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Perhaps going directly from the Armory to Scope was a mistake.
At a significantly smaller scale, lower budgets, and complete with an indoor smoking room and a cash bar manned by none other than Bushwick artisanal pizza powerhouse Roberta’s, Scope Art Fair New York was very much like a Bushwick opening after a day at MoMA. The editorial lens of the significantly more exclusive (and expensive) art fairs do, in fact, produce better art viewing experiences.
If Scope was a single exhibition rather than an art fair – with its booths competing for attention and buyers – then it would have been an under-baked MFA-candidate show that ran out of time before the opening. Repetitive, predictable conceptual photography, mediocre versions of more famous works, and an unending amount of blah painting lined the halls of this 60,000 square foot exhibition space, and was enough to make an artist like myself want to quit being an artist.
Upon closer inspection, Scope was a Bushwick opening — in a good way.
Alternative exhibition space English Kills Art Gallery, in Bushwick since 2007, not only legitimized by their first participation in an art fair, but was easily one of the top — if not the top — booth at Scope New York 2011. In their large section, Chris Harding selected the characteristic oversize paintings of Andy Piedilato and Jim Herbert, and also smaller, weirder works by Steven Thompson — the gallery’s last solo show — and Brent Owens, who is currently on view at the gallery.
Looking around, most everyone was from the north Brooklyn neighborhood, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. Though, later I discovered that this could have all been part of daily performance cleverly titled “C’mon Guy,” which was billed as an ironic frat party happening daily at the Scope fair. So, while I — and the rest of Bushwick — milled around Roberta’s expensive beer stand, I remembered that most of the frat parties I’ve ever been to had provided free cheap vodka and beer, sadly there was no such hospitality here. Then again, maybe this wasn’t part of “C’mon Guy” and life was imitating “art.”
The crowning achievement of Scope was Andrew Ohenesian’s large-scale immersive installations, which were subtly installed in two separate locations throughout the fair, courtesy of English Kills. The familiar “Mandies’” (2010) two-person bar/confessional — which always ends up being a six to seven person bar — stood happily blinking its neon sign at an otherwise disinterested hipster audience, safely returned from its vacation in Miami for Seven Art Fair. Unfortunately, due to volume, they ran out of beer by 7:30 pm.
The second work, “Montana” (2010), previously only seen at English Kills in its Three Year Anniversary show in 2010, is an entire bodega-style drink refrigerator case, the interior of which straddled the entrance to the gallery so that viewers would enter the gallery on the reverse side, one typically seen only by stock boys and repairmen. At Scope, it was exhibited face-out, which sort of emasculated it as a sculpture, but it remains the stand-out work of the show.
Other noteworthy works were Lilian Garcia-Roig’s 180-degree representational painting installation presented by Carol Jazzar, Miami. Reminiscent of Monet’s late Waterlilies mural, Garcia-Roig painted a deciduous forest in striking detail while maintaining an inventive, painterly play with the oil. Another, which was also the largest and most ostentatious booth, was the three-person costumed performance which included a wine fountain. This reporter was unable to uncover any related press materials.
Scope (320 West St, Manhattan, at West Side Hwy, across from Pier 40 on the Hudson River) is open Friday, March 4 and Saturday, March 5 from noon to 8pm, and Sunday, March 6 from noon to 7pm.