Monday, March 5, 2007

Pulse New York-- Part 1 of 2

Been away since last week's trip to Florida, but as promised, here's part 1 of my 5 part series of the big art fair weekend here in New York City.

I've been going to see the Pulse fair since 2003 and have continued to hold it in high regard, but this year I can truly say a good percentage of galleries and artists greatly exceeded my expectations.

Though there was one troubling sign-- upon my entry to the Old 69th Regiment Armory, I was immediately accosted by a promotional book extolling the virtues of investment in Manhattan real estate.

All nice and everything, but it felt a bit forced as well as out of place, given the creative atmosphere.
So I tucked the book away for future reference when I'm buying that luxury condo on the west side, and off I went.

The first gallery that tickled my fancy was Annie Gentils Gallery hailing from Antwerp.

The familiar work of Kati Heck greeted my entrance-- I had previously viewed her work at Mary Boone's uptown all-female showing in October 2006 and been dutifully impressed.

Her work blends a nice mix of humor (Frankfurter anyone?), besot by female desperation, animalistic depravity, victimization and triumph and puts it out there for us to discern a commonality to it all.

The image at left was taken from a previous exhibition, but was highlighted by Gentils' catalogue.

Personally, I think the weinerschnitzel she offers us is a sheer delight, given its double-entendre meaning.

But even with Hack's work in the forefront, I turned to the side.
Hers felt like something I had already been exposed to, and what I like about Pulse is the fact it places a greater emphasis on gallery rosters that are not as commonly exhibited.

There was a significantly better talent hidden away as well as plodding away with tasks that can only be described as sheer boredom gone awry.

Ruben Kindermans-- a young man who obviously has plenty of time on his hands in his studio and out-- is probably one of the best video artists to come about in recent memory.

Most of the time I find video art to be based upon sheer shock value-- or just confusing exhibitionism, without merit or purpose.
Perhaps in this case as well, but in each of the quick edit vignettes, like a movie-fade-in, Kindermans ups the hilarity quotient.

Not intent to just play a mere game of golf-- (over and over he hits the ball up a makeshift ramp into a snare drum; after all, practice makes perfect)-- he starts up a one-man wrecking machine of the premises.

He takes his basketball and throws it through the studio's window-- glass shattering all around.

You can't help but be reminded of Pipilotti Rist's legendary car-window-smashing, given it came first.

But there is no emotion on his face in any of the shots-- Just sheer boredom-- a kind of commentary on youth culture-- "Not much to do, but just sit back and let's mess some stuff up."
He reminds me of the boys I went to high school with who went cow-tipping for entertainment, but he's much more methodical in his attempts.

Kindermans shows that upon each repetition he also becomes more adept at each task.
Parking lot golfing? Check.
Styrofoam packing supply hackey sack? Check.
As well as becoming a thespian of the mundane, Kindermans also shows he is quick thinking-- seeing a pothole in the pavement, he sinks the golf ball there, as well as gets the basketball stuck in a broken lampost.

The brilliance of his work is in the way it captivates the viewer-- you keep wondering, "Just what will he do next?"

Next on my list of galleries to check out was the always fantastic Winkleman Gallery.
One of my favorite things about Ed is not only is he willing to take huge risks on the artists he showcases, but he has a quality that's not seen much in the art world-- being a true gentleman.

For Pulse, Winkleman could have chosen any of a number of artists on his current roster to ensure sales, but he took a big risk in putting up the work of Ivin Ballen.

A 2006 MFA from Cranbook Academy of Art, Ballen pieces together what you might call a hybrid of substances in his work-- fiberglass, plaster FGR95 and acrylic paint.

His work is a nice bridge between sculpture and painting-- one of the few at Pulse that even dared to break free of what I like to term "Genre Captivity."
Almost every gallery exhibited ONLY painters, photographers, video artists, sculptors, etc..

There was little crossover, showing again how specialization seems to have overtaken the industry.
The days of the Renaissance man might have been forgotten, but Ballen seems to challenge that notion.

Ballen's work does bring to mind some legendary works-- Jasper Johns' American Flag series and Mondrian's color blocking, to name just a few.

I like how there's certainly references to the past, but he makes each work his own-- and was truly unlike anything else exhibited at Pulse.

Next from the New York art scene was Margaret Thatcher Projects.
I had first taken note of her gallery at the 2006 exhibition, but this time I took my time with each work, examing at much greater detail.
It seems also to be a commonly held misperception by New York artists that there is no Margaret Thatcher, but I met her in the flesh-- a very friendly owner who takes the time to note each artists' work.
Three in particular held me captive, just as before-- Carlos Estrada-Vega, Markus Linnenbrink and Robert Sagerman.
Each is a master in color, imagination and texture.
Estrada-Vega's work brings to mind how all images are made up of individual pixels.
In his work, pixelization is taken to a new level-- using wax, oil and oleopasto pigments on metal sheets, each color juts forward at different eye levels.

To me it appears as if he takes the the ends of pastel sticks, cutting them into perfect squares and adheres them to the board, but it is not so.
It is a much more painstaking process that is done by the hand of an expert.
Markus Linnenbrink takes it a step further-- in the image at right on the bottom, you can see the glossy epoxy resin's sheen playing tricks on your vision.
Thatcher obviously has a passion for what color can do.
These works are not merely "pretty to look at," but delve into the psyche in ways that elevate moods and change perception.
Not 'op-art', per-se, but they are atmospheric in quality-- a docile spirituality that takes over; one that you might only notice when you close your eyes-- the lines that appear if you're too tired, or looking through a prism or waveform monitor.

Last, but not least, Robert Sagerman's work.

This work in question is not just a work in color, but in construction and defying gravity.
All this is done with a pallette knife.
Sagerman has actually taken it upon himself to track every color and pattern that he uses with each sweep of the knife scientifically.

I do believe that there is color theory at work here, but he also thinks it is mathematical in each choice.

Looking at the image, I truly cannot begin to say the emotions it evokes.

It brings to mind mountains of confetti; a festive pinata at a childhood birthday party; decorative cupcakes expertly crafted by pastry chefs in the West Village.

There is only one negative I could think of with Margaret Thatcher's Pulse entry-- the fact that it is including the same artists as last year.

Even so, the skill and talent level of these three men trump any issues that repetition might bring; probably the best talents in the show.
Part 2 of my Pulse review undertaking will come tomorrow.

Enjoy the delicious imagery while you wait.

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