The colossal white tent on Randalls Island – which occasionally threatened to be raised and blown away – has disappeared, along with the frenzied ferry rides up and down the East River. But Frieze is back, the first live art fair to return to New York in more than a year.
This year’s edition takes place Wednesday through Sunday at Shed, the performing arts center on the Far West Side in Hudson Yards. It only includes 64 commercial galleries – up from nearly 200 in 2019 – though there are some international exhibitors from Buenos Aires, Brazil and London. But there is a lot of work worth seeing, spread over more than three double-height levels. All necessary health precautions will be observed, but if you have not taken prior precautions, you may not be able to attend in person: tickets are already sold out. What remains is a waiting list and an extensive virtual viewing room with more than 160 international galleries that you can visit for free until May 14th.
Overall, the displays are a bit conservative, which is understandable enough in an uncertain moment. Many galleries show painting, the easiest medium to sell – or dutiful appeals from their artists. But the shed, often criticized for its leniency, doubles as a surprisingly suitable convention center, and there are gems among the careful displays.
Mitchell-Innes and Nash, Esther Schipper (A8)
The collective General Idea, founded in 1969 by the artists AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, did intoxicating but playful work that dealt with sex, art, money and the AIDS crisis. This individual presentation offers a broad but substantive introduction to the group’s oeuvre. Her characteristic poodles appear both in cheerful, self-confident drawings with mounds of pasta-like curls and on canvas in a discreet ménage-à-trois. (Will Heinrich)
James Cohan (B8)
Cohan recently hosted a stellar exhibition of Trenton Doyle Hancock’s graphic novel-style paintings and drawings at his two downtown galleries. Now Hancock is taking over the stand in the shed with a number of black and white paintings and collages, including hooded figures, reminiscent of the controversial Ku Klux Klan paintings by Philip Guston from the 1960s and 1970s. This work led to an interesting conversation about race and imagery, from Hancock’s black superheroes to Guston’s self-reflective, self-extinguishing self-portraits. (Martha Schwendener)
For his “sectional images”, the French conceptualist Daniel Buren cut large rectangles out of striped cotton cloth into pieces, which he then pinned to the edges of a wall. It’s a masterful way to reclaim an entire room and turn boring white house paint into art. Three pieces from 1976 to 1980 make this stand an elegant oasis of sensory overload, which also prevails at this year’s smaller fair. That is, until you realize that Buren’s red and blue stripes are some kind of sensory overload in themselves. (WH)
David Zwirner (B13)
In 2017, Dana Schutz was widely criticized for her painting by Emmett Till at this year’s Whitney Biennale. Since then, their work has become heavier and darker. The large paintings in this individual presentation – easily the standout feature of the fair – are full of fresh, bloody reds, poisonous greens and visibly hectic brushstrokes. Figures trudge up the hills playing scenes of medieval penance. In “The Ventriloquist” (2021) a screaming doll is surrounded by clouds of hellfire while its reptile operator drinks a glass of water. Three dark bronze castings offer a nice counterweight. (WH)
Stephen Friedman (B16)
Stephen Friedman’s London gallery is showing Sarah Ball’s paintings dealing with gender and non-binary people. The portraits have an anodyne airbrushed look that gives them a creepy look – but they also resemble portraits from earlier eras or folk painting where gender was less defined. Cropped compositions and emphasis on the subjects’ eyes add to the eerie nature of Ball’s paintings. (MRS)
Tribute to the Vision & Justice Project
Throughout the show there will be objects paying tribute to the Vision & Justice Project, which studies the role of race and citizenship in the United States, and its founder, Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, an associate professor at Harvard. Carrie Mae Weems contributes a massive vinyl mural that contains photographs of book covers by artists and scholars who were part of the project. Mel Chin’s vinyl billboard pays homage to Black Lives Matter and AAPI (Asian-American and Pacific Islanders), and Hank Willis Thomas recreates work from the artist-run For Freedoms poster project he co-founded with Eric Gottesman. (MRS)
This beautiful installation with three artists shows off the brightest colors of the building, though its exuberance feels a little calculated. Katherine Bernhardt’s delightful graffiti-like paintings – depicting a boomboxed ET turning the bird and the Pink Panther on an “I Love NY” logo – meet in the hip sculpture by Luke Murphy and the fearless mixed-media murals by Rachel Eulena Williams each other. (WH)
Vision Institute (FR1)
