Photo Essays

Trendspotting at Pulse 2011

Pulse 2011, a fair more oriented towards emerging national US galleries than the Armory, ADAA or Independent, took place in a well-lit, pleasant space on West 18th Street that had more in common with a high-end mall than a convention center. Wooden floors throughout gave the fair a cohesive feeling and gallery walls were never too close together. Unfortunately, most of the art on view was just as anodyne as the space itself.

One of the clear dominant trends of this fair season is the marked return of figurative, emotional painting. Pulse was utterly dominated by two-dimensional works, from paintings on canvas to tiny bijou drawings on paper and massive photos. There were nice pieces in every media, but this year’s Armory certainly kept things more exciting in terms of diversity. The work on display was very slick, easy on the eyes and easily imagined hanging above your couch. While that’s not really a bad thing, nothing really hit me very hard in terms of artistic impact.

For more (on the spot) impressions of the fair, check out the podcast Hyperallergic editor Hrag Vartanian recorded with me and art writer and historian Rachel Wetzler while we were hanging out in the Pulse lobby. Topics covered include masturbating Vito Acconci figurines, inflatable heads of your mom and a garage-style painting installation.

Pulse’s space was much better than the Armory’s, with pleasant wood floors, nicely ambient lighting and consistent booth size. The layout was definitely very good for the art on view.

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Christian Chaize presented beach photos at Jen Bekman, familiar to many as 20×200 prints. I love how pretty they are, and it turns out this is the first night shot that the artist has shown. There’s an argument to be made that they’re too facile, but I’d still love to own one. Speaking of, they were selling like hotcakes. I witnessed at least 3 sales of the artist’s photos.

/ kc

The Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI) is an institution that deserves to be more well-known. Their paper studio worked in collaboration with artist Trenton Doyle Hancock on a portfolio of huge, intricate pieces that probably made for my favorite booth in the fair.

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Close up on two of Trenton Doyle Hancock’s works at STPI. The cut and folded-out paper really made for well-textured, detailed and sculptural images.

/ kc

I liked this minimalist piece by Brian O’Connell at Dorsch gallery. The rectangles are actually grids made up of individual blue threads. The overall effect is to create a shimmering, vague surface that’s a nice slow-burn looking experience.

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Detail shot of Brian O’Connell’s blue thread rectangles. I love how worn and used the thread looks, like the remains of a blanket. Minute variations in color are also visible throughout.

/ kc

Tad Lauritzen Wright’s funky drawings at David Lusk gallery are fun and informal enough to offset their lack of strong sentiment. They’re like little to-do cartoons, kind of cutesy but still a little weird. This was the vibe of much of the Pulse fair.

/ kc

At LA’s M+B gallery, Anthony Lepore’s photos made a big impression. The abstracted images are glossy surfaces that manage to capture a very sexy, very LA aesthetic. Some of these photos were mashups of different images while some were real-life snapshots. I’d put one in my living room.

/ kc

Eric Beltz writes “Happy is that people who have no history” in a patchwork pencil sampler. It’s a little reminder of the identity-less, free-floating nature of the art fairs and their attendant crowds. Political yet vague, this piece kind of hedged its bets.

/ kc

Post-disco party at Galleri Maria Veie. There are scattered shards of a disco ball on the floor and the shoes are coated with disco mirrors. Something about this piece struck me as cool, but I don’t know if I got any specific artistic message from the installation. Lo-fi disco seems like something worth pursuing though.

/ kc

I liked this Luca Pizzaroni (best name ever) photo at Fred Torres Collaborations. The shopping cart in the woods is a tried-and-true subject but this big print really had visual punch and presence.

/ kc

Graham Gillmore at Fouladi Projects had this art-world angry letter that was a little more personal and unhinged than a similar text by William Powhida. This one just felt kind of trendy and not particularly well-executed.

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Upstairs in the Impulse section of the fair, solo exhibitions were on display. In this one, we see Desi Santiago’s inflated sculptures at NP Contemporary Art Center. The head represented the artist’s mother while the full-length figure represented his childhood. These were cool, and kind of had the anonymous feeling of Buddhist sculpture while also retaining some latex fetish costume vibes. A good combo.

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Jospeh Burwell has a great solo installation up at Miyako Yoshinaga art prospects entitled “School of the Viking Spaniard”. Part garage-workshop installation and part drawing show, the work was sculptural and immersive while showing off the artist’s draftsmanship. Architectural renderings of mosques and trippy geometric structures mingled with cathedral-arch sawhorses.

/ kc

At Joshua Liner gallery, street/new media artist David Ellis had a time-lapse painting video on view along with this installation. The buckets are actually played like drums from the inside by pistons. The tops and handles also clank and thump. I think I liked the sound composition more than the sculpture itself, though in this case maybe they’re inseparable.

/ kc


The Pulse Art Fair is located at the Metropolitan Pavilion at 125 West 18th street and is open through March 6 daily from 12-8 PM and 12-5 PM on Sunday. Stay tuned for more Pulse coverage, plus photos from the Independent fair later in the day.

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