This year, I went to see Art Basel. Not to write about it, but, I couldn’t help myself. As I learned more about what I saw, I wanted to share the information.
Walking-around-time was limited, and I could not talk to gallery owners who were busy talking to real customers. So here’s what drew my attention, coupled with bits of bios cut and pasted from here and there….
Wade GuytonKelley Walker at Green Naftali Gallery
Guyton and Walker are two New York artists who collaborate to deliver visual pop and sculpture.
“One day, we were approving the tufting designs and mattress tape for our prototypes, the next day this old family from New Jersey that made them was out of business—100 years, then two mattresses with us and gone. They made them by hand and we haven’t found anyone with comparable skills. Who knew buttonless tufting was such a rarified technique?”
In any case, just because they will be featured in a gallery doesn’t mean they aren’t still suitable for sleeping or hanging out on. Or, as GuytonWalker says, “They’re meant for use! Meant for life!”
Nir Hod, Once Everything Was Much Better Even The Future, Paul Kasmin Gallery
The sculpture consists of a moving scale model of an oil pumpjack encased within a large globe of oil, creating a world suspended in time, where the contradictions inherent in oil production and consumption peacefully coexist, while also alluding to the nostalgic scenes often depicted in snow globes. Hod, from Tel Aviv, lives and works in New York.
Globe by James Naras at Paul Kasmin Gallery
James Naras was born in London; lives and works in New York. His paintings and projects seek to capture the very moment of their own creation. They are most frequently made in a single brushstroke, recording a gestural passage of time and motion across the canvas. Using brushes of his own design, he repeatedly creates and erases his strokes until he feels he has made one that represents a precision of balance between intent and improvisation.
Nares’ films and videos reference many of the same preoccupations with movement, rhythm and repetition, while also ranging further afield in their scope. To see this in motion, click here.
Richard Wentworth, Local Produce Animal Vegetable Mineral, Peter Freeman Gallery
Wentworth lives and works in London. His work encircles the notion of objects and their use as part of day-to-day experiences. By transforming and manipulating industrial and/or found objects into works of art, Wentworth subverts their original function and extends our understanding of them by breaking the conventional system of classification. The sculptural arrangements play with the notion of ready-made and juxtaposition of objects that bear no relation to each other.
Will Cotton, Sweet, Scott Campbell Galleries
In 1996, Will Cotton began to develop an iconography in which the landscape itself became an object of desire. The paintings often feature scenery made up entirely of pastries, candy and melting ice cream. He creates elaborate maquettes of these settings from real baked goods made in his Manhattan studio as a visual source for the final works.
Erika Verzutti; Venus Major, Venus Yogi, Venis Aluna; Galerie Peter Kilchmann
Erika Verzutti is interested in the formal qualities of things found in nature, and her work reveals the beauty and symbolic power of common objects with enigmatic properties. The intuitive and material qualities of Verzutti’s sculptures, collages, drawings and paintings recall the mid-20th-century Neo-Concretist movement in her native Brazil, which rejected mechanized and overly intellectual approaches to art making in favor of a sensual, intuitive relationship between the artist and the object.
Tony Tasset, Snowman with Scarf, Kavi Gupta
Mixed-media Chicago artist Tony Tasset sends up Americana and the American dream in his sardonic, psychedelic sculptures, installations, films and photographs, which he describes as “Pop Conceptual.” These include a giant Paul Bunyan with uncharacteristically drooping shoulders; trompe l’oeil snowmen and smashed jack-o-lanterns; abstract compositions on panel of colored blotches spilling from various consumer products and fast foods; and a grotesque, cartoonish figure composed of hotdogs. Citing Norman Rockwell and Walt Disney as influences, Tasset aims to tap into and twist iconic American imagery, asking: “Could I take something that’s so banal, so quoted, that everybody has kind of made, and could I treat it like a Giacometti? Could I give it that pathos and existential angst?”
The work titled, Notions of Narrations II is a continuation of Rashid Rana’s most recent “Transliteration Series.‟ In this series, Rana selects a random image from one time and place in history, cuts it into pieces and reassembles it together, forming another image from another time and place. By doing so, he creates an unusual relationship between both, a method which he refers to as visual transliteration.
