Art

From Mysterious Erotica to Holy Bell Jars, Singular Projects at the Independent Art Fair

This year, the visions at the Independent Art Fair were multiple, with some galleries dedicating their booths to outsider and unknown artists, as well as work that is a bit more playful.

Stefan Tcherepnin, “Shadow Monster” at Francesca Pia, Independent Art Fair (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

No matter how much the Independent tries to escape the profile of an art fair, it remains one, checking off the white walls, generally guarded gallerists, and expensively dressed visitors with frighteningly whitened teeth. But with only around 40 exhibitors, this fair is more manageable than your average one.

Often, we’ve found, fairs fall into trends; two years ago, Independent got a little raunchy. This year, however, the visions are multiple, with some galleries dedicating their booths to outsider and unknown artists, or art that is a bit more playful — sometimes, perhaps, too playful (what’s with the giant Elmo at Francesca Pia?).

Two standouts booths are Garth Greenan‘s and Andrew Edlin‘s, which took, for Independent, an unusual look back in time.

One of Howardena Pindell’s Video Drawings (1974–76) in the Garth Greenan Gallery booth

Garth Greenan Gallery is showing 12 prints by Howardena Pindell from her Video Drawings series (1974–76). They show stills from televised sports, which Pindell has superimposed with transparencies that she’s annotated with minuscule numbers and flying arrows. There is apparently no mathematical logic to her additions, though they vaguely correspond to the action depicted: boxing, a football game, lifting weights. Her cryptic marks are like an invented language that attempts to compute these athletes’ herculean movements. Pindell, who continues to make work and is currently a professor at SUNY Stony Brook, will be featured in the Brooklyn Museum’s upcoming exhibition, We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85.

One of Howardena Pindell’s Video Drawings (1974–76) in the Garth Greenan Gallery booth

At Andrew Edlin Gallery, you’ll find Beverly Buchanan‘s models of shacks and houses that are often based on real structures she visited, usually in the Southern US, carrying histories of sharecropping and neglect. Buchanan, who died in 2015 and currently has an excellent solo show at the Brooklyn Museum, once said: “A lot of my pieces have the word ‘ruins’ in their titles because I think that tells you this object has been through a lot and survived — that’s the idea behind the sculptures … it’s like, ‘Here I am; I’m still here!'” Her models reveal extremely precarious yet creatively assembled structures, while her drawings of them, placed in lush landscapes, restore them to a sunny place.

Works by Beverly Buchanan in the Andrew Edlin Gallery booth
Works by Beverly Buchanan in the Andrew Edlin Gallery booth
Beverly Buchanan's models of shacks in the Andrew Edlin Gallery booth
Beverly Buchanan’s models of shacks in the Andrew Edlin Gallery booth

Next up, at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, is James Castle, who, as one of the gallerists put it, is an “outsider artist, if you like to use that term.” Castle (1899–1977), who was profoundly deaf, drew prolifically throughout his life, though it wasn’t until the last 20 years of his life that his work gained prominence. His drawings of doorways, jackets, farmscapes, and horizons were often composed from unlikely materials: sticks, soot, spit, fruit pits, and other scraps he found in the trash, mixed in with watercolor and oil sticks.

James Castle in the Fleisher/Ollman Gallery booth

Another curious story unravels at Delmes & Zander‘s booth. Fifty erotic drawings titled Disko Girls, while individually not all that notable, collectively are undeniably fun, depicting naked women who appear jubilant about their nakedness as they pose at the beach, play music, and make love to one another. The drawings are all the more intriguing because they were found in Germany in the late 1990s, and no one has been able to identify their maker, though their pop cultural references suggest they date to the 1970s or ’80s.

Disko Girls in the Delmes & Zande booth

In another vein of fun, Andrés Eidelstein’s figurines at Karma‘s booth were especially popular on Thursday afternoon, with visitors eagerly picking them up for purchase. Depicting Disney and cartoon characters alongside political figures and well-known artworks, you’ll find absurd juxtapositions, like Matisse’s dancers next to the Clintons waving US flags. Jessica Rabbit and one of Jeff Koons‘s golden balloon dogs, on the other hand, somehow make a neater pairing.

Andrés Eidelstein in the Karma booth
Andrés Eidelstein in the Karma booth

For some chuckles, visit David Shrigley‘s display in the Anton Kern Gallery booth, where I overheard visitors murmur to themselves, “This is my life.” Shrigley’s illustrations capture our inner frustrations and desires (“stealing is very similar to shopping,” reads one), while his instruments, including single-string “problem guitars,” are available for playing.

David Shrigley in the Anton Kern Gallery booth
David Shrigley in the Anton Kern Gallery booth
One of David Shrigley’s drawings in the Anton Kern Gallery booth

Echoing Shrigley’s plea to “Please protect the fragile glass vessels and do not allow them to fall and break … Amen,” artist Patrick Van Caeckenbergh has installed multiple racks of bell jars at Lehmann Maupin‘s booth nearby. Today, in Brooklyn at least, these delicate, hand-blown domes would probably be used to house terrariums, but the ones on view here were once used to shield saints’ relics from dust. Van Caeckenbergh, who is Belgian, purchased the jars from a Flanders man who collected them after they were discarded as the Flemish region became increasingly secular. The installation is one of the more poetic works of the fair, as these empty containers appear to conserve the void the ghostly saints left behind.

Patrick Van Caeckenbergh, “THE PICTURESQUE HISTORY OF EMPTINESS, Les Oubliettes — The Oblivions — De Vergeetputten” (2007–2014), 289 glass bell jars on glass and mirrored metal shelves, 70.87 x 141.73 x 35.83 in, in the Lehmann Maupin booth

The 2017 Independent Art Fair continues at Spring Studios (50 Varick Street, Tribeca, Manhattan) through March 5.

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