Art Fairs 2009, New York

2009 found NYC without the hotel art fairs of previous years (not enough participants) and so, this year’s shows were an unexpected mix of familiar and not so familiar faces from NYC and SF, and galleries from Europe and South America.

Our first stop was BridgeArtFair in Chelsea, as we had a few galleries we wanted to see in the neighborhood as well. I’m not sure if it is a reflection of the economy or the last minute shuffle in the absence of the hotel fairs, but Bridge had the feel of a street art fair where the bar is set low and anything goes. Adding to sense that Bridge was not the venue of choice, was the fact that there was no line to get in. The venue was a straight shot from one end to the other and the presentation felt anemic and last minute. We found ourselves wondering if that was all there was to see when we reached the end of the corridor. Happily, it gave us more time to go straight uptown to the Lincoln Center where SCOPE was being held.

In contrast to our first stop, SCOPE was great. There were lines to get in and the work was surprisingly high quality. A number of my favorite galleries were represented including ada gallery, David B Smith, Jonathan Levine, Lincart and Shooting Gallery to name a few.  As always, David B. Smith out of Denver had some great work on view including a wall of smaller works by Gregory Euclid (who we recently saw at MASS MoCA) and a beautiful little gouache painting by Oliver Vernon.

Siren Song by Oliver Vernon

Next we went to Volta (the ugly kid sister of the Armory Show) which had a strange energy seemingly fueled by a desire to be “cooler” than thou. Silly sights included a topless woman directing patrons as they rummaged through a pile of yarn looking for $500 necklaces (by Surasi Kusolwong), an installation that consisted mostly of pieces of cardboard crudely lettered with magic marker and plants that one was instructed to direct negative thoughts towards. None of this was particularly compelling. Volta was also the site of a number of examples of the “flavor of the month” which right now seems to be either macramé (guns, hammocks, etc), neon text in various configurations and china (military, peasant worker or tweaked silk paintings).

Alejandro Diaz

The next day, we happily set aside a fair amount of time for PULSE, which was seemingly the largest of the fairs that we attended and as high a quality as SCOPE. There was a queue at the ticket counter in advance of the noon opening and people seemed excited about the show (especially given that it was the Sunday morning after the dreaded daylight savings time change). We watched a bit of little league soccer while waiting to get in. One of the highlights from the show was a series of gorgeous drawings at Morgan Lehman Gallery by Eric Beltz (and I spotted a really great little painting by Andrew Schoultz behind the desk).

By This Axe I Rule by Eric Beltz

Pollution Hole Explosion by Andrew Schoultz

Other gallery highlights include Richard Heller Gallery out of Santa Monica with works by Edward del Rosario, Mixed Greens Gallery of NYC with Alessandra Exposito’s painted skulls and P.P.O.W. with a lovely little set by Dottie Attie and finally, the incomparable Julie Heffernan at Catherine Clark Gallery.

Edward del Rosario

Self Portrait as Big World by Julie Heffernan


New work for February


Woodshed 2: The next 100 hours at MCLA Gallery 51

Photos from the event:
Video from the event:

After a well-received inaugural exhibition in January 2007, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) once again will bring together dozens of artists from Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, California and Wisconsin for a five-day marathon of art-making as Gallery 51 and the MCLA Gallery 51 Annex are transformed into temporary artist workshops for assemblage and experimentation.

The exhibition then will be curated and installed over a single day, with an opening reception to be held on Tuesday, Jan. 20, from 5 to 7 p.m., in MCLA Gallery 51.


Sketchbook Journal

I frequently find that people are as interested in the process by which my paintings come together as they are by the imagery itself. The work almost always begins with an ongoing process of collecting imagery, almost like collecting the words for a poem. I often think back to the refrigerator magnet poetry, which encourages you to imbue words with additional meaning by selection and connection.

All of these images are stored in my sketchbook, which I have with me almost wherever I go, and I make connections between those images, reinterpret them, describe and explore them in the books.


Wall painting at Kolok Gallery – 2008

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Mapping the Invisible: Recent Work by Melissa Lillie and Joshua Field


ArtSlant interviews Joshua Field

Interview with Joshua Field

As part of the Spring Collection 08, ArtSlant’s curated exhibit from the ArtSlant Community Profiles, Joshua Field was chosen along with four other artists to be showcased in the ArtSlant Rackroom. Spring Collection 08 includes: Joshua Field, Kristi Kent, Josephine Haden, Jeff Mclane, and Kathy Kelley.

