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Five Art Fairs in Eight Days…Really?…Really!

January 26, 2012
Mel Bochner from 2011 at Quint Contemporary Gallery

Art Fairs really do a number on your eyes! Counting Photo LA the previous weekend I’ve attended five “art” fairs in 8 days. That really is verging on visual gluttony. I had the presence of mind to write on the Affordable Art Fair immediately after it opened (see previous post.) The same night that I attended the AAF I also strolled the countless, mind numbing aisles of LA Art Show which was coupled with IFPDA Print Fair at the Downtown convention center. The following night I hit Santa Monica Airport for the Art Los Angeles Contemporary Fair at the Barker Hanger. And after it all, I still like art, the art world, the business of fine art and all the denizens who fill those worlds. The synaptic leaps that happen, maybe only, in these environments is electric. But the assault on one’s stamina, intelligence and patience is also singular. Perhaps my favorite moment on this optical marathon was this little leap between fashion and Fine Art:

Leggings and Skirt at the Opening Reception of Art Los Angles Contemporary and a James Siena Pencil drawing at Daniel Weinberg Gallery

Anyone familiar with the OCD focus of James Siena will attest to the stunning similarity of the woman’s patternation and that of Siena’s work. So art lives and breathes, expanding and contracting into other worlds. It reflects our time, forecasts a visual zeitgeist and does, in its best incarnations, seem extremely relevant. Was this an instance of Life imitating Art? Does the comparison elevate the fashion or diminish the art? I really can’t say but I do know one thing, looking…really looking is a source of constant fascination and epiphany.

Photo LA

Without being cruel or unnessecarilary harsh, Photo LA was a tremendous disappointment. Two reasons seem to spring to mind. One.) I believe that the photo centric fair’s time has come and gone. Barring maybe AIPAD which happens in NYC in March, a medium centric fair is obsolete. Photography is so ubiquitous in the fine art world that a photo fair feels more like a ghetto rather than a pestle to champion a medium. No one would put on a watercolor only fair, would they? Certainly not while trying to compete in the pretension laden world of Contemporary Fine Art. If you think of it, a watercolor fair would be more appropriate for a street festival where vendors set up colasping canopies and chat with Sunday strollers on their way back from the farmers market. Two.) There just didn’t seem to be any curatorial vetting. So all-over-the-place was the quality of the work on display that the good pieces sank to the level of the bad. All of this having been said I discovered an artist whose work bore the intelligence and execution of real merit.

Andy Freeberg, from the Sentry series, Andrea Rosen, 2011, Color Photograph, sizes vary

The work of Andy Freeberg really amused me and it continued the linger after my first encounter, always a good sign. Sentry is a body of work that presents the rectilinear minimalism of Chelsea reception desks in an elegant and humorous way. Cropped scalps of gallery interns appear in most. They do index the aloof nature of this world while being humorous and thoughtful. No mean feat, that combination. As the weekend wore on, it occurred to me that while the history of art about art is varied and numerous, the ground that Freeberg has laid claim to is an art about the Business of art. Art Commerce if you will, with all the trappings that come along for the ride. On the opening night I saw the portfolio with a veteran of the Chelsea scene and we quickly started to play name that gallery by the ever so slight information offered in the photographs. Freeberg has possibly tapped a vein that could yield fruit for years to come. Freeberg was brought to the fair by Smith Anderson North a gallery I must mention that had a wealth of interesting material from Jerry Uelsman to Ruth Bernhard.

LA Art Show

Left: A demonstration of a portrait painter at work. Artist dressed in a beret underscoring the inane stereotypes rampant at the LA Art Show. Right: an example of the gee-whiz ugly anti art that littered the aisles.

All I can say is that the opening night food offerings were by far the best. Chefs from Hama Sushi in Venice frantically spinning spicy tuna rolls was delicious for the eye and palette. As for the art, it’s a stark reminder that the world of art encompasses so much more than the denizens of Chelsea ever imagine. The simultaneity is staggering. And these worlds really continue to push forward with hardly an inkling of each other.

Left: not a Deborah Butterfield and not even a passable knock-off. Right: Those sculptural Fortune Cookies each of which should have contained a slip of paper that read “If you purchased this, you’ve just been had.”

