What’s Trending: The SF Fine Art Fair
By LIZ HAGER
Klari Reis, Hypochrondria
Installation: Epoxy resin in 150 petri dishes
(The Cynthia Corbett Gallery)
How visitors to Miami Basel do it? Walking the comparatively-miniscule 80+ booth show at the SF Fine Art Fair yesterday afternoon left me psychologically knackered. Of course, I only stopped at a small portion of what was on view. Drive by scanning is a necessity. Still, I’m not sure I could be an Art Fair warrior.
Despite the fatigue factor, fairs offer the most effective platform from which to view the commerce of contemporary art. Given the necessities of the gallery business, fairs aren’t always the best place to see truly inspiring new work (isn’t the much touted “up and coming star” an oxymoron?), but they do offer an unparalleled opportunity to reflect on “trending” in both the art- making and art-buying communities. Evesdropping among the Influencers and Buyers is inevitable, but it can be both an enlightening and depressing experience.
In terms of art making, the SF Fair (through Sunday at Fort Mason) sports the spectrum of expected artists: the established (and dead), the well-vetted, and a sprinkling of the nearly newly-minted MFAs. Painting dominates; no new trend there.
Alyssa Monks, Vapor, 2008
Oil on linen
(Scott White Contemporary Art)
Figurative styles, in particular hyper-realism, are alive and well—Janet Fish, Alyssa Monks (gloriously rendered bathing water, a subgenre all her own), Jeanette Pasin Sloan, and Alan Magee (he’s cornered the stone market, but VR readers will appreciate his portrait of Hannah Höch) are all on the walls. Much abstraction too adorns the walls; lots of dots, it seemed, though for my taste Barbara Takenaga and Teo González do them best. Patterns abound: Mark Emerson’s Utfart (at JayJay’s booth) is the equivalent of Steve Martin’s “wild and crazy guy.” Stylistic granddaddy of the genre Robert Kushner, represented by a stunning and muscular gold and copper infused arabesque at DC Moore booth, makes everyone else’s attempt look whimpy. Figurative/abstract mixes à la Squeak Carnith and Inez Storer are very much in evidence. Does the scratchy gestural style still have runway? Text also puts in a strong showing, from the obvious attempts to engage the viewer—Carnith’s Is This Painting?—to the more subtle like Dunce at Rebecca Hossack’s booth.
Teo González, Beach (study), 2010
Acrylic on clayboard
(Richard Levy Gallery)
Barbara Takenaga, Black/White/Blue, 2008
Acrylic on canvas
(DC Moore Gallery)
Anecdotally-speaking, acrylic seems to be gaining ground on oil. Perhaps understandably (it doesn’t have the sell-power of painting), drawing was not much around, Alice Attie‘s pen and ink text-pictures caught my attention for their use of text as a structural element and finely-detailed work.
Katherine Sherwood, Neuron Nurse, 2010
(Gallery Paule Anglim)
On the photography front: Sebastiao Salgado’s magnificent black & white journalistic shots inspire awe no matter what their environment; Erika Blumenfeld‘s ethereal abstractions of the Polar environment are a welcome change on both a visual and intellectual level from the legions of more mundane landscapes; and Isidro Blasco‘s 3-D stage set-like landscapes are intimate visual delights. I can’t shake the feeling that Robert Silvers’s work (Marilyn and dollar bill ) feels like a photographic retread of Chuck Close territory, but I imagine his prints are wildly popular for the a-ha moment inherent in the gimmick..
However, a lot of unconventional fine art media were on display, though not all of the pieces were successful. Jaehyo Lee’s burnt wood and nail “Starry Night”-ish abstraction was sublime majesty, but Gugger Petter’s “Madonna” at Andrea Schwartz’s booth felt overly gimmicky. (“Look Ma, I can weave newspaper into a real picture.”) In a refreshing moment, glass artist Jeff Wallin was actually in the Patrajdas booth talking about his portraits. Canadian artist Cybelé Young’s quirky miniature sculptures (at Rebecca Hossack) offered a refreshing respite from the scores of more self-consciously wrought work (which is not to overlook the loads of care that went into fashioning them).
Cybelé Young (no identifying tag)
Rebecca Hossack Gallery
A special thanks to Catherine Clark for the only two (that I saw) video-related pieces—John Slepian’s stamen and a Lincoln Schatz “generative” video, both of which use the digital medium in richly-complex and visually-arresting ways.
And finally, but not least, San Francisco’s own Arion Press had a small sampling of its collection of artists’ books—I could have looked at more.
And on the art buying side, I think Fine Art Fair Director summed it up perfectly in his introduction to the Guide: “With a rebounding economy, there is no better time to invest in art.” Consultants and designers referred to large-scale paintings as “right for the so-and-so project” and legions of young blonds, as well as older couples, seemed intent on buying.