Joshua Field, a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art (BFA-1996), lives and works in North Adams, MA. His paintings and drawings mix an abstract expressionist focus on surface with a wonderful sort of poetic storytelling. Joshua is represented by Kolok Gallery in Massachusettes, where his recent solo exhibition, WUNDERKAMMER, was on view from February 16 – March 12, 2008.

The ArtSlant Team corresponded with Joshua regarding his work, iconic imagery and current influences…

ArtSlant: What is your earliest memory of artmaking?

Joshua Field: Like most children, my scribbles were enshrined on the family refrigerator but I think that I didn’t really grow out of that phase the way most kids do. I was always engaged in looking closely at things and then taking them out of context. Even as a kid, I did plenty of collage using an old bottle of “Modge Podge” glue that my mother had laying around. I obsessively collected and assembled various bits of visual refuse. Later, I went to a high school for the arts as a visual arts major, at which point formal artmaking really started in earnest. In some ways, I’m always trying to get back to the more unencumbered way that children have of looking at images.

AS: Where do you go to see art? What have been some favorite shows recently?

JF: The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) one of the largest contemporary art museums in the U.S., is a10-minute walk from my studio here in the Berkshires and is a constant source of visual inspiration.

There are quite a few galleries in the (North Adams, MA) area, but I spend most of my gallery-hopping time in Chelsea in NYC. The recent Marcel Dzama show at David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea knocked my socks off with its beautifully dramatic dioramas. Andrew Schoultz’s new work at Morgan Lehman Gallery was amazingly intricate and wonderfully obsessive. I also just had work shown at Red Dot art fair in NYC with Brenda Taylor Gallery and I really enjoyed seeing West Coast galleries that I wouldn’t otherwise get to see. Jack Fischer Gallery out of San Francisco had a lot of really great work at the fair.

AS: In the studio, what’s your day look like?

JF: All of my paintings originate from a sort of playful daily fieldwork I do in my sketchbook/journal, pasting in images, photographs and clippings, and then drawing connections between them or dissecting them. It is important for me to see how images change dramatically based on their context. For instance, the silhouette of a battleship changes its connotation dramatically just by tilting it 45 degrees. My studio is very much an extension of my sketchbook, packed with books ranging from first aid manuals to field guides, baggies filled with clipped images, print-outs taped to the wall. I find it to be a compelling process because, in some sense, every new thread of connection that is forged between these symbols opens up a new world. It’s somewhat like theater, creating characters and circumstances, anticipating their interactions and discovering surprising ways in which they might interact.

AS: What influences are you drawing from currently?

JF: I’ve always been interested in poetry; in the way that it references incongruous ideas and assembles them, sometimes tilted on their ear, forcing new associations. I recently acquired a set of old Golden Home and High School illustrated encyclopedias from the 60’s which are amazing. They bring together a crazy collection of illustrations that, when taken out of context, have very little direct connection to one another, and yet create fantastic visual clues. I’m currently using selections of that imagery in a ten-foot long narrative painting which unfolds over four canvases.

AS: Are your stories mythical, autobiographical? Can you give us some clues as to your imagery?

JF: I vividly remember reading Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell while I was in college at the Maryland Institute College of Art and realizing that my work was inextricably connected to the world of myth. I then began exploring the idea that images were loaded with archetypal meaning. My goal is to have my paintings work on multiple levels, going beyond autobiographical and tapping into the broader associations that people might see in the work. Some see the work as literary in that way, like Fitzgerald’s use of the green light as signifying something hoped for. Certainly, some recurring characters hold specific meaning for me, such as the stag and deer representing innocence and protection, or the battleship representing aggression. But I enjoy when people bring their own interpretation to the work instead of looking for a key by which to decipher it.

AS: What is the magic moment for you as an artist?

JF: The magic moment for me is that eureka instant when certain relationships in the painting click into place, when I discover some fundamental truth in the connections between visual elements. Often, I find myself surprised that an assumed connotation actually holds some deeper meaning, revealing some aspect of my world view that I had not yet discovered. Of course, there are bumps in the road, especially as the layering of imagery in my work has grown in complexity and there are times when I feel like asking all of the elements in a painting to just step off-stage for a while. But then, some of the most interesting and provoking moments come from the obscuring or partially obscuring an element in an editing process.

AS: Reading? Looking? Listening?

