Thursday, March 29, 2012

New York, New York

The NY art fairs couldn't have come at a better time of year, with the folks safely ensconced in Florida and the homestead empty. By the end of my week there, the catalogs, Swedish posters, business cards and maps were strewn about the place - a decorating overhaul with which my mother would surely take issue.
As Yarden says below, it was interesting to experience the different personalities of the various shows and exciting to see how some of our artists fit into them. After the loft gallery show we attended which featured several Boston artists, I went back to Brooklyn on Saturday. All of the galleries in Williamsburg and Greenpoint stayed open until 10 for the After Hours event. My brother and I particularly enjoyed the work of Michael Van den Besselaar, a Dutch painter who we spoke to for quite a while - Van den Besselaar lives in Paris and was in NYC for the opening of a group show he was participating in at Black and White Gallery. Zooming out from the New York/Boston art axis, his take on American culture and militarism was particularly refreshing. (Above: Aesthetics of Contemporary Power / 60" x 60" / oil on linen / 2011)
Earlier that day I went to the Dependent Art Fair which was held at the Comfort Inn on the Lower East Side. As art folks know, the most recent wave of galleries in Manhattan have found a home in LES, and it is a blast seeing all the new venues opening up down there. Still, as a native New Yorker, you have to laugh sometimes - this is definitely not your grandmother's Ludlow Street. The Dependent show was especially scene-y with some vendors barely having much on view except for a logo or a sculpture in the corner of a cramped hotel room. I took a few minutes in the hallway and just drank in the comings and goings - the air kisses, the costumes, etc. Before heading off, I sat in the lobby and chatted with a young curator. I had planned to go to the Whitney Biennial the next day and she told me that there were some great dance performances there as part of the Biennial. The performances were sold out but she let me in on a secret - if you got on the standby line, you might be able to get in. Running late the next afternoon, I fortunately found an excellent parking spot on Madison Avenue and raced down the block to the Whitney where there was a long line just to get in. To make up for the wait, there were some interesting folks also waiting on line, including Lou Reed and his recent bride, Laurie Anderson - so, you know, that it made it a lot better. Having found the standby line in a stairwell, I struck up a conversation with the guy in front of me. The Nordic theme continued as he was a Swedish performance artist. Dressed in black from head to toe, including fingernails, he told me he had been attending the shows in town and the night before had been to a big party at an art consultant's. All of a sudden, a woman and her date came running up to the guard, insisting on being let in as she worked for a major donor of the exhibit. But in this case, money did not talk and egalitarianism prevailed - my Swedish pal and I were the last two to get in.

Halfway through the 90-minute performance of Sarah Michelson's
Devotion Study #1 — The American Dancer, part of me wished that Might had indeed beat Right in this case, as the piece was repetitive and a bit dull. (My black-clad neighbor must have thought so too as I could hear him snoring - or maybe it was the late night at the art consultant's.) The problem for me was that the piece started with a 5-minute voice over which is then repeated before launching into a continuation of the dialogue. It's one thing to watch the same steps over and over again but having to listen to the same dialogue was frustrating and made me lose interest in the whole piece. I must admit though, the monotony of the dance and music led to a meditative state that stayed with me after I left the museum. (Here's the review in the NY Times which appears to corroborate my unschooled assessment.) I only had a few minutes to take in the rest of the Biennial, which was unfortunate, but it's up until May so there's a chance to catch it again before then.

We've got a show opening tomorrow so I've got to wrap this up...I'll continue next week with more on my trip southward to Phillie, Baltimore and DC and all the great stuff I saw down there. Other than some visiting and the amazing Nepalese food my brother found at a hole in the wall in Jackson Heights - again, not the Queens of my childhood! - two other NY highlights remain.
Cindy Sherman retrospective at MOMA is a phenomenal show - breathtaking in both depth and curating. It's up until June 11 - don't miss it, folks. Then on my last night in town, I caught the engaging documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye at the Chelsea Clearview, about the
"pandrogynous" performance artist and industrial music pioneer Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV). And in an incredible bit of only-in-New York synergy, I ran around the corner afterwards for a quick drink and some not-too-bad drag karaoke before scooting up to Penn Station for the 12:19 back to the Island.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Kid in a Candy Shop

Fountain Art Fair, New York City Arts Week

Arts Week in New York City is a game of personalities, with each art fair playing a different role in a match of who’s who. It was a busy few days earlier this month as Marc and I ran around the city reacquainting ourselves with the fairs we had been to before, and getting our first impressions of the ones we’d never visited.

Starting first at
The Armory Show at Piers 92 and 94 we went from booth to booth and took a look at what artist or artists each gallery brought to the fair. Split into two sections – contemporary and modern – it felt like two different worlds. Abuzz with living artists and a younger demographic of visitors, the Contemporary portion of the fair was all chitchat and handshakes, quite a few smiles and nods. The Modern section, with its fill of 20th century masters, was hushed and serious. The Contemporary pier also seemed to have more to offer - in the form of Discussion Panels and such; and for a certain Gallery Manager (hint: me) there was an extra bonus: the focus this year was Nordic art. Having spent a year in Copenhagen, Denmark and another in Gothenburg, Sweden, I was in Scandinavian heaven. That said, there weren’t many surprises at Armory. Some great art, some not as great art, and most of the art shown (from someone who keeps a keen eye on the art scene) was expected, there were only a handful of artists that had found their way into the fair that were a pleasant surprise. For an art fair that has gotten pretty negative reviews the past few years, it seems that The Armory was a step ahead of where it’s been recently – and the expected works were still a sight to see.

