Fair  May 8, 2024  Paul Laster

Previewing Independent Art Fair’s 15th New York Edition

Photography by Alexa Hoyer, Courtesy Independent New York, 2023.

Independent New York, photography by Alexa Hoyer.

Celebrating its 15th anniversary, Independent returns to Spring Studios in Tribeca—New York’s liveliest arts district—for the 2024 edition of the art fair, featuring works by more than 130 artists presented by over 85 galleries and nonprofits. Nominated by Independent’s founding curatorial advisor, Matthew Higgs, exhibitors are presenting solo, duo, and group shows highlighting artists from multiple generations and diverse cultural backgrounds across four floors from May 9th to 12th.

Photo by Ed Mumford, Courtesy of Lily Stockman and Charles Moffett, New York

Lily Stockman, Border of Camellias, 2024. Oil on linen, 14" x 11" (35.56 cm x 27.94 cm). Photo by Ed Mumford, Courtesy the artist and Charles Moffett, New York

Making this anniversary exceptional, Higgs and Independent founder, Elizabeth Dee, are co-curating a special-focused presentation, titled “15 x 15: Independent 2010-2024,” which features artists and galleries who have made a significant impact on the fair’s history— Alice Mackler, Peter Nadin, and Martín Ramírez among them.

Including infotainment in the mix, Independent is launching its inaugural live program of thought-provoking discussions and screenings of experimental film, video, and media artworks from the 1960s as part of the 15-year celebration. The May 11th conversation between Higgs, Director & Chief Curator of White Columns, and Roberta Smith, Former Co-Chief Art Critic of The New York Times, promises to be one of the most popular talks, while the presentation of Kusama’s Self-Obliteration, a 1967 film by Jud Yalkut, should also draw a large crowd.

“The reason we started the fair is biennial culture was beginning to incorporate younger voices, which was a huge opportunity for gallerists of my generation to put forward institutional validity in the early part of an artist’s career,” Elizabeth Dee shared with Art & Object

Courtesy of Olivia Jia and Margot Samel, New York

Olivia Jia, "Page unfolded" (common kingfisher), 2024. Oil on panel, 11" x 8.5" (27.94 cm x 21.59 cm).

Dee continued, “Their best work was being made for those venues, but not necessarily for convention centers, where most fairs took place. I was doing Art Basel and Frieze as an exhibitor, but some of my artists didn't fit their formats. And it wasn't just me. There was an intergenerational group of gallerists, who thought the existing fair format was limiting and uninspiring to artists. We needed to find a format that benefited us collectively and that artists would want to make work for. The idea was a collective exhibition model that would be a selling show concept, somewhere between a fair and a biennial.”

Courtesy Romane de Watteville and Ciaccia Levi, Paris and Milan

Romane de Watteville, À Table avec les Satyres, 2024. Oil on canvas, 31.5" x 23.625" x 0.75" (80.01 cm x 60.01 cm x 1.91 cm). Courtesy the artist and Ciaccia Levi, Paris and Milan

Dee suggested that Art & Object visit three New York-based artists, who would be exhibiting at Independent, to find out what’s happening in the city’s studios now. Following her proposal, we met with Glenn Goldberg, Jane Swavely, and Reginald Sylvester II to learn more about their work and find out what their galleries would present at Independent.

A seasoned artist with more than 50 solo shows since 1985, Glenn Goldberg makes meditative paintings and works on paper inspired by an amalgamation of spiritualist cultures, which he has absorbed through his travels and years of research at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and other art institutions. 

Blurring the line between abstraction and figuration, the graphic paintings in Goldberg’s current An Other Place series—presented at the fair in the shared space of The Approach from London and Los Angeles’s Chris Sharp Gallery—depict repeated, ghostly images of birds in imaginary landscapes, where everything is composed from thousands of tiny painted dots, which sublimely recall stitches in woven textiles.

“This series is titled An Other Place because I'm interested in what happens in isolation if we use our imagination and try to make sustained works,” Goldberg told Art & Object. “A lot of these works have to do with staying engaged with them long enough so they feel like they are worthy of their existence. It's also a crusade against expedients—moving too quickly—and about a devotional practice—all these words are somewhat objectionable in our community, so I use them carefully. But in truth, it does have to do with a non-repressive platform. People say the works are idiosyncratic, but self-acceptance brings you to an idiosyncratic place. I enjoy being in the studio and making these things.” 

Courtesy of Glenn Goldberg and The Approach, London x Chris Sharp Gallery, Los Angeles

Glenn Goldberg, An Other Place (4), 2023. Acrylic and pencil on canvas, 72" x 48" (182.88 cm x 121.92 cm).

A mid-career artist, Jane Swavely was trained as a figurative artist at Boston University College of Fine Arts, where Philip Guston had been influential and Brice Marden had studied. Working with Marden from 1980 to 1985, Swavely moved into a loft on The Bowery, where she still lives, to pursue her painting practice. 

Swavely had her first solo show at age 25 at CDS Gallery in 1986 and continued to be represented by the gallery for 20 years before becoming a member of A.I.R, a legendary, female-run space for women artists founded in the 1970s. Here, she exhibited her atmospheric abstractions exploring light, landscape, and intuitive mark-making from 2011 to 2022. Earlier this year, Swavely had her first solo show with Magenta Plains, who is presenting her paintings at the fair alongside British minimalist painter Alan Uglow, who also lived and worked on The Bowery until passing in 2011. 

