Fair  March 2, 2020  Paul Laster

The Art Show Sparkles with the Old and the New Once Again

Courtesy Jonathan Boos

George Tooker, Divers, 1952. Egg tempera on gesso panel. 12 x 18 in.

Distinguished for its jewel-box presentations of historically significant artists and desirable fresh faces to the art market, The Art Show returned to the Park Avenue Armory on New York’s Upper East Side for its 2020 edition with a remarkable new look. Featuring 72 selected exhibitors from its 180 gallery members in 30 American cities, the annual fair is one of the most anticipated events of the new art season.

© Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of the artist, Yancey Richardson, New York, and Stevenson Cape Town / Johannesburg.

Zanele Muholi, Tshatha VI, Umlazi, Durban, 2019. Gelatin silver print.

“We’ve brightened up the entrance and pulled back the carpet to make it as welcoming and exciting for people as possible,” Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) President Andrew L. Schoelkopf told Art & Object at the Gala Preview. “Removing the carpet and exposing the hardwood floor causes people to refresh between each booth, which supports our idea that every time you’re walking into a new booth you’re walking into a new show.”

Adding a sense of “wow” to the entrance, the first booth visitors saw offered Petzel Gallery’s dynamic presentation of Walead Beshty’s colorful series of abstract photograms displayed on darkened walls above one of the British artist’s mirrored floor installations, which glowingly captured people’s movement while cracking under their feet. Deeper into the hall, Yancey Richardson Gallery’s solo show of Zanele Muholi’s powerful black-and-white photographic self-portraits, which she shot in formerly colonized African countries, featured the celebrated South African artist wearing lively costumes imaginatively fashioned from indigenous exported materials.

© Estate of Martín Ramírez, Courtesy Ricco/Maresca Gallery

Martín Ramírez, Untitled (Trains and Tunnels), c. 1960-1963. Gouache, colored pencil, graphite on pieced paper. 20 x 89 in (50.8 x 226.1 cm).

Ricco/Maresca Gallery, one of the newest ADAA members, exhibited a strong selection of imaginary landscapes by the schizophrenic Mexican artist Martin Ramirez to highlight the crossover between self-taught and outsider art with contemporary and modern art, which could also be seen in Venus Over Manhattan’s tribute to Phyllis Kind, the pioneering Chicago and New York gallerist who was famous for showing the Chicago Imagists alongside self-taught artists. A highlight in Ricco/Maresca’s booth was a scrolling drawing of railroad trains and tunnels from the early 1960s, while Venus’s presentation of a group of small-scale rolling landscape drawings by Joseph Yoakum held their own with bigger, figurative works by William Copley and Jim Nutt.

Courtesy Gallery Wendi Norris

Remedios Varo, El otro reloj (detail), 1957. Gouache on cardboard. 14 5/8 × 9 7/16 in (37.1 × 24 cm).

Wendi Norris Gallery, which was also doing the fair for the first time, juxtaposed seminal works by two women surrealist artists who lived and worked in Mexico in the 1940s and ‘50s, British painter Leonora Carrington and Spanish painter and sculptor Remedios Varo, while Jonathan Boos presented a group of paintings with another representational point of view in the exhibition Psychological Realism: Painting a World Not Quite Aright. Standouts in Boos' booth included Paul Cadmus’s 1939 rowdy party painting, Seeing the New Year In, and George Tooker’s 1952 picture, Divers, which features an eerie self-portrait of the artist as a teenager swimming with friends, based on a childhood memory. 

Over the past decade, a majority of the fair’s exhibitors have chosen to present solo shows of new bodies of work by gallery artists or selections of pieces by a single artist from a range of years, and this year is no exception. P.P.O.W offered Ramiro Gomez’s paintings on magazine tear sheets, in which he inserted invisible immigrant laborers into glamorous—often art-filled—domestic settings, and left the paneled walls of the booth in their stripped down state while adding painted cardboard cutouts of the actual workers in the act of building out the fair.

Paul Laster

Installation view, Ramiro Gomez at P·P·O·W, New York, The Art Show 2020.

Further employing mediated imagery, Beverly Semmes blew up pages from soft-core porn magazines and funkily painted out parts to protect the exposed women in a group of canvases shown alongside her equally offbeat ceramics at Susan Inglett Gallery. Gideon Rubin, meanwhile, sourced sexy, faceless characters from films and magazines for his tightly cropped, gorgeously brushed paintings at Hosfelt Gallery.

Courtesy of the artist and Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco

Gideon Rubin, Untitled, 2019. Oil on linen. 39 x 39 in.

Nina Chanel Abney’s dynamically collaged monoprints depict life-size figures engaged in everyday activities to confrontationally comment on American social issues related to racial injustice with color and form in a series of new works at Pace Prints.

Paul Laster

Installation view, Nina Chanel Abney at Pace Prints, The Art Show 2020.

At James Cohan, Jordan Nassar takes a traditional, hand-embroidered Palestinian tatreez dress as the point of departure for a suite of his own embroidered canvases that transform the patterns on the found fabric into new, symbolic landscapes, which poetically reference a distant heritage and a homeland that can never be reclaimed.

Courtesy the artist and James Cohan

Jordan Nassar, waves of roses, 2020. Hand-embroidered cotton on Jobelan. 50 x 20 1/2 in (127 x 52.1 cm).

And going a bit deeper into the realm of abstraction, Donald Moffett uses fabric, zippers and paint to sublimely portray sexually suggestive imagery in a reductive manner on linen in a new suite of canvases, titled Fleisch, at Marianne Boesky Gallery.

courtesy Marianne Boesky Gallery

Donald Moffett, Lot 090307/20 (O, drop), 2007/2020. Signed, titled and dated in graphite (verso). Oil, cotton, aluminum, rabbit skin size, poly vinyl acetate on linen. 24 x 20 in (61 x 50.8 cm).

Not to be outdone by offerings of contemporary art, two additional solo exhibitions show why modernist women artists continue to inspire today’s creative practitioners. McClain Gallery had a salon hanging of Dorothy Hood’s 1980s abstract collages on mat board and canvas informed by Surrealist influences and the days she spent in Mexico in earlier times.

courtesy Cheim and Read

Alice Neel, NINTH AVENUE EL, 1935. Oil on canvas. 24 x 30 in (61 x 76.2 cm).

And Cheim and Read pulled out all the stops in its survey of paintings on paper and canvas from 1928 to 1962 by Alice Neel, who intimately captured the people and places in her life with a straightforward simplicity that still resonates with both tenderness and strength, in a presentation that conveyed The Art Show at its best.

About the Author

Paul Laster

Paul Laster is an artist, critic, curator, editor, and lecturer. He is a contributing editor at ArtAsiaPacific and Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art and writer for Time Out New York, Galerie Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, Architectural Digest, Cultured, Garage Magazine, Ocula, ArtPulse, Observer, Conceptual Fine Arts and Glasstire. He was Artkrush’s founding editor, started The Daily Beast's art section and was art editor of Russell Simmons’ Oneworld Magazine, as well as an Adjunct Curator of Photography at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, now MoMA PS1.

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