And so the day went on…with a shuttle bus to
Volta (at a hotel in midtown) where a few of our fellow Boston galleries were showing. The vibe was a bit looser, had a bit of an edge. More unexpected works, a fresher taste. One artist Marc and I were really drawn to was Mats Pehrson who splits his time between his native Stockholm, Sweden and New York City. His Contemplation works (photo right) are a series of mixed media pieces that originated as photographs taken from his NYC window looking down at passersby on the street. By replacing the city landscape with a neutral abyss the works really focus in on the people, their stance, interactions, facial expressions – the work, in one word: intriguing. It said so much about the human condition in the simplest ways.

The edge of Volta got a bit sharper with our final stop of the day at Scope. Housed under a large temporary pavilion tent there seemed to be an overall theme to most gallery booths: overwhelm the eyes. Of the three shows, Scope definitely had the most going on (whether that’s good or bad)– a bit more buzz, a bit more flare, with neon, neon and more neon and a distinct influence of street art in a lot of the booths. Again, Marc and I stumbled upon an artist that both of us couldn’t take our eyes off of – MARCK.
With what he calls 'Video Sculptures', MARCK places women in small-contained sites, in this case water, and videotapes them as they move around in the claustrophobic space. Due to the way the works are created the pools of water feel less like a video and more as if they are right there on the wall in front of the viewer. The piece Turkish Bath (photo right) made me really uncomfortable as a woman, I felt trapped right along with her – a sentiment that many women around me seemed to feel as well, but one that Marc (and perhaps other men) didn’t get from the piece. And that’s what is so great about Arts Week – it’s a fantastic time to see what is out there, which artists’ careers are starting to bust open, and where 13FOREST Gallery and our artists fit into the mix. That night we ventured to Brooklyn for a loft gallery show that featured a few of our very own Boston artists, including Dana Woulfe. The scene was nice and relaxed, perfect after a busy day in Manhattan.

Saturday found us at the Independent (image left) located in the former Dia building in Chelsea. My gut reaction in cahoots with a bit of later contemplation is that Independent was the most successful of all the shows we went to that weekend. Gone were the booth walls – which give one a feel of being cattle, ushered from booth to booth. Instead, the white walls and high ceilings gave a breezy air to the fair, one that imitated an almost easy feel, where the galleries weren’t pitted against each other for attention and sales, but working together in a shared space to showcase their artists. The work, for the most part, was strong – and the way in which it was curated and displayed (due to the lack of walls) really benefited both the artworks and the viewer. From Independent we walked across town to Fountain – a much younger fair, with much younger galleries and artists, almost like a little sibling of Scope - it was a big change from the earlier fairs. Squished into booths was work by a range of different artists - there was a more urban feel, a grit, and a nice atmosphere of people who were excited to be there, excited to be showing their work – money didn’t seem to be the talk of the town, unlike with the blue chip art fairs on the other side of town. It was the type of place where you bumped into mutual friends of friends, and we got to catch up with 13FOREST artist Scott Chasse (pictured right) who was showing his work with Brooklyn gallery GSpot. We ended our fair tour with PooL at the Flatiron Hotel which felt more like open studios than an art fair, with an artist or two showing their work in hotel rooms across three floors.

So, after a weekend of art fair hopping, back I went to Boston and to 13FOREST Gallery as Marc spent a few more days exploring the last bits of art festivities and driving down the Eastern coast to DC, stopping at Philadelphia and Baltimore on the way. Stop by the blog sometime next week to hear all about his adventures at FiberPhiladelphia, the American Visionary Art Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and the National Gallery of Art.

Scope Art Fair, New York City Arts Week

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

13FOREST's Leaping Anniversary Celebration

Marc Gurton (left), and Jim Kiely (right)

Slipping into the cozy space, I shook snow from my coat and was greeted by the sound of violins and the warm smell of pizza, preparing me for a celebration.  The occasion: 13FOREST’s four-year anniversary of being in Capitol Square, serving the community and working with over 150 local artists.  It was Leap Day, which marked not only an extra day on the calendar but, for 13FOREST, a point of continuation.

Being relatively new to the gallery scene, I wanted to reflect on what it takes to keep a gallery going for four years, especially in this economy.   When I asked what the special ingredient was, owner Marc Gurton said, "passion, connection, and curiosity.”   

Marc uses his passion, his connections to artists, and his curiosity for the arts to bring 13FOREST continuously forward.  That curiosity brings him to "open studios and events for local artists,” and will lead him this week to walk all around New York City to take in The Armory Show.  Gallery manager Yarden Abukasis, who’ll be accompanying Marc, is looking forward to "seeing international artists and how their diverse work connects back to the artists of 13FOREST.”
The gallery's strength is evident in the quality of artists who have shown here. With variety in theme, medium, and style, the uniqueness of each artist at 13FOREST is emphasized by the way in which Marc and Yarden curate each show. For instance, the current exhibition, Ordo Naturalisfocuses on nature and the upcoming show, SightLines, will offer studies of architectural repetition and linearity.  
A mission of the gallery is “to showcase artists who wouldn't normally be seen.”  Both Marc and Yarden experience pride as they watch the careers of 13FOREST artists blossom. An example is Wade Aaron, whose work the gallery has been showing since before its move to Arlington.  Today Wade is the youngest artist included in the inaugural exhibition of the MFA's Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art. This is a tangible measure of the gallery’s success, and a source of some of the local community’s expressions of appreciation and support that were evident at the anniversary party.

By the next Leap Day, Marc and Yarden hope to reach out further to the corporate market and interior designers. This will allow 13FOREST to promote artists and their work to an even broader audience.  

Marc's curiosity, his connections to artists locally and from around the country, and his philosophy that a person has to be able to "live, breathe, and eat" by his or her business have brought 13FOREST success.  They will also contribute to the gallery’s ability to "leap" into the next four years… and beyond.

Working at the gallery, he says, "I never have a case of the Mondays"...even if the gallery starts its week on Tuesdays.