Photo by Jacob Holler/ Clare Gatto, Courtesy of Yasue Maetake and Nina Johnson, Miami

Yasue Maetake, 小袖 (kosode), 2022. 9" x 6" x 5" (22.86 cm x 15.24 cm x 12.7 cm). Photo by Jacob Holler/ Clare Gatto, Courtesy the artist and Nina Johnson, Miami

“The paintings are reductive but not minimalist,” said Swavely. “Until 2018, they were gestural landscapes. I wanted to get away from that very romantic tradition. I made a concerted effort to make the work that wasn’t about landscape, but the color subconsciously comes from going Upstate, and the light—a cold gray light—comes from living on The Bowery. I sail a lot, so time on the water has definitely influenced me—the luminosity of light on the water. I also love film. There's a screen-like element to the paintings, in the way movies are shot and the composition of the shots. I'm looking at a screen every day. Whether it's my computer or Instagram or looking at images, the light comes from behind the screen. With some of my paintings, I feel like the light is coming from behind the canvas.”

An emerging artist interested in trying to find new ways to make paintings and to create hybrid works that combine the painterly with the sculptural, Reginald Sylvester II has experimented with a variety of different painting styles to get to the reductive abstractions he is making today.

Courtesy of Jane Swavely and Magenta Plains, New York

Jane Swavely, Silver OID #4, 2022. Oil on canvas, 90" x 90" (228.6 cm x 228.6 cm).

Born in California and schooled in San Francisco, Sylvester found a steadfast supporter for his work with his first solo outing at Maximillian William in 2019. Moving from abstract expressionist canvases and color field paintings to paintings with cutout areas exposing their structural supports and minimalist monochromes in unconventional materials, the New York-based artist keeps expanding the limits of how he works. This is evident in the two new metal paintings made with aluminum blackener on sheets of aluminum mounted on aluminum stretcher bars on view at the fair.

Photo by Daniel Greer, Painting by Reginald Sylvester II, Maximillian William, London

Reginald Sylvester II, Welded Tribute, 2024. Aluminum blackener on aluminum, 66" x 90" x 1.375" (167.64 cm x 228.6 cm x 3.49 cm) Edition 3 + 1AP. Photo by Daniel Greer, The artist and Maximillian William, London

“When I moved to New York, my first experience with abstract painting was going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, seeing works by Clyfford Still and Willem de Kooning for the first time,” Sylvester disclosed. 

He continued, “I was, and still am, a young artist but I was a less experienced artist. I've always wanted to make abstract paintings, to find a new way to make an abstract painting. My career thus far has been me trying to find my voice within that space. In 2019, I found a doorway to walk through that led me to that. I have a lot of interest in painting—in terms of the surface, in terms of materiality, in terms of picture-making, in its entirety.” 

Surveying the remaining artworks being presented by the other artists and galleries, we’ve selected our favorite pieces by five emerging, mid-career and established artists working in diverse styles and media. At Margot Samel’s Independent space, Olivia Jia makes trompe-l’oeil paintings that reference objects and art histories that relate to the artist’s cultural background as the child of Chinese immigrants. Lily Stockman paints color-saturated, abstract canvases inspired by desert landscapes, Buddhist thangka paintings, and rural American gardens and hay fields at Charles Moffett.

Courtesy Kerry Schuss Gallery, New York

Alice Mackler, Untitled, 2023. Glazed ceramic, 9" x 8" x 7.5" (22.86 cm x 20.32 cm x 19.05 cm). Presented in the exhibition 15x15: Independent 2010-2024.

At Ciaccia Levi, Romane de Watteville’s canvases focus on the artist's domestic life with singular and multi-frame images of table settings and bedroom scenes filled with fantasy. Alice Mackler, who passed at age 92 earlier this year, will have a selection of her funky ceramic figures in the fair’s 15x15 exhibition (presented by Kerry Schuss Gallery), while Yasue Maetake has a standing abstract figure made from tree branches, seashells, bones, and other odd materials to resemble a grasshopper in Nina Johnson’s group show benefitting emerging and mid-career artists who identify as mothers.

Spotlighting artists from other places who haven’t had a chance to show in New York, providing emerging artists the opportunity to make their exhibition debuts in the city and presenting established artists whose careers are due for critical and market reassessment, Independent has been at the forefront of showing how properly curated art fairs have played—and should continue to play—an important role in shaping New York’s cultural landscape.

About the Author

Paul Laster

Paul Laster is a writer, editor, curator, advisor, artist, and lecturer. New York Desk Editor for ArtAsiaPacific, Laster is also a Contributing Editor at Raw Vision and Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art and a contributing writer for Art & Object, OculaGalerie, ArtsySculptureTime Out New YorkConceptual Fine Arts, and Two Coats of Paint. Formerly the Founding Editor of Artkrush, he began The Daily Beast’s art section and was Art Editor at Russell Simmons’ OneWorld Magazine. Laster has also been the Curatorial Advisor for Intersect Art & Design and an Adjunct Curator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, now MoMA PS1.

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