In the miasma of giant sculptural versions of fortune cookies and garish paintings I did find one booth that was so far and away better that it left me thinking “What the hell are they doing here?”

Richard Diebenkorn, View from the Studio, Ocean Park, 1978, Charcoal on Paper, 22 x 30, a steal at 750 Grand

Paul Thiebaud from San Fransisco has long championed his father’s work, the esteemed and evanescent Wayne Thiebaud. But his gallery represents serious artists and he gets remarkable secondary market material like this staggeringly beautiful Richard Diebenkorn Charcoal drawing. The planes shift, undulating between depiction and abstraction. Cropped in any number of ways, the drawing indexes a multitude of Ocean Park series paintings. Groovy examples of Theibaud were also on hand including this linocut Gum Ball Machine from 1971 with which I was unfamiliar.

Wayne Thiebaud, Gumball Machine, 1971, Linocut in an edition of 50, 30 x 22 inches.

Art Los Angeles Contemporary

And lastly we come to the Pulse-like calm and pretension of the awkwardly titled Art Los Angeles Contemporary Fair. Held at the Barker Hanger at the Santa Monica Airport, the fair is handsome in that pretentious way that we’ve come to expect from smaller venues that take their cues from Art Basel. The quality of the work always veers from the sublime to the ridiculous, but unlike the aforementioned Photo LA, the good work doesn’t get pulled into the gutter by the bad. Everyone attending has the responsibility to winnow the wheat from the chaff. Loud and boisterous cohabitate with measured and thoughtful.

Mairead O'hEocha, Left: Glass Roof House and Tree, Sneem, Co.Kerry, 44 x 57 cm, Right: Garden Pond Centre, Lusk, Co.Dublin, 51 x 71 cm--Both 2011 and Oil on board

Mother’s Tank Station from Dublin featured the work of an excellent painter named Mairead O’hEocha. The tactility of the paint lent poignancy to the humility of the scenes depicted. The representative of the gallery immediately likened them to Maureen Gallance but I take issue with that. While Gallance does have a fantastic touch, her deadpan irony strips the pleasure from the painting’s surface and content.

Shirley Irons, Carousel from 2007 and Conference Room from 2006, Oil on Canvas, in the 20 by 24 inch range.

Shirley Irons at Gallery Luisotti was also a delightful discovery. Two paintings above had compositional rigor without being dogmatic. The planes shift and draw you in. This engagement satisfies and left me contemplating the pleasure at seeing an image of a boardroom in a boardroom. Her website proves a sustained investigation into these matters and I look forward to seeing more in the future.

Grier Edmundson, Progress Progress V, Oil Painting about 20 x 15 inches

Grier Edmundson at Fourteen30 out of Portland. What can I say? I just like it. Granted it is very much in the current trope of Luc Tymans’ painting paradigm, the depiction of Bobby Riggs and Billy Jean King gave a distinctly American slant. I wondered quietly exactly how many people might even recognize the subject matter. Regardless, a good work made better by more knowledge.

That’s the post-mortem of the Los Angeles Fairs. I went on much longer than I had intended which always proves that there are truffles everywhere!

Mario M. Muller, January 24th, 2012, Los Angeles

10 Comments
  1. Thanks for the round-up, Mario. Even though I got the download from you every evening, it is nice to read about it and see your pics.

  2. thanks Mario, really enjoy your blog, best wishes, nancy

  3. Thank you for the tour. Andy Freeberg is a delight. I linked to his website and had a big laugh. Can I tag along on your gallery rounds my next trip to LA? Karen

    • Strap on your comfortable shoes and sharpen your stamina, Absolutely, you must come with me. We’d have a blast. So Happy that you dug Freeberg, He’s a hoot. He’s on to something for sure. Cheers,
      Mario

  4. Thanks for the honesty and humor! A delight to read.

  5. I joked that I’d have to clone myself to attend all the events that took place over the last 3 weeks! I’m still kicking myself for missing the Art LA Contemporary I heard it was great this year.

  6. Was thinking this blog would be about truffles and hunting, but this is also really interesting. Some very nice pices of art, great collection.

    • Thanks for the drive by. Come back for more. It is a rare cultural combination, one who appreciates Truffles, Hunting and Fine Art.

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