The Bogotá gallery Instituto de Visión shows the ironic, funny and playful works of the Colombian artist Wilson Díaz. A wall of record albums – some painted, other record sleeves – is at the center of his practice, which challenges the real and the wrong in mass media, politics, and Colombian culture. An illuminated sign on the wall reads “Movement to Liberate the Coca Plant”, as if the plant itself could stop the geopolitical turbulence. Next to this work is a goofy painting of a banana sliding on a banana peel as if answering the futile question of how tropical plants can stop tripping humanity. (MRS)
Frieze Week was particularly busy with the local Microscope gallery, which specializes in moving images and sound art, which is moving from Bushwick to Chelsea. The presentation here features Ina Archer’s “Lincoln Film Conspiracy Project” (2005-2021), a series of videos, watercolors, and collages exploring the Lincoln Motion Picture Company (1916-23). As the first African American film production company, their films have practically disappeared. In her work, the filmmaker and artist Archer creates fictional film posters and promotional materials – often with herself or family members. Accompanying watercolors examine negative depictions of African Americans such as the racist “Golly Dolls” of the late 19th century. (MRS)
Shatto Castle (FR3)
The London-based artist Zeinab Saleh makes dreamy, loosely structured drawings and paintings based on VHS home videos. In one case, a round shape on a pedestal can be a cake or a lavish round bed. in another, a ghostly snake snakes in a hand mirror towards a woman’s face. Most noticeable is the atmospheric color palette of the work, from the iridescent blue of cigarette smoke to smoggy green. (WH)
Bridget Donahue / Hannah Hoffman (FR6)
The Ukrainian-American artist Olga Balema uses found materials in carefully selected shades to create sculptures that defy interpretation. Folded acrylic sheets could be mistaken for discarded packaging or even trash, while a large piece of venison is wrapped in blue latex. What’s in there? You will never know (WH)
Frieze has largely bypassed the art world’s fascination for cryptocurrency and NFTs (non-fungible tokens), but the Barro Gallery in Buenos Aires addresses this phenomenon in an oblique way. Agustina Woodgate’s project “Don’t Trust. Verify ”(2021), which takes its name from the cryptocurrency slogan that assumes that anyone can pose a threat to your intangible treasure. Woodgate has brought an ATM that has been renamed “ADM” (Automatic Dealer Machine). Insert your debit card and for $ 100, get an artistically enhanced dollar bill (portraits and landscapes sanded down). The gallery describes the project as an attempt to “deconstruct money as a medium of representation” (a great way to get around the fact that you are not supposed to deface the US currency). (MRS)
Gordon Robichaux (FR11)
Otis Houston Jr., A self-taught artist, also known by the name Black Cherokee, in his late 60s, lives in East Harlem and spends hours every week showing art and performing under the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, popularly still known as the Triborough is. A few simple assemblages and frugal, quirky drawings have a lively immediacy, but it’s Houston’s textual art that is really impressive. “If you can’t be the cow’s head,” he advises in spray paint on a towel, “don’t be its tail. Be the bell that rings around his neck. “(WH)
Gallery Eva Presenhuber / Sprüth Magers (D3)
I never get tired of Karen Kilimnik’s visionary images. The world is quite confusing, after all, and Kilimnik treats it with the great miracle of a child who draws kittens, horses, and princesses with sincere reverence. These figures are here mounted on wallpaper in paintings and pastel drawings worth 35 years. The presentation blurs irony with a penchant for kitsch and rococo frills. This approach in itself remains casually defiant and radical. (MRS)
Printed matter, Queens Museum, Skowhegan (D4)
The three nonprofits that share this booth offer prints and editions that civilians can also afford. The presentation of Printed Matter includes the first video edition by artist Coco Fusco, while Skowhegan, the influential school of painting and sculpture in the wilderness of Maine, shows Christina Quarles’ irresistible print “Magic Hour”, in which two enthusiastic enthusiasts perform, with fluorescent Color squashed, hugging in an undulating green sea. (WH)
Mendes Wood (D6)
Originally based in São Paulo, Mendes Wood now has outposts in New York and Brussels. Her presentation in the shed includes Brazilian art stars such as Rubem Valentim, represented by a geometrically abstract painted composition from 1962, and Paulo Nazareth, whose sculptures of radical historical figures graced the Rockefeller Center in the 2019 Frieze program. But Mendes Wood has some other strangely weird work too, like a 2017 Lynda Benglis sculpture made with handmade paper over chicken wire and decorated with glitter, and Solange Pessoa’s floor sculptures that look like fossils of giant snails or spiral plants. (MRS)
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Frieze New York in the shed
Through May 5-9 (and online May 14), 545 West 30th Street, Manhattan; frieze.com.