In Notions of Narrations II, a famous painting by Rubens, Rape of the Daughter of Leucippus has been digitally sliced and its micro fragments scrambled in mixed order. The macro image is not easily recognizable as a known image in this case; however, the emblematic figurative objects within it hint towards a bold narrative involving the entanglement of both violent and carnal acts. Although the original image Rana uses is from an older period in time, it is not dissimilar to modern notions of the same. The process of pixilation aids in transcending the immediate/local link, thus, a relationship is established between both the composite image and constituent fragments.
Shilpa Gupta, I look at things With Different Eyes From Yours, Chemould Prescott Road
Soap, microphones, sign hoardings, books: these are some of the familiar materials that Shilpa Gupta uses to engage audiences with wider and deeper issues. The artist also has a background in graphic design, and she has an ability to transform mundane imagery into something more profound. In her 2009 work Threat, Gupta created a sculpture with 2,400 bars of soap, engraved with the word ‘Threat.’ The audience was invited to take a bar of soap away and use it, washing away any trace of any imagined threat by the end of the exhibition. Fear is a tool often used to manipulate groups of people in power struggles, and Gupta’s works often harness participation and interactivity, shaking up our ideas about why we are asked to act the way we do.
In this piece, which includes a print on a mirror framed by an embroidered curtain on a metal rod, I took away an image of myself with my friend Mike, standing in the background…
Paulo Nenflídio, White Noise
Paulo Nenflídio constructs absurd machines and sound sculptures. His work hovers at the interface of art, dream and science. In a symbiosis of elements taken from everyday contexts, digital technology and art historical references, the artist has devoted himself to interdisciplinarity.
“I am more interested in the intricate social relationships, the exchange of behaviors that in time serves to alter our perception of the quotidian, the every day,” said Brazilian-based artist Laura Lima. She is primarily concerned with the human body, using it to question our relationship to the objects, people, and society and raising questions about the tensions between the individual and the collective body.
Accumulation of Disorder by Lionel Smit at Cynthia-Reeves
Smit’s reference to the end of the world can be understood as an end of ‘the-world-as-we-know-it.’ His use of the same face repeated, once again repatriates original identity. Smit’s work indicates this model crisis, this state of the accumulation of disorder, as the end of the individual remodeled in the wake of global consumerism. Smit’s work signifies identity and the human condition surpassing time and history.
There was quite a crowd in this booth. Here’s why.
Enrique Gomez De Molina is a taxidermy artist from Miami, Florida. He gained recognition for his taxidermy for a few reasons. He created very unusual creatures when he mixed parts from several animals. And more notably, De Molina was sentenced for wildlife smuggling and is currently in prison.
De Molina used connections he had in several countries worldwide to illegally acquire and import both living and dead animals. He acquired animals that were on the endangered species list to create his art. In addition to a 20-month jail sentence, De Molina also received a $6,000 fine, one year’s probation, and he must forfeit all smuggled wildlife in his possession.
Jennifer Trask, Double Blossom Queen Anne’s Lace Object, Sewing needles, python and rattlesnake ribs, Lisa Sette Gallery
“My curiosity about the intrinsic nature of things, of materials and my interest in biology is paramount. What is written in the bones? Meaning, what desires, ideals, motivations do we carry silently?”
Angela Ellsworth, Seer Bonnet XIX, 24,182 pearl corsage pins, fabric, steel, wood at Lisa Sette Gallery
Angela Ellsworth is an American multidisciplinary artist whose paintings, drawings, installations
and performances explore the female body in its various contexts and constraints. Her work considers subjects such as physical fitness, endurance, social ritual, religious tradition, performance art and American Colonial history. Ellsworth’s ‘seer bonnets: a continuing offense’ (2009-2010) refers to her rejected Mormon heritage presented through a series of antiquated pioneer women’s bonnets, constructed out of thousands of pearl-tipped corsage pins embedded into fabric with their points directed inwards. the small, fetish-like objects not only refer to the tradition of craft work in the home – women’s work – but also stand as disembodied memorials to the lives suffering cruelty, submission and control.
