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UN-Frieze at Frieze: Fresh uses of color, abundant art by women, and more emerging artists than ever before


Katherine Bernhardt, "Pac Man, Tacos, Toilet paper" (2016), acrylic and spray paint on canvas 72 in. x 78 in. (Image courtesy of Canada) 

By Jan Castro, MAY 2016

I walked into Frieze thinking: it’s not about art. It's about money, power, and the commodification of art. Yet as soon as Megan Rooney’s "Act Natural - Glance At Your Phone" (2016) stole my heart, all I could see were the fresh uses of color, abundant art by women, and more emerging artists than I expected, notably at Salon 94 and Canada where the images were bold and the prices were relatively affordable in contrast to Lisa Yuksavage’s $900,000 naked giant-breasted lady with spindly legs. Yuksavage’s three biggest works were already sold, but they were not the artist’s best; they were commodities. In contrast, Cecily Brown has a painting about Vanity that casts women in a different light, as do her other works at the Flag Foundation. Nicole Eisenman’s "Coping," along with a whole floor full of her exciting art – is at the New Museum. The Brown and Eisenman works are quite different from each other but each has a distinctive, intimate style that engages the viewer and brings forward issues of identity we all face. This intimacy, which seems on view everywhere in New York, is what seems new.

Barbara Bloom, "Lolita Carpet" (1999), wool carpet, 243.8 cm. x 152.4 cm., 1/2 AP edition of 15 (Courtesy of Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan, Italy)

On Thursday afternoon, the fair was not crowded and dealers were friendly. At Canada’s booth near the North entrance, Phil Grauer related that the booth had been curated by artist Katherine Bernhardt, who carpeted the space with a crazy quilt of small colorful rugs and invited less established artists to bring in colorful work by artists not represented in New York: Adrian Rubenstein, Alicia Gibson, Jason Stopa, and Marcus Jahmal. Grauer noted that this risk paid off well enough to more than cover the cost of the booth – over $50,000 –“kind of sweet to see young artists excited to be showing at this highfalutin event.”

Barbara Bloom’s "Lolita Carpet" and Tracey Emin’s "You Held Me like the Sky" appealed to me for their tactile, handmade qualities. In fact, I liked Emin’s unique embroidery more than her original drawings even if she didn’t do the embroidery herself.

Tracey Emin, "You held me like The Sky" (2015), embroidered calico 63 3/4 in. x 77 5/16 in. (Courtesy of Xavier Hufkens Gallery, Brussels, Belgium)

I don’t know why I saw so many works from 1974-78! Mel Edward’s yellow painted welded steel sculpture "Dancing in Nigeria" (1974-78), was airy and suggested movements in all directions (Alexander Gray Associates). Maurizio Cattelan’s exhibition of a donkey and a chandelier caused the closure of the Daniel Newburg Gallery in ’74, but seemed benign here. Cattelan’s endorsement of the Andra Ursuta’s exhibition at the New Museum is far more exciting: “Andra Ursuta is intended for those suffering from moderate to acute banality and can help prevent certain forms of bourgeois sarcoma.”*Polaroids of Michael Auder masturbating and other photos, at $18,000 for each framed set of four, were dated and from 1978.

Megan Rooney, "Act Natural - Glance At Your Phone" (2016), mixed-media on canvas, 141.3 in. x 194 in. (Courtesy of Seventeen, London)

At artist Sean Raspet’s minimalist booth, healthy-looking folks wearing artist Nhu Duong’s microfiber garments (that can be washed "without water") were handing out white bottles of Soylent, a drink that provides all daily nutrition and is not yet on the market (soylent.com/frieze). I didn’t like the first taste, but the second day, this health drink hit the spot. I think they’ll add labels and flavors if/when the drink hits the market.

Some things that seemed pretentious were a wooden teepee shape at one entrance and Ai Weiwei’s limited-edition stainless steel bicycle whose white seat is embossed with Ai’s face – it just seems silly to me to be sitting on someone’s face on a bicycle. Too much to see all over town, but the new mood is the opposite of heavy metal, pretension, and power. WM

*From Ursuta, New Museum, 2016, p. 28.

Jan Castro

Jan Garden Castro is a contributing editor for Sculpture Magazine (17 cover stories) and blogs at sculpture.org. She has curated exhibitions for IAA (International Arts & Artists), Jane V. Zimmerli Museum, JAMA (Japan Association of Art Museums), and ICPNA (Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano – Lima). Her books include The Art & Life of Georgia O’Keeffe, Sonia Delaunay: La Moderne, and The Last Frontier. Her work has appeared in The Nation, American Poetry Review, and American Book Review.

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