I approached my first visit to an art fair like I would a buffet, gorging on the novelty of so many galleries in one place until I wondered if it was possible for my eyes to get a stomachache, forgetting I could take a break. Those with less of a propensity for gluttony will find many gems in the Park Avenue Armory, where the Art Dealers Association of America Art fair runs through March 4.
Moyer’s soothing artworks were a good visual palate cleanser. She applies fabric and marble to canvas, board, and frame, taming a material usually employed for imposing statues. “Sam doesn’t work with a stone that she or her assistant can’t carry,” a Sean Kelly gallery staffer told a visitor at the gallery’s booth.
David Zwirner and Fraenkel Gallery share a client in the estate of Diane Arbus. At the fair, they also shared booths, pairing Arbus with another brilliant portraitist, Alice Neel. The portraits, and the people depicted in them, seem to be in conversation. Arbus’s “Two Ladies at the Automat, N.Y.C.” (1966), greets visitors first.
Their pillbox hats, one black, one leopard, are perched jauntily on their heads. Their faces seem frozen in timid surprise. The ladies face Neel’s “Conversations on a Bus” (1944), whose inhabitants bear similar but are facing each other, and at least one of them is smiling. Other pairings are even more uncanny: In Neel’s “David Sokola” (1973), his denim leg is casually draped over the arm of a chair, while an unnamed man, eyes closed in what could be pain or ecstasy, attempts a similar pose in Arbus’s “Young Man on a Sofa, N.Y.C.”
Hirschl and Adler’s space was devoted to American women Modernists including Judy Chicago and Georgia O’Keeffe. My favorite, however, was an artist who was new to me: Irene Rice Pereira. Her glass and board creations exist somewhere between painting and sculpture. In “Three-Dimensional Composition in Blue” (circa 1940), the black figures look like buildings submerged in the ocean, buildings in a secret underwater city.
Across the aisle, at Susan Inglett Gallery, is a solo presentation from William Villalongo. “Zero Gravity 1” (2018) shows a figure with feet serenely crossed in lotus position, but whose upper body is, by contrast, violently dissolved in a series of white slashes. It looks like an explosion of feathers across the black velour canvas, collaged with combs and photos of African masks and body parts. Even among the slashes, however, the torso holds its shape, a resiliency in spite of bodily trauma, referencing the experiences of the Black and immigrant experience in America.
In “Power Lawd” (2019) from this year, hands strain to reach out of another series of slashes, as if escaping a grave. I was unfamiliar with Villalongo’s work when I arrived; I left moved and eager to see what he does next.
I also loved Jordan Casteel’s subway portraits at Casey Kaplan, especially “Rose Colored Glasses” (2018), where a woman stares in dismay at the train car around her. Her eyes are narrowed at fellow commuters, with her chin perched on her hand — an accurate portrayal of how most of us feel on the subway.
Roberto Cuoghi’s “Ether en Flocons” (2016-18) at Hauser & Wirth is an installation of birds molded in agar-agar and pork gelatin, all originating from a dead, red-breasted bird. The work, which I saw on my way out, will haunt my dreams — and now yours, too.