that from a distance looked like abstract shapes. Closer inspection netted a fun surprise as these were actually whole and broken Oreo cookies, tightly rendered and well-executed.
In an earlier post I wrote about Dacia Gallery, a new space in the LES. There was work by Leah Yerpe who usually does large (as in room length) realistic drawings of people floating, tumbling together in pencil and/or charcoal on white paper. Think Robert Longo on steroids. In their booth they had one of these pieces, appr 7-9' in length and pictured here. Just the execution of something that size, in charcoal, on white paper, in realism - quite a feat in itself, and these transcend mere deft handling of a material.

Munch Gallery, one of a number in a growing gallery presence in the LES (245 Broome St) had a group exhibit including these two, "If You Check Me, I Check You, Boy" and "If You Check Me, I Check You, Girl."
Both are 51x47" in acrylic, by Finnish artist Rauha Makila. They have the appearance of an ad, separating the two figures and deleting all info except most of each figure with thick strokes of white. The thick white, almost like house paint, is an interesting contrast to her washy rendering of the figures.

The Mighty Tanaka Gallery from Brooklyn was in full effect with a large 2-3 booth group show, a long way from when we first met in a small hotel room art fair (Red Dot?) years ago. Featuring over 3 dozen artists, their exhibit was a solid array of street, graffiti, pop surreal, and work inspired by those styles. "Baltimore Sunset" by Adam Void was created as a result of his doing graffiti in an over-pass or industrial space that was inhabited by bats overhead, and upon looking down he found a rubber bat toy and that synchronicity resulted in this piece. Too often found object work is cluttered or slapped together, but there's a strong graphic simplicity here that is very appealing.
This is a good example of the best reasons to go to art fairs, which is the ability to chat with the artist or the folks who curate. We've all gone to galleries, seen work and thought, "WTF?? Why are they showing this?!" A painter friend, Jim Kendall, gave me this advice many years ago which has proved fruitful time and again. In that situation, simply ask, "What is it about this artist's work that excited you and made you want to exhibit it?" More often than not, I walked away enlightened (not necessarily excited, but enlightened) and with an improved appreciation of a style or genre of art, an understanding of the work or an interesting story.

In the tradition of a gallery owner helping support a young artist they believe in, Marianne Nems (Gallery) has done this with street artist Ugly Kid Gumo. She showed me several of his graffiti based works and looking at them chronologically, one can see a progression in his skill and composition. Too often street artists tend to over-do an image that is their calling card, sometimes sticking it in a piece simply to have it there rather than it having any relevance. It's a way of establishing their individuality on the street, but it's not necessary in gallery work as much and hopefully with time and guidance they become more judicious with it. Gumo mixes pop culture images like Batman with rendering of people, shapes and color quite successfully.

Kudos to Johnny Leo and the entire Fountain crew on a great debut at the new location!
(click on art to view a larger image of it)

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