French import Cutlog, the latest art fair to join the growing clusterfuck surrounding Frieze New York, carries a relaxed ethos, one befitting the eccentric layout of its Lower East Side venue. According to organizers, 48 galleries, 70% of them international, showed at the Clemente Soto Vélez building on Suffolk Street, marking the four-year-old Parisian fair’s New York debut.
The fair occupies three floors and the parking lot of the Clemente, a former public school now home to a Latino cultural and education center. The building’s quirky layout presaged the fair’s content, some galleries displaying work on the black walls of the venue, others exhibiting on traditional white cubes. Paralleling the fair’s pedigree, the international entries consistently upstaged the minority American presence, though standout entries came from both sides of the Atlantic.
Kyle Bowen of Brooklyn’s LAND gallery told Hyperallergic that he was approached by Cutlog after their success at the Outsider Fair, and they were happy to participate, citing the “good exposure” for their artists that comes with a new audience: “It’s a different crowd, more polished and refined, international.”
While LAND gallery’s booth featured a large number of Dean Millien’s crowd-pleasing tin-foil animals, Tel Aviv-based Art Connections delivered an intriguing themed collection, Violence & Compassion, inspired by the thought of philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas. Rafael Barbibay, chief curator of Art Connection, explained why he chose to make his Cutlog debut in New York, “New York is New York, not Paris … we feel good here.” The gallery also plans to show at the fair’s Paris iteration for the first time next year.
Other standouts hewed international, and included Santiago art dealer Yael Rosenblut’s “Paradise Found,” a dense four-part oil-on-canvas work by José Pedro Godoy depicting jungle flora and fauna that was recently exhibited at White Box. Godoy’s behemoth is unfortunately ill-served by what can at times be be an excessive eclecticism of the fair’s interior spaces, the painting situated in a narrow black-painted corridor, its greyscale depths more claustrophobic than lush.
Paris-based L’Aléatoire showed the work of Muscovite artist Ivan Yazykov, who was having his New York debut. The series, entitled The Book of Letters, consisted of intricate worlds inspired by individual letters of the Cyrillic alphabet, the monumental effect recalling a linguistic riff on Bosch’s eschatology. Owner Patricia Chichmanov, who lives in Moscow, explained that in keeping with the idea of the fair she brought along prints of Yazykov’s displayed works on silk scarves, priced rather accessibly from $100 to $300 and “as masculine as they are feminine.” Nearby, Ray Smith Studio showed three of its large “Table Drawings,” playful collaborative works executed at their Sandy-ravaged but defiantly restored studio on the Gowanus canal.
Though downtown stalwarts The Hole were represented on the ground floor, many of the big ticket items were upstairs. In a light-filled, loft-like room on the second floor, London’s House of the Nobleman delivered one of the fair’s standouts: Paper Vernacular, a collection of works on paper — “drawings and constructions” — headlined by an arresting pair of concave drawings of London by New York-based perspectival wunderkinds Ryan and Trevor Oakes. On the narrow third floor, Phoebe Rathmell’s “Visceral Transcendence” offered a of sense of collected vibrancy, a Buddhist-inspired installation of dyed toothpicks whose meditative warmth felt out of place in the stark and unfinished upstairs space, though the effect here is intentional — the third floor is meant to be an “open studios” of sorts.
Outside, a monolothic pyramid of used riot shields by the Russian Timofey Radya literally and figuratively towered above a handful of other sculptural offerings. The courtyard/parking lot space rounded out this commendable first New York effort by Cutlog, a French addition to a crowded fair week. Despite some shortcomings, it’s a fresh, international perspective that feels spirited, even possibly passing for countercultural at a time when the headline fairs mature into mass-market, corporate affairs.
Cutlog continues through May 13 at the Clemente Soto Vélez building (107 Suffolk Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan).
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