"The Best Art In The World"
By J. SCOTT ORR May, 2023
Frieze New York, the spring season’s essential, trend-defining gathering of the art world’s top creators, curators, collectors and other influencers, is underway showcasing striking new work that suggests an emergence from pandemic induced artistic malaise, sans sequela.
This 11th iteration of Frieze New York, which opened for previews Thursday at The Shed at Hudson Yards, features the latest from hundreds of artists, represented by nearly 70 leading galleries from 27 countries. The sold-out event, which runs through Sunday, is ennobled by a strong presence from women, artists of color, and emerging creatives. It is a continuation of the arc that has brought Frieze New York to the very pinnacle of global contemporary art events.
The venerable art world elites – Gagosian, Pace, Hauser & Wirth, David Zwirner
and the like – are represented, or course. But so too are smaller galleries, like Tiwani Contemporary, Company Gallery, and Derosia, as part of the event’s Focus section, which is dedicated to galleries under 12 years old showing solo exhibitions.
Here are a few highlights from this year’s show:
Naudline Pierre is a Brooklyn-based artist whose current work deals in themes of spirituality, salvation, doubt, drama and the enduring clash between good and evil, heaven and hell. Presented by New York’s James Cohan Gallery, her work at Frieze is rife with angelic female figures, often facing threat from fire, celestial currents and swirling lurkers. They are action-packed tableaus, alive with movement and emotion.
The daughter of a Haitian minister, Pierre’s lovesome characters dwell in mysterious, otherworldly panoramas, where they appear at once innocent and haunted. Her protagonists are harried by flames, or by flying harpies, as they pursue their undefined missions amid clouds and cross-shaped stars.
Her 2023 piece oil and oil stick Teach Me How, for example, takes place in a bright orange landscape, a super-heated fantasy realm between heaven and hell. The canvas is alive with bird-like female forms observing the shadowy protagonist as she covers her face with her arm. Overlooking all this is a winged visage, a benevolent, ethereal sentinel of sorts.
Pierre holds an MFA from the New York Academy of Art and a BFA from Andrews University. Her works have been shown in New York, London, Los Angeles, and Seoul and are in museum collections in Dallas, Miami, Kansas City, and Shanghai.
Scott Lyall is a Toronto-based artist who creates dreamy abstracts that suggest reflection, timelessness, spatial infinity and evolution. Lyall harnesses technology to create halcyon works that are warm and calm, far from the gelid innervation their machine paternity might suggest. The work is presented by Miguel Abreu Gallery of New York.
Talents, a 2023 series of works, appear at first as mushy, monochromatic fogscapes, differing only slightly one to the next. But on closer study, the pieces come to life as the subtle color variations and muted shadows become more and more pronounced. This awakening effect is enhanced as the differences between the works in the series become apparent, like looking at the individual frames of a movie before seeing the whole.
Each Talent is made up of two sheets of glass, one a mirror the other a blank sheet printed on the inside with a software-generated progression of colored pixels. The pieces are then cropped by the artist, which Lyall describes as a “cut into the infinite” that scales the work. The work is completed by the addition, by hand, of gel medium and nanoparticles of gold.
Lyall earned his MFA from the California Institute of the Art. His work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Jack Whitten, the late National Medal of Arts Award winner and civil rights champion, is represented in a diverse series of works from across his illustrious career presented by New York’s Hauser & Wirth. Rendered mostly in black, white and shades of gray, the works are geometric and amorphous, constructivist and organic, often symmetric, but always interesting in their timeless nod to Whitten’s abstract expressionist roots.
The selection of works worthily explores Whitten’s ceaseless drive to experiment and evolve his practice over six decades. That it is largely in black and white hews to Witten’s civil rights commitment and pride: “Getting rid of all the chroma and taking it to black and white is not just a formal exercise. I’m very much aware of the meaning of black and white in American society, which informs who I am as an African American,” he once said.
Soul Space VII, is a 1984 oil and acrylic piece consisting of seemingly random geometric shapes tumbling in a maelstrom towards the canvas's center. It is endowed with a sense of order, though, by a light blue circle that traces the outline of the piece, reminiscent of a vintage celestial navigation chart.
A native of Alabama, Whiten relocated to New York in 1960 and studied at Cooper Union. Among his best known works is Black Monolith Series, which drew on his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement to create an enduring homage to Black activists, politicians and artists. The New York Times called him the father of a "new abstraction." Whitten was awarded the 2015 National Medal Of Arts Award by then-President Obama. He died at 78 in 2018.
Emma Prempeh, a British painter with roots in the Caribbean, brings a series of brooding, introspective pieces that pivot on themes of family, home, love, nostalgia and reflection. Her themes occur amid dark, intimate interiors with strategically placed flashes of golden luminescence.
The works, presented by the London-based Tiwani Contemporary, were created in London and Kampala in 2023 and explore the artist's Caribbean upbringing, Ghanaian heritage and recent exploration of Uganda and its capital city.
Typical is Steal the Rum Cake from the Kitchen, a 2023 oil, acrylic and schlag metal work in which three generations of women share smiles and drinks as they collaborate on a kitchen creation. A young boy observes in apparat anticipation of a taste, or perhaps a heist. The protagonist in the foreground wears a golden scarf, suggesting royalty and empowerment. The piece includes muted abstract touches here and there, giving it a dream-like quality that suggests the passage of time.
Prempeh graduated from Goldsmiths University of London before earning an MA in painting from the Royal College of Art. Her work has shown in London, Amsterdam, Lagos and elsewhere. WM
Sam Lipp is a New York artist who draws and paints on steel. He uses this unusual medium to explore themes of sexuality, control, repression, failure and submission, through the depiction of disembodied faces and torsos in various states of restraint and discomfort.
Presented by Derosia of New York, Lipp uses a variety of techniques to render his subjects upon the cold, unforgiving surface, including the use of steel wool to create impasto dots of oil paint, or pencil drawing to create light play between the steel and the graphite.
In the 2023 work Joe (Flesh), Lipp employs the steel wool technique to render a subject’s head and neck, seemingly restrained with one side of his face caressing a dark surface, perhaps a floor. Restraint is further suggested by a pair of screws piercing the subject's neck, vampire-like. Joe speaks to mechanized repression and hard wired constraints. Scratches in the metal around the screws suggested attempted, but failed, escape, perhaps with a helper.
Lipp, who directs the New York gallery Queer Thoughts, earned a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work, which includes painting, drawing, sculpture, video and photography, has shown in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Paris, London and elsewhere.
Tosh Basco is an abstract expressionist painter and performance artist whose visual art work addresses themes of bewilderment and wonder through pieces that exude speed, action and movement. Her work is presented by New York’s Company Gallery.
In the news, a 2022 oil and pigment work, there is scarcely a moment to consider one portion of the piece before another element jumps to the fore and assaults the viewer. There are accelerating and nimble black and white swirls intermingled with organic, growing greens and fiery, feathered reds, all flowing and swirling amid suggestions of words rendered in some unknown, science-fiction script.
A native of California, Basco currently lives and works in Zürich, Switzerland. In addition to her visual art, Basco also is known for her gender-bending performance art under the stage name boychild, who “uses posthuman performance strategies to communicate meaning through combinations of body, voice and technology.” Her work has shown in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, London, Venice, Sydney and Zürich.
Scott Orr is a career writer, editor and a recovering political journalist. He is publisher of the East Village art magazine B Scene Zine. He can be reached via @bscenezine, bscenezine.com, or email@example.com all articles from this author