All the art in the world was in New York this weekend. Reports on the 2003 Armory Show, the special Williamsburg gallery crawl and all the new stuff in Chelsea, SoHo and uptown can wait. For today, it's the latest Scope New York, Mar. 7-10, 2003. The low-budget, high energy art fair has installed 50 art dealers on six floors of the Dylan Hotel, an elegant, recently renovated boutique operation on East 41st Street by the New York Public Library.
Scope is growing, up from 28 exhibitors at the Gershwin Hotel in New York last May. According to dealer Robert Curcio, who helped organize the fair with fellow New York dealers Alexis Hubshman and Irene Nikolai, Scope aims to stay relatively small and intimate, though expand in number to four fairs in different cities each year. Installments are planned for Los Angeles in July and London in October, and Scope has had an inquiry from a hotel in Milan. This time around, exhibitors paid between $3,500 and $4,500.
The Scope crew suggested that its dealers focus on single artists in their installations, and the strategy was a good one, helping make a sprawling show seem more manageable. Though the fair does have its share of exhibitors from outside the U.S. (Espacio Minimo from Madrid, Enrique Guerrero from Mexico City, Edward Day from Toronto, Valerie Cueto from Paris), most are homegrown.
In such a do-it-yourself milieu, the prevailing esthetic was pop-culture saturated, with a lot of low-tech figurative works. Installations had a youthful, "anything is possible" vibe and were frequently accompanied by rock music. And the hotel setting banished the clean, white cube, of course, in favor of a totalizing sensibility, with art works installed in showers and videotapes playing on the TVs. Even the bedspreads were art.
The festive atmosphere was especially palpable on the 12th floor, where the Chelsea dealer John Connelly had filled his room with the colorful Yellow Submarine graphics of Eli Sudbrack, aka Assume Vivid Astro Focus. The display of the 21st century's answer to Peter Max includes a seven-minute, homemade music video featuring a sexy Brazilian blonde dancing to Yoko Ono's Walking on Thin Ice. The edition of 10 is completely sold out (at prices ranging from $800 to $1,500); photo-prints of his lively graphical designs can be had for as little as $500.
Next door at Daniel Reich, the artist Christian Holstad, dressed in a maid's outfit, was hard at work embroidering the bedstead. The entire room is hung with red tinsel and accessorized with white doilies in a demented tribute to Jean Genet's The Maids. A CD of Leonard Cohen tunes plays on the hi-fi. "We're doing a lot of business," said Reich.
Holstad's small erased-newsprint drawings of scenes from Genet's play were selling like hotcakes at $150-$300, his notebook-paper-sized homoerotic collages were sold at $800-$1,000, and the floor sculpture of a murdered maid in a sleeping bag (complete with an exquisitely sewn cloth skull) was bought for $5,000. "There is actually no dead maid in the story," explained Holstad, who said he began sewing as a boy when he couldn't find any clothes that he liked.
The sprawling "milieu" installation had its apotheosis in the display by Scott Hug of material gathered for the forthcoming issue of his K48 magazine (the theme is "Religion & Cults"). The current issue of the pocket-sized, 196-page book is self-published in an edition of 3,000 and costs $10, and comes with a full-length CD (playing as the soundtrack was a mix tape ranging from Dusty Springfield to Moby) -- order at www.K48rules.com.
"There's a lot of young talent in this room," said Hug, pointing to photographs by the German artist Hanna Lieden, racy watercolors of 1970s-era erotica by Tracy Nakayama (all three are sold at $600) and a loud patterned bed cover by Joe Grillo of Dear Raindrop, a Providence collective. K48 is hot right now. Material from the last issue, "Teenage Rebellion," was well received when exhibited at John Connelly Presents in New York earlier this year, and is slated to appear at agnes b galerie du jour in Paris in the coming months.
The sense of infinite possibility, with a commercial twist, is also palpable in New York dealer Caren Golden's display of works from "Humphrey Industries," the sole proprietorship of the art-world's answer to X-games culture, Ryan Humphrey. On display were Humprhey Industries t-shirts ($20), child-size skateboards with colorful slashing-stroke patterns adapted from Eddie Van Halen's guitar ($450), small paintings of skulls done in macho color combinations like red and black ($750), empty cardboard boxes silk-screened Warhol-style with the Humprey Industries logo ($800), mirrors with action silhouettes of surfers, skateboarders and other extreme-sports heroes done with their decals ($1,800) and a large painting devoted to the Japanese cartoon character Speed Racer, including a model car and a vase of flowers on shelf ($5,000). Many things were sold -- with such high-energy production, the artist seems "guaranteed to vanquish," to use his own slogan, which of course echoes a rock 'n' roll anthem.
