After a rather dull Frieze New York art fair, it was refreshing to see that NADA New York continues to improve while refraining from charging its visitors with a hefty entrance fee. This year’s New York fair is probably the best NADA production yet, as the nonprofit art fair is showcasing an even more diverse array of emerging galleries. The fair still retains its peculiar monoculture with its love of MFA-minted talent that seems deeply entrenched in the story of Western art. Yet, even in this fair selection committee-enforced tide of cultural uniformity there are signs that things are changing for the better.
The diversity of work at NADA this year exceeded that of previous years, where one booth after another seemed to be selling works riffing on the same aesthetic or theme. There is a lack of performance, digital, and other mainstays of contemporary art, but this is a selling affair, and this year’s fair had enough high points (too many to list) to make it one of the strongest fairs of Frieze Week.
If you can overlook the cheesy American Apparel NADA merch booth hawking tshirts and tote bags prominently featuring the fair’s logo, you’ll easily enjoy this congenial and well-designed fair.
Summer Wheat at Samsøn Projects
I regret not having the chance to write about Summer Wheat’s excellent recent show at the since closed Pocket Utopia gallery on the Lower East Side. It featured an imaginative take on Johannes Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid” (1657–58) at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Here at NADA, Wheat has chosen another painting, René Magritte’s “The Treachery of Images” (1928–29) (aka “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.”) as the inspiration for her Pierre Bonnard-influenced world of objects and textiles all constructed of paint.
Wheat is obviously energized by these iconic art works and the hidden world’s they could contain. Her objects seem to live in a multicolored and volatile world of brushstrokes and texture, that at times appear precarious and whimsical. Some object appear like they could be poured into place.
She brings a strong feminist perspective to the work, which include voluptuous female forms, and her textiles works (something she has explored for years) are particularly fascinating as they walk the line between the conventional easel painting and the world of craft. The boundaries between forms and objects in Wheat’s universe are blurred and shifting, they demonstrate a vision that is all encompassing but ever-changing.
Joy Curtis at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery
Joy Curtis is a superbly refined sculptor who derives her inspiration from a diverse cross section of influence (packaging, bodegas, architecture, minimalism … ). The works on view at Klaus von Nichtssagend are ghost-like in their mystery, while being simultaneously familiar and alien in form. Her work looks carefully deconstructed and then reconfigured in a visual puzzle that invites contemplation like a sculptural koan.
Jaime Davidovich at Churner and Churner gallery
Jaime Davidovich’s work from the 1980s is a complete surprise to me. The tape series is a tongue-in-cheek send up of the language of minimalism and abstraction, riffing off the era’s fascination with consumerism, manufacturing, and distaste for hand-crafted quality.
Churner and Churner did the work a favor by plastering their booth with the cheesy wood paneling of the era (the warped panels even give the damped basement feel one often encountered in the era) and making the work stand out amidst a sea of white walled booth.
Guðmundur Thoroddsen at Asya Geisberg gallery
Guðmundur Thoroddsen is a master of fusing line and color with a strong sense of silhouette. His recent series is a departure from his previous work as it explores thrill of sport and competition though still focusing on shades of masculinity, which has long been a staple of his work.
His paper works combine collage, drawing, and paint to create some of his most memorable works yet. This Icelandic artist is fascinated by archetypes and here he caricatures a male-centric world of shooting, drinking, fighting, sports, drinking, and smoking — all framed by curious chalice-like trophies that sit alongside the drawings on shelves. He creates characters that are not self-conscious and seemingly in tune with their instincts, no matter how brash.
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As NADA matures, it will hopefully embrace more global galleries and nonprofit spaces to ensure it doesn’t continue to feel like a feeder fair to the blue-chip art fairs. It was the first year I saw collectors in New York chomping at the bit at booths as they wrote checks and selected work, while gallerists flashed their huge smiles.
NADA New York opened on May 9 and continued until May 11 at Pier 36 at Basketball City (299 South Street on the East River, Lower East Side, Manhattan).