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Staten Island, New York, United States

Thursday, March 5, 2015

My Take on Pulse Contemporary Art Fair 2015

My amazing, supportive and generous arts council, Staten Island Arts, gave me a free ticket to the Private Preview Brunch for the Pulse Contemporary Art Fair today. I braved the heavy fog and snow and headed into Manhattan for it.
Staten Island Ferry, about 9:15 am
No, seriously, take a look at the view out the ferry windows.

The fair is at the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th St. this year. It's a smart choice, very accessible and small enough to be able to take in without succumbing from total exhaustion or requiring a meal stop halfway through.

As with most art fairs, there was plenty of overly large, glossy and clever art. Ho hum. But, I did find a few gems by artists who are brand new to me.

Okay, I did enjoy looking at the projected video pieces by Katja Loher at C24 Gallery's booth. They are definitely clever and very well executed.
Humans forming the letters with
their bodies in this small bowl

What I really liked was this gentleman at left juxtaposed
with the kind of silly spheres at right.

I am always drawn to handmade and well-crafted pieces, and of course collages, since that is my medium. This large collage on paper by Melissa Murray at Causey Contemporary caught my eye.

The gallery representative told me that this piece was connected to the artist's renovation of her parents' home. I could relate to the peeling wallpaper myself, being an owner of an old fix-me-upper. I did express my issue about the presentation, flimsy nails through the two top corners of the paper. The representative told me that the artist wanted it that way, to emphasize the "paperness" of the material and its transient nature. I just hope these pieces survive the art fair.

In the superb craftsmanship category, the small oil paintings of a single glass by Peter Dreher at Wagner + Partner were exquisite. This artist has been painting this glass daily since the '70's and scratches the number (this one is #2217) in the top of the painting. I was reminded of Morandi because of the tone, the stillness and the subject matter.

My absolute favorite artist was Joan Belmar, a man originally from Chile, whose work was in the Adah Rose Gallery. The works were about 6"x14". The blacks were intense supersaturated pigment and given the spherical forms, made me think of deep space. These were just scrumptious and deserve better representation than my bad photo here.

Nick Gentry, at C24 Gallery, made a couple of pieces using cleverly recycled materials. He painted some portraits in oil over used computer disks.

A better executed piece was this construction built from negatives, resin, and an aluminum lightbox.

At the Yuki-Sis booth, I met a young Japanese printmaker. His large woodcuts were masterful. When I first saw the work, I thought they were photographs. This is a detail of one of the woodcuts. I'm afraid I told the artist I thought he was a little crazy, because these prints are obsessive. But, there is no denying the craftsmanship.

And, on the subject of printmaking, I was glad to see the Brodsky Center at Rutgers represented. I have known of Judith Brodsky for years through the Women's Caucus for Art. Somehow I didn't realize that the Brodsky Center is a place where artists get a chance to collaborate with master printers and papermakers. I was happy to see work by Lynda Benglis, Chris Ofili, and Pat Steir represented.

LMAK Projects was showing a body of work by Russell Nachman. The collages all featured a white-faced tattooed man, usually with a bottle of Bud in his hand and a cigarette in his mouth. The whiteface struck me as being like Native American war paint, but the gallery representative told me it came from more of a heavy metal place. The poses of the figures and visual metaphors such as stones and rabbits were classical European art references. These combined with the more, um, "trailer trash" references made for some intriguing art, especially since they were mostly painted in watercolor.

As a parting comment, I want to share a piece that made me laugh. It was shown by the Philadelphia nonprofit InLiquid Art +Design. Their entire booth was filled with fiber art by Melissa Maddonni Haims. 
Who doesn't like an ironic piece of fiber art?