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If art fairs were New York neighborhoods than you could say that Nada was the Lower East Side.

Tired of all the chatter about Nada being the next big thing, I decided to see if this year’s display would be everything the PR and press promised it would be.

Honestly, it was. Even if the solo artist booths in Richelieu hall were generally a little dull and pedantic, the Napoleon hall was filled with a diverse range of work from galleries that obviously loved what they do.

I found the painting at Nada particularly strong and it was nice to see a love of color in so many that ranged from large-ish-scale abstractions to small intimate pieces with rich surfaces. The tread for most of these paintings is that they tended to be done in a gestural mode of representation veering towards the abstract, but I can live with that.

Unlike Art Basel Miami Beach, where so many booths were filled with the prerequisite over-sized household object as art work, here all the household objects were life-sized (art imitating life or simply smaller budgets, I’ll let you decide).

Here is some of the best (and meh) of what I saw.

Rob McLeish at Melbourne’s Neon Parc Gallery reminded me of soo many contemporary artists who find their “voice” in the mundane. My biggest criticism for this display was I was never quite sure if this was a series of individual works or an installation, which I thought was a significant difference.

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Chiharu Shiota traps objects like a spider in a web of string. These atmospheric pieces were impressive for the technical feats but not particularly enthralling.

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This installation by Steven Bankhead at Country Club Gallery felt like the most trendy conversation nook in the world. Like most of the booths in the Richelieu hall of Nada, the gallery seemed more interested in creating a mood rather than spotlighting the art alone.

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Joel Kyack’s display at François Ghebaly Gallery was awarded the best solo booth prize at Nada. Ghebaly always knows how to put on a show in its booth and this one continued the tradition. I noticed there was quite a bit of plywood in many of the booths, which I’m starting to call “hipster marble” for its use as default surface throughout the hipster realm.

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This digital work by AIDS-3D confused me as to the validity of its carbon footprint claim. I’m not sure what to believe about this.

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Nolan Hendrickson’s layered canvases immediately attracted my attention in Ramiken Crucible’s booth. Though the colors appeared garish at first, the small details drew me in and step by step I discovered more facets to the paintings than are initially obvious.

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One of the paintings by Leidy Churchman at the Horton Gallery booth reminded me a hell of a lot of George Condo, maybe too much?

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Justin Adian’s curious forms are made of oil enamel and spray paint on ester foam and canvas. He was showing with the Blackston Gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

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The Hole Gallery’s booth changes every day. I would tell you who is on display but the booth attendant assured me it was all online when she handed me the gallery card. Unfortunately, she lied. Their online listings are pretty useless to find the appropriate art work names and info. My biggest criticism of this display — and something that is generally true of most The Hole artists — is that everything looks far too 80s, they even give me Reaganomics flashbacks.

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Brooklyn’s The Journal Gallery had the original drawings for their latest ‘zine, Ho Bags, on display. Featuring the work of Harmony Korine and Bill Saylor, the pieces were a little hard to look at in this format but from what I could see, the ‘zine itself seemed rather interesting, though I wished it was printed in color rather than the less enthralling black and white.

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The paintings by Josh Smith at London’s Jonathan Viner Gallery were amazingly fluid and rich. Few painters can reproduce the feeling of spontaneous sketch at this scale without sacrificing anything, Smith is definitely one of them.

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Sarah Braman is a personal favorite of mine, and her sculptures at the Museum 52 booth were visual magic.

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A view of the same Sarah Braman sculptures from the back wall of the booth looking out.

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Matthias Dornfeld’s paintings at Blanket Contemporary Art in Vancouver were surprisingly simple from afar but revealed some sophisticated layering upon closer inspection.

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Vicky Wright’s ”Karl Marx as a Dog” (2010) immediately made me think of the paintings of Lesley Vance and his gestural forms that swish across the surface.

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Booooooth is a site-specific project in the Napoleon Hall of the Nada. It is organized by Rose Marcus and incorporated work by Caitlin MacQueen, Andy Meerow, DIS, Snarkitecture, 2UP, Real Fine Arts, and herself. The massage table in the booth is the work of DIS, which according to the press materials “(un)appropriates exercise balls and de-re-constructs a massage table to become the perfect platform for negotiations.” I don’t know if I buy all that jargon but I liked the idea of recreating the fair booth into something that acknowledges its purpose but proposes something new.

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Pool Gallery’s booth wasn’t filled with fantastic art but their booth design felt ideal for what they had on display.

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In one direction the booth feels absolutely minimal while another angle reveals rather comfortable gallery passages that were suitable for smaller works.

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Leslie Shows combines collage, painting, and drawing to create fantastical works that look like intergalactic landscapes.

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Rachel Uffner Gallery’s booth was perfectly tasteful with all-white works by Anya Kielar and cubistic paintings by Pam Lins, including her “5:20 in space” (2010) in the center, which was one of the smallest works in the space but immediate jumped out at me for its collision of contemporary life and a historic painting style.

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Nada Art Fair is located at The Deauville Beach Resort, 6701 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida, and it will continue until Sunday, December 5, 2010. Check the website for times.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

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