JF: Reading Jeanette Winterson’s new novel “The Stone Gods”. I fell in love with her work after reading “Art & Lies” and “Gut Symmetries” a few years ago. Looking at the 1961 Golden Book Encyclopedia of Natural Science; listening to Joanna Newsom’s album Y’s. Her lyrical imagery is absolute genius.

AS: Thanks Joshua! We look forward to seeing more of your work on ArtSlant.


NYC Hotel Art Fairs – RedDot and ArtNow 2008

This year’s NYC hotel-based art fairs, RED DOT (where I had work shown through Brenda Taylor Gallery) and ART NOW, were an interesting mix of the easy and the challenging, the sophisticated and the repetitive. Chinese art was very well represented, sometimes overwhelmingly so. The prolific Hung Liu, represented by Nancy Hoffman and whose work I quite like, was seen frequently seen and unfortunately frequently imitated. Such seems to be the way with the Chinese market at the moment, and I heard more than one gallerist talking about “academy trained” and “soviet influenced”.In the way of repetition, there were far too many paintings consisting solely of big, bright splotches on glossy surfaces. Now, these may look good in a hotel lobby, but they come across as cheap commodity rather than serious art, particularly when they seem to pop up in every other room one visits. Paintings of this sort didn’t seem to show up in the fair marketing materials, so I can only assume the galleries grudgingly brought them along for the interior decorators who would inevitable scoop them up for corporate clients.

On the other end of the spectrum, there was some particularly strong work to be seen in a number of rooms. My favorite gallery in either venue was Jack Fischer Gallery who was showing some strong work including wonderful little paintings on sheetrock and other construction materials from Caleb Duarte and poetic drawings by John Hundt.

Another highlight of the fair was the work found in Stephen Romano’s unpretentiously presented space at the ArtNow fair. Steve carries outsider art but definitely has an eye toward the current scene. What caught my eye when walking in was a gorgeous Jeff Soto (not for sale) mounted in front of the television, not two feet away from an original Henry Darger. The Soto was the one from the front page of his website and there was something really compelling about seeing these two disparate works in such close proximity.

Steve also introduced me to the work of Charles Dellschau, an intense outsider artist from the late 1800’s who produced an incredible body of work (one of the the earliest coherent bodies of visionary art) and whose brilliant watercolors were truly fantastic.

Finally, it was wonderful to see the lush, complex works of Josh Keyes and Gregory Euclide at the Limited Addiction space. Euclide’s work is hard to gain a full appreciation for online but in person it was thrillingly nuanced (incidentally, he will be shown at MASS MoCA soon). Likewise, the detail in some of Keyes’ paintings gets lost in reproduction and it was a pleasure to be able to spend time with the work in person

Emmy Cho at ABBA Fine art was also really great stuff.

Later that day, gallery hopping in Chelsea seemed like wandering in a ghost town compared to the fairs. The one exception to this solitude was the Marcel Dzama show ‘Even the Ghost of the Past at David Zwirner. Upon entering the gallery, it was easy to see why it was mobbed. Outside of the fact the Dzama has become a celeb-du-jour, the work was extraordinary and represented a clear directional step for him. On display were a number of paintings which held some connection to previous works but also incorporated a number of elements that referenced historical figures or events. This left the work more open to connection with various levels of meaning. Also displayed were sketchbook pages, and in comparison to his previously exhibited sketchbook, these were much cleaner, more studied and less frantic in their mark making (I preferred the prior for their obsessiveness). Walking into the almost pitch-black room of the back gallery was an extraordinary visual experience, with Museum of Natural History sized dioramas of Dzama’s signature figures gracing the walls. These dimly lit scenes were oddly quiet despite their often disturbingly twisted subject matter.

Perhaps most indicative of his new-found affinity for art historical reference was a peep hole installation which closely mirrored Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Etant Donnes’, in which the viewer looks through a peep hole in a wooden door to see a nude woman lying spread-eagle on her back against a landscape. That the Marcel of this century is so boldly referencing the Marcel of last century is a dramatic turn in his work. Dzama’s peep hole seems a sort of continuation of the same story, with new clues and actors introduced.

While the Dzama show thrilled the mobs of gallery-goers with its showmanship and whimsy, the immaculately installed presentation was a nice contrast to the hotel rooms of the fairs which were a difficult venue in which to view art. While some gallerists imported impressive structures to mask the room, others left beds and fixtures in place (it costs extra to remove the beds). However, the sub-par experience of viewing art in a hotel bathroom was largely outweighed by the thrill of seeing such a broad array of work such a compressed time.


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