COMPANY's picks from Independent art fair

COMPANY's picks from Independent art fair

Independent, last year’s much-lauded upstart of an art fair, is back in the former DiaCenterbuilding on West 22nd Streetin Chelsea. But it’s hard to be an upstart the second time around, as evinced by a preview in Vogue and the launch of an unaffiliated mini-fair called the Dependent at the Sheraton Hotel on West 25th Street.

The inaugural Independent attracted a lot of attention, critical and commercial, for its don’t-fence-me-in installation and well-edited mix of contemporary art. It even garnered the dubious honor of a Rob Pruitt Art Award for alternative project of the year. The fair’s cachet was such that it managed to poach a couple of dealers from the Armory, the city’s biggest art fair, including Wallspace and Harris Lieberman, for this year’s edition.

So Independent’s founders, Elizabeth Dee (of the eponymous Chelsea gallery) and Darren Flook (from Hotel in London), assisted by the co-directors Jayne Drost and Laura Mitterrand and the creative adviser Matthew Higgs, have quite sensibly tried not to fix what wasn’t broken. The design still boasts few walls, staggered sightlines and a lot of communal floor space.

The overall scheme, in a fair with few walls, is harder to control. As at a dinner party with assigned seating, some neighbors hit it off and some don’t. But I believe this format greatly enhances lesser known artists as they provide a dialogue counterpoint to the David Salle and Matthew Monahan.

Last year’s Independent arrived not long after the not-for-profit X Initiative (another brainchild of Ms. Dee) departed from the same space and benefited from the alternative energy still haunting the building. It pretended not to be a fair and almost got away with it.

This year things are a little different. The market is picking up again, the former Dia space now has commercial galleries on the ground floor, and the “alternative” to the art-fair model is on its way to becoming a new paradigm.


canvas.jpg Painting:  Helene Appel
In Appel’s work, something so overlooked and now painted with intense attention to detail brings contemplation to the abstraction. Appel is interested in the pictorial quality that these objects intrinsically have; simply by painting them, something happens that takes them away from recognizable representation. Each object is painted to an exact scale representation, held by faint shadows only slightly off the surface of unprimed canvases. Shifting in register, from a pile of rice, to a giant industrial fishing net, Appel chooses each object because of its inherent aesthetic character. 

Sculpture:  John Pylypchuk 
This Canadian's work always makes me laugh and cry simultaneously. And these three cigarette figures deinitely tug at the tragi-comic strings. Pylypchuk’s work evolves from the realm of the pathetic. His drawings and sculptures bring to life a make-believe world populated by abused cuddly creatures, where emotional frailty and menace are worn on every shirt sleeve and pet tag.

ra-0640.portal_morris_neg.72_0.jpg In-situ Sculpture:  Ricci Albenda
This Brooklyn-born artist graduated from RISD. Part of his ongoing Portals to Another Dimension series, initiated in 1998, these concave and convex architectural interventions suggest forces beyond three-dimensional experience encroaching on our known universe.
Found Objects:  Lizzie Fitch
Another RISD graduate, I saw her collaborative work with Ryan Trecartin. In her image-spaces she addresses a culture of excess, constructing a critique via a form of appropriation, which simultaneously releases a veritable deluge of images. The semiotics of the open windows is fascinating.
Taxidermy:  David Shrigley
Shrigley finds humor in flat depictions of the inconsequential, the unavailing and the bizarre – although he is far fonder of violent or otherwise disquieting subject matter. Shrigley's work has two of the characteristics often encountered in outsider art – an odd viewpoint, and (in some of his work) a deliberately limited technique. Funny and poignant.
Mixed Media:  Horst Ademeit
An older artist not well known and working outside outside of the context of art, since the late 1980s.  Ademeit has embarked on an obsessive program of collecting evidence – through Polaroid photography and meticulous note-keeping – that would establish, in his mind, the existence of what he called “cold rays,” unseen forces that he believed severely impaired and impacted upon his life and surroundings.
Sculpture:  Ida Ekblad
This young (born 1980) Norwegian artist is part of a generation of artists who, in recent years, have contributed to the revitalisation of Oslo's art scene. The materials and found objects function as reminders of our time's mass produced and industrial abundance, which have been spared its fate to rot in a container and been merged into new entities. There is a liberating quickness and playfulness in Ida Ekblad, in which her artworks could be this very synthesising connection between society and art, the street and the white gallery walls.


Beautifully subtle.

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