By J. SCOTT ORR May, 2023
Getting a jump on the week-long celebration of contemporary art that will accompany the opening of Frieze New York next week, Independent Art Fair opens today (May 12) in Tribeca with a diverse selection of work from more than 120 artists and 74 galleries from around the world.
Some standouts include:
Elizabeth Schwaiger, whose paintings suggest themes of contrast, impulsivity, foreboding and abandonment, but with a light touch that tempers worry and conflict with a dose of optimism. Even at its most anodyne, her work imparts excitement, action, sometimes tension, through contrasting perspectives and the blending of styles.
In the 2023 piece Solipsism, for example, the Brooklyn-based Schwaiger renders the interior of a dining room, mixing reds and blues, along with organic shapes and shadows cast along geometric patterns. Overall, the piece draws expectation and optimism from chromatic dissimilitude. The pieces selected for the show are from a new body of work that reflects on Schwaiger’s experience at her 2022 Robert Rauschenberg Residency in Captiva, Florida.
Presented by New York’s Nicola Vassell Gallery, Schwaiger describes her practice as “research-based,” and says her art derives from “deep dives into power dynamics; human desires to create, collect, and those to hoard; political and environmental crises, psychology and ritual.”
Abe Odedina, whose bold and evocative paintings draw on influences from Haitian Vodoo to African studio photography to folk art, offers a series of works that somehow succeed as a mixture of Renaissance portraiture, surrealism and the pop art stylings of Peter Max. Presented by LA’s Diane Rosenstein Gallery, it is the Nigerian-British artist’s debut solo show.
With A Cherry on Top, a 2021 acrylic work on plywood, is a to-scale portrait rendered predominantly in black and white of a woman with a look of patient anxiety and displeasure on her face. Hope is suggested, though, by the verdure visible through her window and the red that pops up on her lips, fingernails, the rim of a coffee cup and the tiny cherry atop a white slice of cake on the table before her. Odedina calls his works “figurative propositions, devices to explore ideas around our shared humanity, the triumphs and tragedies of daily life.”
Trained as an architect, Odedina began his art practice after being exposed to the artistic traditions of Brazil when he moved there in 2007. He considers himself a folk artist, but at the same time questions the validity of the term “folk art” as a discrete category of expression.
Edie Fake, presented by the New York gallery Broadway, mixes bright colors, soft shapes and black backgrounds to bring urgency and consequence to a series of works that address themes of humanity, environmental anxiety, gender identity, fear and release.
Known for his Memory Palaces series based on the lost LGBTQ venues of Chicago and his comic-zine series about Gaylord Phoenix, the Illinois native moved his practice to Joshua Tree in the Mojave Desert where his work took on a more organic form.
In the 2021 piece Drought Conditions, for example, Fake portrays heat drawing vapor from a bowl filled with geometrics and faint suggestions of humanity while a pair of plant sentries stand to either side. It is at once dark and colorful, rendered in gouache on a black masonite panel. The style and technique are demonstrated across the series on display here.
Cecilia Fiona is a Copenhagen-based painter who uses a mixture of natural pigments and rabbit skin glue to create detailed works that depict dreamy, sometimes chaotic, scenes in soft pastels. Her use of a muted color palette and flowing brushstrokes suggest a blend of surrealism and art nouveau.
The 2023 piece In Touch, for example, depicts a couple prone in embrace wrapped in a blanket suggesting timelessness through its resemblance to the infinity symbol. They lie beneath a burning, spirited sun and a paisley sky with a lone angel gazing down upon them. Adding to the suggestion of universality and wholeness are florals and similar symbols hovering planet-like in the skyscape.
Presented by the London-based gallery VITRINE, Fiona’s exhibition extends into three dimensions, with works on folding screens and matching costumes for performers.
Ross Caliendo is an LA-based neo-Impressionism painter who melds the surrealistic with the natural to create richly textured works that leverage dream-like color variations in otherwise realistic depictions of woodlands and wildlife. The work is presented by Ross+Kramer of New York and East Hampton.
The 2022 piece Never Always, a work in oil and acrylic, is a forestscape rendered in a mix of natural browns and greens along with less realistic hues of red and blue. Organic shapes are juxtaposed against a series of lighter colored chads through the piece’s midriff. A march into the future is suggested as a fallen limb points the way into a hot-pink sun, a centerpiece that is counterbalanced by similar colored accents across the piece.
The Pittsburgh-born Caliendo’s earlier work tended toward the abstract until he turned toward wilderness scenes, trees, vegetation, wildlife and so forth as subjects for his studies in chromatic diversity and contrast. WM
Independent Art Fair runs through through May 14 515 W 27th Street