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Review Veteran avant-garde firebrands light up Frieze New York with paint, video - and a hotel

May 10, 2014



Frieze New York began life as a gatecrasher: the colonial kid sister of London's main art fair, staking its claim in a city that already has its fair share of venues for art and conspicuous consumption. In this third year, though, the fair feels notably familiar - it has developed a native New Yorker's confident unconcern. The only British feature of Frieze New York is the weather - for the third year in a row, it rained on opening day.

The fair has less to prove, and while you can still find blue-chip investment pieces, many exhibitors have mounted tougher, less commercial displays. Selfie opportunities are gratifyingly few.

Marian Goodman, the doyenne of New York art dealers, has opted for a wall-free space featuring a single, fantastic work by the Berlin-based Vietnamese artist Danh Vo, suspended from the ceiling. Vo's mobile, called Massive Black Hole in the Dark Heart of Our Milky Way, consists of two dozen pieces of cardboard decorated with gold-leaf American flags, Coca-Cola logos, and passages from Cinderella in heavy German script. From a distance it seems confident and celebratory. Up close, those American flags are nearing collapse.

Much of the best work can be seen in solo presentations, and it is pleasing to see how many dealers have given their booths over to a single artist. Barbara Gladstone, a New York stalwart participating in her first Frieze New York, has mounted a knockout presentation of nearly 200 works on paper by Carroll Dunham, whose comically grotesque drawings have only got better, and more vulgar, as he's aged. (Yes, he's the father of Girls creator Lena Dunham.) David Kordansky Gallery, one of the strong Los Angeles contingent, devotes its booth to the underrated Sam Gilliam, whose abstract paintings are in the Brooklyn Museum's exhibition on art and black liberation movements of the 1960s.

And what a pleasure to see, at London'sWilkinson Gallery stand, the American avant-garde firebrand Joan Jonas tearing up the fair with some of the boldest, freshest art anywhere in the tent - or New York City. The video and performance artist, who will represent the US at next year's Venice Biennale, is presenting works from the 1960s that used mirrored clothing in groundbreaking improvisations, plus an audacious calligraphic painting more confident than anything from artists a third of her age. Venice isn't enough. She should run for president.

Once again, galleries off the North Atlantic axis provide some of the most significant work. Sfeir-Semler Gallery, from Beirut, is showcasing two small but unmissable paintings by the Lebanese-American artist Etel Adnan, who at 89 years old is finally winning the attention she merits for her exquisitely balanced parti-coloured compositions. There's also a good showing from Brazil, the flavour of the month in New York thanks to the World Cup and MoMA's massive Lygia Clark retrospective. The gallery A Gentil Carioca has come from Rio with seductive, labour-intensive sculptures by Maria Nepomuceno that feature thousands of coloured beads, while the young Sao Paulo space Galeria Jaqueline Martins is showing historical photos from Regina Vater, a pioneer of Brazilian art far too little known outside Latin America. One series of self-portraits, in which Vater dresses up as female archetypes, dates from 1975 - years before Cindy Sherman did the same.

It can get to be too much. Frieze New York still has a higher hit rate than any fair in this city, but art fairs are always hard work: there's too much to see, and to do it you have to weave past many collectors with a profound sense of entitlement. But relief is at hand from the artist Allen Ruppersberg, hero of the Los Angeles avant garde, who created a fully functioning hotel in 1971 that has been restaged here as part of Frieze's non-commercial programme. Rooms start at $350 a night, including dinner and breakfast. Pricey, I know, but think of it this way: if you leave the next morning having spent less than $400, you dropped less money than almost every other collector here. Jason Farago New York

Captions:

Al's Grand Hotel by Allen Ruppersberg, where Frieze visitors can stay the night. Below, an exhibit from the Yvon Lambert collection Photographs: Marco Scozzaro



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Source: Guardian (UK)


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