Robert and Shana Parkeharrison, Thief of Paris, Edelmangallery
“We create works in response to the ever bleakening relationship linking humans, technology and nature. These works feature an ambiguous narrative that offers insight into the dilemma posed by science and technology’s failed promise to fix our problems, provide explanations, and furnish certainty pertaining to the human condition. Strange scenes of hybridizing forces, swarming elements, and bleeding overabundance portray Nature unleashed by technology and the human hand.
“Rich colors and surrealistic imagery merge to reveal the poetic roots of the works on display. The use of color is intentional but abstract; proportion and space are compositional rather than natural; movement is blurred; objects and people juxtaposed as if by chance in a visual improvisation that unfolds choreographically. At once formally arresting and immeasurably loaded with sensations, this work attempts to provide powerful impact both visually and viscerally.”
Hans Breder, Cuilapan, Ethan Cohen New York
A co-founder of the Intermedia Program at the University of Iowa in the late 1960’s, Hans Breder was a teacher. He was also artist Ana Mendieta’s lover (1948-1985). He took many of the photographs documenting her early performances in Mexico and elsewhere, images that are among the strongest in her Whitney retrospective. Indeed, a full understanding of Mendieta’s career must take into account the collaborative aspect of that early work.
That said, there’s clearly a difference between the two artists. Several photographs from Breder’s ”Ventosa” series (1973), for which Mendieta served as a model, are at Algus, and one is at the Whitney. In them, she lies nude in the surf on a beach in Mexico, holding a large polished steel mirror that hides her torso but reflects her lower body, leaving her figure truncated, headless and composed of four splayed legs. Breder has since made other photographs using mirrors; examples at Algus date from this year. Also, he photographed women in a wooded section of Iowa where he documented several of Mendieta’s performances.
Zhao Kailin, Cloud, Eli Klein Gallery
Zhao Kailin’s more recent work has concentrated on depicting beautiful, introspective young women, most of whom are Asian and dressed in traditional Chinese attire. Several feature females with musical instruments. These paintings capture the essential aura of young women suspended between the innocence of childhood and the smoldering sexuality of womanhood, evoking a sense of longing, dreams and desire.
“Every painting I do involves personal stories and memories,” Zhao explained. “I am always striving to communicate not only the beauty and unspoken personal narratives of these women, but also the inherent beauty of Chinese culture and life.”
Pedro Friedeberg, Gold Side Table, Todd Merrill 20th Century Studio Contemporary
“I was born in Italy during the era of Mussolini, who made all trains run on time. Immediately thereafter, I moved to México where the trains are never on time, but where once they start moving they pass pyramids.
“My education was first entrusted to a Zapotec governess and later to brilliant mentors such as Mathias Goeritz, who taught me morals, José González, who taught me carpentry, and Gerry Morris, who taught me to play bridge.
“I have invented several styles of architecture, as well as one new religion and two salads. I am particularly fond of social problems and cloud formations. My work is profoundly profound.
“I admire everything that is useless, frivolous and whimsical. I hate functionalism, post modernism and almost everything else. I do not agree with the dictum that houses are supposed to be ‘machines to live in’. For me, the house and it’s objects is supposed to be some crazy place that make you laugh.”
Arno Elias, Tembo 5, Modernbook Gallery
Arno Elias was born in Paris, France. He is a multi-talented musician, painter and photographer, known for his compositions of Buddha Bar music. His creative talents did not stop at his musical career, but continued to his artistic career, leading him into the world of painting and photography. Studying the European contemporary artists from the 60s and 70s and the American Pop Art movement inspired Elias.
His focus is to travel the world and continue the journey. He is particularly passionate about endangered species and the lives of indigenous people, who are connected to the environment and depend upon its natural resources for survival.
Mark Jenkins, High Noon, Fabien Castanier Gallery
Mark Jenkins is a sculptor and installation artist whose work focuses on urban themes and often locates itself within this physical context. The artist invented the technique of casting objects using packing tape and plastic wrap. With it he has created a range of characters from clear ducks, dogs and babies to clothed hyper-realistic anthropomorphic beings molded from his own body and that of his partner Sandra Fernandez. He describes his work as “absurdist” and with the idea to “to create situations that turn the world into a stage.” He currently lives in Washington, DC.
And some other sights…