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Art Fair Art Fair Deja Vu

January 21, 2011
M is for Match!

Art Fairs can be a grind….wait, I used that already. Well, LA is in the midst of what can only be considered an art fair season of sorts. Three fairs in the course of three weeks is excessive even for the most art passionate TruffleHunter.

The Los Angles Art Fair rolled into the convention center in downtown LA this week. I attended the opening Wednesday evening and I might return over the weekend for a quick second peek. It’s a vastly different show that seems completely unvetted by any curatorial standards. The offerings run from museum quality to retina scorching. I propose that when the swing is that vast, the bad unfortunately lowers the quality of the good rather than the other way around. But I was quite pleased indeed to find some truly lovely works so once again, a few highlights:

Stephan Zirwes, Exclusion, at Villa del Arte Gallery

In the category of new discoveries I must admit to being utterly charmed by Stephan Zirwes at the Villa del Arte Galleries from Barcelona. Zirwes is a contemporary photographer who has approached the, somewhat well-worn, paradigm of aerial photography with the wit of a haiku poet and the compositional rigor of a master painter. The piece that struck me as particularly sublime is an aerial perspective of an airport runway, complete with thousands of skid marks from landing airplane tires. The grid of the runway surface remains perfect, unmarred by optical perspective. White rectangles near the middle and two thinner ones by the top of the composition are like suprematist abstractions. Each landing acts as graphic charcoal gestures on a concrete canvas.

Zirwes, Exclusion (detail)

The accrued black line down the center becomes a zip painting by Barnett Newman. At nearly 8 feet tall the image plane envelopes you further activating the micro/macro abstraction. It’s just a knock out piece. And as I mentioned before, aerial photography does have a surplus of practitioners. Alex Maclean, Emmet Gowin, Marilyn Bridges and Michael Light to name a few. Zirwes strikes me as more of a conceptual artist than merely a deliverer of the exotic perspective. And in conversations with Bert and Jody from the gallery this suspicion was confirmed.

Willy Rojas

Willy Rojas is another of their artists whose work made me initially laugh out loud but upon further reflection delighted me with intelligence that equalled its humor. His visual paradigm of scale dislocation is affected by placing miniature models of people and animals with real fruit and vegetables. Thus the seed of a papaya becomes a ball for a soccer player; a wedge of cheese becomes the snow slope for a downhill skier; and a halved avocado becomes a skateboard park. Without a doubt, Cool stuff!

There were several great examples of one of my personal heroes in art, Wayne Thiebaud.

Wayne Thiebaud at Novack Contemporary

Maybe none more special than an excellent etching from 1964 titled Pie Rows. At the insanely intimate scale of 4 x 4 7/8 inches it packs a wallop. Jonathen Novack Contemporary Art has a wall of several of these gems but this one’s the winner. Whether in painting, drawing or printmaking, Thiebaud rocks my world.

John Baldessari is up to his old tricks with an ambitious print project at Mixografia. Each letter in the alphabet (in a nice serif font) is deeply embossed in or rather molded out of paper (There’s an execellent explanation of the process on their site.). The letters hold the left side of 26 diptychs. The right panel with an image that starts with the letter…Q is for Q-Tip, M is for match, D is for domino and so on. The set up is familiar yet the execution makes it transcend somehow. And there are the occasional unexpected pairings which lifts the material away from a kid’s book…N is for Noose anyone? The final conceptual coup de grace is that the letters are in a grid pattern that mimics the querty keyboard…Nice! A variation of these same prints spells out “Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.” Even nicer!

Baldessari at Mixografia

Lastly there’s an exquisite print by Artist and experimental architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser at Toby Moss Gallery. Hundertwasser is represented in almost every modern and contemporary art museum in Europe but remains virtually unknown here in the states. His pop art sensibility and painterly execution were, I believe, way ahead of his time. The print, titled Good Morning City, Bleeding Town is a cacophony of colors, screen printed with foil embossed additions. Veering between depiction and abstraction, his obsessive compositions foreshadow someone like James Sienna, and occasionally usurp them. The Price of 6 grand seems a little disconcerting for an edition of 10,000. Yes, you read that correctly. I’ll try to get back to you about that one.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser at Moss

As always, join the conversation. Did you see the show? What were your favorites? Comment! Next Week the last in a triumvirate of Fairs: Art Los Angeles Contemporary at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica.

-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, Jan. 20th, 2011

  1. Alan Moss permalink

    Thiebaud will always rock my world too!
    It’s a gem.

    • And these puppies are from ’64. They seem to me to be the work of a senior statesman. The confidence of those shadows.
      Keep hunting!

  2. JoAnne permalink

    This is a great article and so helpful for getting through the “grind” as you put it. Thanks

    • Thanks JoAnne,
      Thrilled that you liked it. Did you make it down to that Show? Next weekend promises to be a doozy. Stay tuned.

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