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The ADAA Art Show marked its 25th anniversary this year, and the 2013 edition at the Park Avenue Armory was definitely a very mature, stately fair, with only the slightest of dark undertones to its otherwise unsurprising, but elegantly sleek, presentation. While the refined tastes of the Art Dealers Association of America-organized fair were nothing new, the majority of the galleries decided to focus their booths on the work of a single artist rather than a multitude sliced from their roster.
Yet whether the booths were single-artist (like Peter Freeman, Inc.’s show of German artist Thomas Schütte with his bronze and steel “Memorial for Unknown Artist,” which recently appeared in City Hall Park, posed against a backdrop of his watercolors) or held small group shows (like McKee Gallery’s booth, where British artist Richard Learoyd’s photograph of a dead flamingo draped over string quietly haunted a corner), the overall event was a decidedly moody affair.
Of course, the Park Avenue Armory is inherently moody with its 19th century brick form and towering ceiling, which was glimpsed through constructed ADAA hallways. But with booths like 303 Gallery’s, which had a chandelier hanging above a compact dining table with oil paintings by Karen Kilimnik on the black walls, the atmosphere was definitely enhanced by the space. Out of the general tranquil tone, a few artists crept out with something that was, if not startling, at least a little dark.
The undetectable breeze near the entrance caught a selection of pieces by Tam Van Tran at Ameringer McEnery Yohe’s booth. The Vietnam-born artist, who is based in Los Angeles, crafted large wall hangings covered in a glimmering strips of thin copper that shuddered in the air.
Kelly Heaton at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts’s booth also had works that responded to the space, although in a much more technological way than Tam Van Tran. Each of the artist’s paintings and sculptures are laced with circuits of sound, some activated when you come near, others with crickets that grow quiet if you get too close. One had strange cyber butterflies clustered in branches growing against a moon.
Heaton’s sound-embedded paintings may be unconventional, but Belgian artist Wim Delvoye’s canvases are decidedly extreme. While it’s not uncommon for tattoo artists to use pig skins to practice on, Delvoye uses the hog hides as his final drawing surface, or, in the case of one of his pieces at Sperone Westwater, the whole pig. He’s been doing this pig tattooing on skins sourced from slaughterhouses since the early 1990s, so much of the shock value has definitely faded, but the pieces will never not be strange.
Over at Anton Kern, Polish artist Wilhelm Sasnal’s astronaut-themed paintings caught my eye. While he had other themed work including a painting of snowboarders in his takeover the Anton Kern booth, his quiet, rather bleak, and mostly monotone paintings of extraterrestrial subjects seemed to capture the space age and its astronaut icons as the relics they have become.
Marianne Boesky Gallery also had an artist who turned modernity into relics, although a bit more literally. The late American artist Salvatore Scarpitta loved race cars, sometimes even building ones that worked, while others were static, rather bulky art objects. I believe the “Sal Cragar,” which has a sort of Addams Family construction to it, is one of the driving kind, and I’m sure it would be a (pricey) thrill to rev through the Park Avenue Armory hall in the cockpit.
As ADAA: The Art Show continues into its next quarter century, it will be interesting to see if the solo presentations of artists continue to be the norm, as they do give a cohesive presence to the galleries. While the fair’s atmosphere is subdued, it is definitely compelling, and I appreciated the more haunting works that trailed along in my memory as I left the drill hall.
ADAA: The Art Show ran at the Park Avenue Armory (Park Avenue and East 67th Street, Upper East Side, Manhattan) March 6–10.
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