New York’s very first Art week at his best. From May 5-12, the city teems with local and tourist art lovers as four major art fairs and more than 20 museums, galleries and auction houses host countless events and programs. Open to the public today, Independent Art Fair returned to Spring Studios in Tribeca for its 13th edition with an exhibit of more than 65 emerging and mid-size exhibitors. While galleries are expected to put their best foot forward at an art fair, Independent felt innovative and diverse – a glimpse of some of the most exciting talent in contemporary art.
Heritage and Identity
This year, many exhibitors have chosen to bring works by young and emerging artists exploring personal and collective heritage and identity, in both figurative and abstract forms. In Nicola Vassell’s stand, three large, colorful paintings by self-taught artist Uman exuded an intoxicating energy. Born in Somalia, Uman grew up in Kenya and Denmark before moving to New York. With rich, vibrant colors and compositions that follow the line of figuration and abstraction, her works explore this varied cultural heritage, as well as gender fluidity and spirituality.
Nearby, moniquemeloche features a solo booth of black-figure portraits by Harlem-based artist David Shrobe. Combining a range of rich textiles, paint and ink with mixed media elements like wood, photographic prints and gemstones, Shrobe creates textured, layered works that rethink the history of classical portraiture as a tool for represent the elite. He draws inspiration from his family and neighborhood in Harlem, as well as references to art history to portray black archetypes absent from the portrait.
Reframing traditional systems and American life is Devin N. Morris, whose mixed media paintings are on display at the Deli Gallery booth. Through dreamlike scenes in assembled frames, Morris explores themes of innocence, acts of kindness, and racial and sexual identity, in particular male interactions and the experience of being both black and queer. .
Healing through art
While much of the art of the past two years has addressed themes of isolation, healing emerges as a popular theme in this edition. A welcome departure from the predominantly two-dimensional works of the other stands, the Derek Eller Gallery features a stunning wire and mixed-media sculpture by Michelle Segre. Standing over 10 feet tall, Haggis Orbit (2020) dominated the stand. Resembling a giant dreamcatcher, the work relates to Segre’s interest in art as a means of connecting, transforming and healing. Attached to the black woven structure is a large rock-like ball painted a vibrant, almost electrified blue.
Another highlight of the fair is Nicelle Beauchene Gallery’s presentation of mixed-media relief paintings by Ruby Sky Stiler alongside a cotton and corduroy quilt by Carey George from the historic Gee’s Bend of the Alabama, a famous group of black women who have been making quilts for generations and recently has captured the attention of the blue-chip art world, exemplified in Hauser and Wirth’s dedicated exhibit earlier this spring.
At Clearing, Marguerite Humeau explores the medicinal qualities of plants with an elegant gold sculpture of an exploded poppy flower. Part of his “Energy Flows” series, the work relates to the ancient doctrine of signature theory that certain plants resemble the effect they have on humans. Humeau’s poppy rests like a sleeping head whose seeds burst like a web of dreams.
Artist, poet and activist vanessa german is well versed in art as a form of personal and social healing. She often uses her art to challenge the effects of historical and current injustices, racism and sexism. In his works on display at Kasmin’s booth, German features small figurative sculptures made of various found objects and materials, including seashells, earrings, braids and keys.
An art fair that gives back
After two tumultuous years for people around the world, a spirit of charity also permeated this year’s edition in the form of three non-profit stalls selling art at a bargain price to raise funds. RxART, an organization that partners with some of the biggest names in contemporary art to bring art into hospitals, features works by Loie Hollowell, Derrick Adams and Harold Ancart. The stand also presents a playful and pink installation by Nicolas Party that links the space to the artist’s project at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.
Raising funds for the Coalition for the Homeless, Artware Editions presents its Artist Plate Project, which puts iconic artworks by Joel Mesler and Carmen Herrera on dishes. On the other side of the mezzanine, Creative Growth, a non-profit organization that supports artists with intellectual disabilities, presented a selection of abstract and vibrant works by Nicole Storm. Exuding a palpable energy, Storm’s practice has a performative element stemming from her constantly moving creative process, not in a studio, but rather as she moves through her daily life.
While art fairs are notorious for exhausting visitors, Independent was refreshing and inspiring. The works on display told stories, challenged stories, and invited the viewer to ask questions other than “Is it available?” »
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