Art

How the 2015 ADAA Art Fair Changed My Life

These works by Josef Albers and Ken Price at Brooke Alexander, Inc. remind us to look into the void (all photos by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)
These works by Josef Albers and Ken Price at Brooke Alexander, Inc. remind us to look into the void. (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

It didn’t. I lied. I’m sorry. But I did like these things at the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) Art Show, which has the perception of being the toniest of art fairs, filled with modern masters and frequented by trustafarians — not entirely true.

Al Held at Cheim & Read

Al Held Armatures 1953–54 at Cheim & Read
Al Held, “Armatures” (1953–54) at Cheim & Read

Never seen before, these large Al Held pieces are not what you would expect from a painter better known for his hard-edge abstraction. Messy, energetic, and with a fairly limited palette, these two-and-a-half-meter-tall paintings come from the artist’s estate and were pulled out of the vaults for this debut. If someone told me these were painted yesterday by a young artist, I’d be inclined to believe it. They were actually painted soon after Held returned from a three-year GI Bill–funded stay in Paris, and they reveal an interest in art history (think Monet) as well as what was going on in New York at the time (Kline, de Kooning, Still). When Held left New York for Paris he was a figurative painter; when he returned, he was very abstract. What he learned is clearly in evidence here.

Haim Steinbach at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

Haim Steinbach at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
Haim Steinbach at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

Haim Steinbach’s distilled aesthetic and constant innovation set him apart. There’s a conceptual simplicity in his new works that makes them feel fresh and serene. Timeless objects frustrate our need to know more about them, as oversized frames create a puzzling sense of space around each item. Trapped between utility and history, these works convey a vast psychological space that you could mistake as a halo. The booth is also the best-conceived displays at the ADAA fair.

Etel Adnan at Galerie Lelong

Etel Adnan at Galerie Lelong
Etel Adnan at Galerie Lelong

I appreciate the work of Etel Adnan, but exhibitions devoted to her have become a cliché. Small paintings strung up around a room with her accordion works in the middle — this is the routine we’ve come to expect. I wish someone would find a better way, because there’s a lot of originality in these small works by the 90-year-old lesbian Lebanese-American artist, who deserves more attention.

Warhol/Basquiat at Van de Weghe Fine Art

A Warhol/Basquiat Collaborative Work at Van de Weghe Fine Art
A Warhol/Basquiat collaborative work at Van de Weghe Fine Art

One big-ass collaborative work by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat dominates Van de Weghe Fine Art’s booth. It might not be the best in that well-known series (it’s actually quite hard to discern the Warhol bits of this mural), but it’s one of those showstoppers you can image hanging in the sleek condo of a hip-hop or startup mogul.

Anton van Dalen at PPOW Gallery

Anton van Dalen at PPOW Gallery
Anton van Dalen at PPOW Gallery

Anton van Dalen’s stark world represents the old NYC we both love (edgy, raw, chaotic) and hate (dangerous, violent, alienating). Born in the Netherlands, van Dalen has lived in the East Village since 1972, and his style is synonymous with the scene that helped define New York art in the 1980s. He’s having a revival, and while this showing is far too clean for my taste (it sanitizes the work), the objects (particularly the sculptures) capture the era’s obsession with blending together high and low culture to create something new.

Ree Morton at Alexander and Bonin

Ree Morton at Alexander and Bonin
Ree Morton at Alexander and Bonin

Ree Morton’s work was new to me. This postminimalist feminist artist died in the 1970s, at the age of 41, and her reputation hasn’t moved much beyond art die-hards who appreciate her ability to invigorate quotidian objects.

Saloua Raouda Choucair at CRG Gallery

Saloua Raouda Choucair at CRG Gallery
Saloua Raouda Choucair at CRG Gallery

Constantly touted as the “pioneer of abstract art in the Middle East,” Choucair is a Lebanese artistic polyglot who synthesizes the world around her. The treat here is the table of small, strange sculptures demonstrating an intuitive geometry that’s both familiar and alien. Everything she makes looks like it’s in the process of becoming something else— she’s always rendering ideas and objects in a state of flux.

Graham, Gorky, and de Kooning at Forum Gallery

Graham, Gorky and de Kooning at Forum Gallery
Graham, Gorky, and de Kooning at Forum Gallery

Featuring three paintings by Arshile Gorky, a few John Graham works, and a really amazing early Willem de Kooning (second from right in the photo), this small exhibition is the type of quality show you’d expect from an Upper East Side gallery. Capturing the spirit of three artists (all immigrants) who once led the charge to create a truly “American” art, the installation reveals the influence of analytic Cubism and Surrealism in full force.

The ADAA’s Art Show continues at the Park Avenue Armory (Park Avenue at E 67th Street, Upper East Side, Manhattan) through March 8.

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