Considering the youth contingent, it's no surprise that some of the works lean towards the macabre. At Curcio Projects, the New Jersey artist Matt Schwede covers the walls with admittedly delicate arrays of paper and wax hearts, tongues and "vein sacks" (priced en suite at $12,000-$15,000). But the grandest emblem of the Goth sensibility was found in the room of New York dealer Daniel Silverstein, where Andrew Guenther installed a giant papiér mâche hand puppet of a bunny, draped with knit chains and oversized pompoms, painted with owls for eyes and an upside down cross, and crowned with the requisite ram's horns. Called Guard that Dogs the Room (2003), the sculpture can be yours for a bargain $4,000.
Another "religious" work at Scope included a pettable Buddha covered in white rabbit fur by Jason Clay Lewis, an Oklahoma boy now living in Williamsburg, that was on view in a room curated by Max Henry. It had sold for $2,500, but a weighty skull covered with black fur was still available for the same price. Figurative works too in the room of Hamptons dealer Sara Nightingale, where large paintings by Vlad Po are done in emulation of Old Master drawings (though the Venice church scene over the bed includes the Goodyear blimp).
San Francisco dealer Lizabeth Oliveria was doing land-office business with comic drawings and small paintings by Stella Lai, featuring the artist's childlike Puccha character -- a big-headed schoolgirl in a pink bunny mask? -- whose name is Mexican slang for "pussy" (starting at $400). Oliviera opened her gallery in Oakland, and moved to San Francisco last October. As for Laura Martin's Transient, which mounts shows in various spaces as they become available, here it features restrained, near-monochromatic paintings by Ryan Hixenbaugh, whose subjects include hot cars from the 1970s and girls in bikinis ($200-$2,000). In her room's shower stall Martin had comic-style drawings by the Swiss abstract painter Mark Staff Brandl.
At the room of the Brooklyn gallery Plus Ultra were several illustrational paintings by Christopher Johnson of Hugh Hefner, including Blondes, a 4 x 5 canvas of the aging playboy with his seven girlfriends priced at $4,500. Smaller, sensitively painted scenes of strip-mall landscapes with flying saucers and roadside strip joints were a bargain at $1,500 (John Waters bought one, as inspiration for a forthcoming film). Gerhard Richter's so-called conceptual painting seems anemic in comparison.
Among the minority of abstractionists were Joyce Kim at Priska C. Juska Fine Art, whose ragged color abstractions are made with heroically scaled strips and flakes of peeled paint, and Emiko Kasahara at Art & Idea from Mexico City, who weaves false eyelashes through paper in intricate geometric patterns ($1,700-$8,000).
Especially captivating were the pink "bubble paintings" by Paul Jacobsen at Cornell DeWitt, that ostensibly speak to "America's unending appetite" by "softening and sweetening" images of the pentagon, the Black Hawk helicopter and the A-bomb hydrogen cloud by encapsulating them in pink tondos. Best was Jacobsen's abstract "infinite rainbow," which could be yours for $4,750.
Also of note was the presentation by curator Christine Wang of conceptualist works by Douglas Davis from the early 1970s, when the Fluxus artist (and Newsweek art critic) was at the forefront of interactive TV and global satellite art events, and a witty minimalist installation of pillows and white-sheeted mattresses by Ian Sullivan in a room curated by Bill Previdi (hotel housekeeping pitched in with extra pillows).
The Tribeca dealer Ethan Cohen brought works by several Chinese artists to the fair, including a large 1984 painting by Gu Wenda that was included in "Global Conceptualism" at the Queens Museum and that, at $75,000, is probably the most expensive thing on view. Another Cohen star is Pan Xinglei, whom the dealer called "the Chinese Basquiat" for his multi-colored, graffiti-covered works (done on everything from window shades to photographs). In 1996 in Hong Kong, Xinglei knocked the nose off a statue of Queen Victoria, doused it and himself in red paint and waited to be arrested. Now a Brooklyn resident, the artist will be featured in Cohen's booth at Art Chicago in May. Prices start at $300.
Finally, with the premium paid here to youth culture, it's not altogether surprising that penises are everywhere, including in most of the previously mentioned figurative installations as well as in Orly Cogan's embroideries at Marella Arte Contemporanea from Milan and Rare's overtly homoerotic installation of photographs by Slava Mogutin.
But the standout when it comes to orifices and organs is undoubtedly Keith Boadwee, the California artist who made a big splash several years ago with paintings done by giving himself paint enemas. His current works, on view at Peres Projects (which is relocating from San Francisco to L.A.'s Chinatown, opening this summer with Eli Sudbrack), maintain the fecal focus, especially in simple collages done with colored construction paper, such as the Earth Art parody Spiral Shitty ($700). But Boadwee also has made a suite of large color photographs that show he's branching out -- among the images are Boadwee's piss falling on a flowerpot, Boadwee standing on the street draped in an afghan, Boadwee smiling from a bubble bath ($2,700 each, in edition of five).