Independent NY Photo Story

Featuring over forty international galleries and non-profit organizations, this year’s edition of Independent New York is currently on view through Sunday 6 March in its new Tribeca location.


Walking through the seventh iteration of the Independent, one senses throughout the work on display hints of a recognition of the vast chasm that separates the interior politics of the art world from today’s dour broader political climate.

Unseated by a condominium development at its old location, the fair has decamped to more uniform digs, but at certain moments, a kind of self-awareness begins to set in. At Mitchell-Innes and Nash’s booth, a large L-shaped coffin occupied much of the floor. Playing the sound of a flag burning, William Pope.L’s Coffin (Flag Box) (2008) rests on a copy of The Birth of Nations, a seemingly invented novel whose presence makes an apt gesture to the political discord and overt racism that has become a central theme within the national political conversation. At Paula Cooper, meanwhile, a Justin Matherly sculpture of an eagle with a snake in its mouth, starkly presented with a rough edging typical of Matherly’s work, offered a degraded image of power that surged with the beginnings of a nefarious narrative—an image, perhaps coincidentally, used on the national flag of Mexico.

Elsewhere, there were more moments of whimsy that eschewed the domineering seriality characteristic of so many modern art fairs. Jared Madere’s untitled sculpture occupied the floor of David Lewis, a sprawling work on a plastic tarp complete with lit sparklers, colored salts and flowers. Equal parts roadside memorial and ersatz altar, it manifested a degree of kinetic fancy unusual in such a mercantile environment.

Steps away, Neue Alte Brücke presented a suite of works by painter Julien Nguyen, the luxurious strokes and colorful, gestural elaborations of his works simmering with romantic energy. Wrought with gothic fantasy, the pieces appeared as welcomely idiosyncratic in relation to the usual aesthetic dominance of abstraction. The same was true of a suite of drawings by Karl Wirsum, on display in a collaborative booth by Jay Gorney and Derek Eller. Recovered from the artist’s attic, the Chicago Imagist’s colorful drawings tread into weird and psychedelic territory. Some were familiar from their inclusion in the “What Nerve!” exhibition at Matthew Marks last summer, undoubtedly one of the best gallery shows of that season.

Colorful palettes were out in full force this year: Peter Saul’s garish works at Venus presented a refreshingly loud political pastiche, while chaotic paintings by Bendix Harms offered invigoratingly crude scenes of animals in dense color, the images inscribed with various, seemingly non-sensical phrases. Taken together, the works on display were welcomely eclectic and hewed close to the format of mini-exhibitions.

Other booths displayed an attention to manipulations of technology. Peres Projects displayed large wall pieces by Donna Huanca that fuse printed images of the human body with large strokes of paint that drape across her canvases. Elsewhere, at Stuart Shave Modern Art, a suite of “Hater Headlights” by Yngve Holen, wall-mounted pieces made from scooter headlights, evince an air of elite inapproachability coupled with a technical elegance that echoed the fair’s sleek new setting, but also carried with it an air of apt critique to the machinations of the art world itself. Standing in front of the works for a long time, I could feel the heat pulsing out of the headlights and began to think about the heavy atmosphere of frantic commerce, and of the larger, uncertain environs in which all of this was occurring.

(Alexander Shulan)


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