Remember Art Fairs?

In NYC the first week of March is usually marked by the mounting of several notable art fairs. After a year of having seen very little artwork in person (aside from my own!) I’m feeling the absence of these fairs deeply.

Longtime subscribers will know that after visiting the fairs I write a round-up article of my experience – a curated, virtual tour of what I found to be most inspiring.

Lacking current art fair fodder, I went through my notes from the past 14 months of exhibits and online museum visits (and one precious, post-Covid in-person viewing) to remind myself of the artists and artwork that rocked my world while the foundation of the world was rocked.

Common threads across this selection of artists are an exquisite attention to detail, a knack for presenting challenging political issues with depth and satire, and an almost obsessive occupation and mastery of their materials.

Spread – Jessica Stoller at PPOW Gallery

Detail from Untitled (mirror), porcelain, glaze, china paint lustre, 31″x23″x4″, 2019.

In the early days of 2020, when there were murmurs of an epidemic in China, I visited my last in-person show at PPOW gallery in Chelsea. After seeing an IG post from an artist friend I decided I needed to view Stoller’s work in the flesh. My mind was BLOWN.

Detail from Untitled (lift), porcelain, glaze, china paint, 2019.

Untitled (lift) was comprised of several hundred delicately crafted ceramic elements touching on the themes of nature, aging bodies and decay. The delicate, and seemingly endless colour variations in her glazing was divine. Stoller rewards viewers who devote extra time to viewing her many layered, cheeky pieces.

Exactly the type of work that fuels my fire. I was lucky enough to view this show on two separate occasions and I eagerly anticipate her next show at PPOW.

Cicada – Swoon at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery

Detail from one of the wall pieces in the installation.

One of Jeffrey Deitch Gallery’s last in-person exhibits of 2020, Cicada delighted me so much it also prompted two visits. Swoon’s interdisciplinary installation of props, 2-D pieces, masks, drawings, and 21 minute dark, ethereal stop-motion animation captivated me. So much so that it made me want to explore animation more deeply in my own practice (which is coming, I promise).

I’ve been a fan of Swoon’s (who started her career as a street paste-up artist) since I saw my first piece of her large-scale stencil work at the Yerba Buena Centre in San Francisco in 2008.

Detail of animation props installation.

This beautiful, haunting installation gave me a peek into what a next-level melding of the different layers of my own practice could look like.

Domestic Translations – Ann Agee at PPOW Gallery Online

PPOW was one of the first Chelsea galleries I explored soon after moving to NYC. Agee happened to be the artist presenting a solo show there, Domestic Translations. I was instantly entranced by the total commitment to her vision (the gallery staff wore printed paper dresses she made specifically for the opening), her playful wit and sharp social satire, her careful attention to detail, and the fact that she signs her pieces Agee MFG.

A detail from Agee’s magnificent large-scale tile/3-D piece, Lake Michigan Bathroom (II), 2014.

Coincidentally, five years later, PPOWs Madonna of the Girl Child by Ann Agee was the first online exhibit I attended during Covid lockdown.

I love the premise of Madonna of the Girl Child. I don’t know if Agee was meaning to spark contemplation on the question, “What if the Messiah had been a girl?”, but that’s how I read it. The gorgeous ways in which she manipulates clay and surfaces aside, I adore an artist that asks an open-ended question.

Artist Talk – Squeak Carnwath

Beautiful Ugly, Oil and Alkyd on canvas over panel, 90″x80″, 2008.

Carnwath is a Bay area painter that I saw for the first time at a Chelsea gallery about 5 years ago. Her large-scale paintings are delicious and feature repeated imagery and text. The way she manipulates paint and her vocabulary of mark-making are absolutely drool-worthy. Her work is a reflection of her emotional state. She unapologetically paints how she feels.

Detail showing a great example of Carnwath’s mark-making and layering.

Carnwath fell off my radar and then popped back up mid 2020 with an online artist-talk (presented by a now-forgotten institution) where she talked about works she had created during COVID and the chaotic 45th presidency. The silver lining of Covid (and probably the only one) is that I – and many attendees from around the world – were only able to join this event because it was presented online.

Here’s the Thing – Hew Locke at Colby Museum of Art

When my husband and I travel, it is often sparked by a desire to see a specific exhibit by an artist in a museum or gallery. In early 2020, I learned of Locke’s exhibit, Here’s the Thing, at the Colby Museum of Art in Maine. The installation included a regatta of 3-D collage and assemblage miniature ships suspended from the ceiling. I told my husband I NEEDED to go see it.

Of course, we never did get to see his installation in person (hence the lack of photos), but I was able to attend a fantastic artist talk online (presented by Yale Center for British Art) and the museum website has a virtual tour of the exhibit that you can view here.

More than just exquisite objects, Locke’s work examines the histories of imperialism and migration. His exploration ranges through several media, in both 3-D and 2-D formats. I hope to be able to see this work up close and personal real soon!

Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience – Kent Monkman at MOA

I learned about this contemporary Cree artist through my dear Canadian artist friend, Tzaddi, who mentioned she was keen to go see his solo exhibit, Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, BC.

Knowing that this exhibit would close before I could safely fly back to my home country to check out the installation in person, I tracked down a recorded talk and virtual tour on MOAs website. Both are well worth devoting some time to view.

Lucky for me, Monkman had been commissioned by the MET to create two large mural paintings to hang in the Great Hall. They are incredible to see in person. My only wish is that they were hung lower so that I could get closer 😉

mistikosiwak (Wooden Boat People): Welcoming the Newcomers, acrylic on canvas, 11’x22′, 2019.

Monkman inserts his gender-inclusive alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, into monumental history paintings and 3-D installations in order to re-tell Canadian history. His excellent satire travels through space and time, melding historical and contemporary pop culture into his highly narrative works.

mistikosiwak (Wooden Boat People): Resurgence of the People, acrylic on canvas, 11’x22′, 2019.

Permanent Danger – Anna Torma at the Textile Museum of Canada

I just recently learned of Torma’s work through a review on Hyperallergic, an online arts magazine that I read religiously every week. Torma’s work appeals to me on many levels: her aesthetics, playfulness, obsessive craftsmanship, and socio-political conscience. Though I have yet to see her work in person, I can tell from the photographs that these complex, large-scale embroidery and textile works are divine.

Torma’s installation, Permanent Danger, is near the end of its run (closes March 20th, 2021) at the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto, ON. Although the museum is shuttered, you can get a sense of the installation (and see some nice detail shots) of the work on their website.

I hope you enjoyed this roundup and discovered a few new artists to admire!

What rocked your world in 2020? (in a good way!) Please share, I’d love to know.

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