Must-See Single Artist Booths at VOLTA 2015 Dazzle and Delight
Single artist booths make for a more enjoyable and coherent fair experience.
Despite a fresh blast of winter weather, everything at VOLTA NY, the sister fair to the Armory Show, was locked, loaded and ready for viewers by late morning on March 5. (See VOLTA Turns Up The Power and Don’t Miss Our Critics Picks at the Sprawling, Exciting Armory Show 2015). The invitation-only fair, featuring curated booths of mostly solo artist shows, seemed perfectly at home in its new spacious digs at Pier 90, literally just steps away from the behemoth Armory venue and a vast improvement over the previous somewhat claustrophobia-inducing space on Mercer Street where it has been held for the previous two years.
The fair features a diverse, exciting selection of international dealers who carefully select the artist they show. It serves as something of a counterpoint to most other fairs in that each booth allows viewers to easily delve into a single artist —who more often than not is up and coming. Whether it’s a series of entirely new works or a sampling of the past few years or decades worth, dealers here tend to be extremely enthusiastic and willing to share about which artist they’ve brought and why (see VOLTA Announces Exhibitor List, New Venue).
Some dealers view the solo artist booth as a “hit or miss” and thus a riskier prospect than a group exhibit, says Walter de Weerdt, director of Nomad Gallery, Brussels. However, he was clearly happy about showing the work of Bahamian-born Lavar Munroe, whose work he first encountered in 2012 at the Fountainhead Residency in Miami, and who, as he told artnet News, was just selected to participate in “All The World Futures,” a group show for the 2015 Venice Biennale curated by Okwui Enwezor.
In Munroe’s series at VOLTA, the artist creates a “lost paradise” of sorts in his exploration of ideas inspired by the 19th-century phenomenon of “human zoos” and how they fit into the discourse of history. Munroe manipulates imagery sources from ethnographic illustrations, advertisements and sideshow banners, creating multi-layered mixed media works whose surfaces reflect his process of destruction and rebuilding, while exploring issues of exploitation and cruelty (see Human Zoos at VOLTA, Brought to You by Artist Lavar Munroe).
Shin Gallery, which is located on the Lower East Side, on Grand Street, was showing arresting work by Korean artist Hyon Gyon. She constructs her large scale mixed media works by arranging pieces of traditional Korean satin on a canvas. She then melts the fabric with a soldering iron and incorporates materials like hurled candle wax, and textiles dipped in modeling paste. Her work has already been acquired by the Brooklyn Museum, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation in California, says gallerist Hong Gyu Shin.
Nairobi gallery ARTLabAfrica was showing the work of young Kenyan artist Peterson Kamwathi. In the series “Positions” Kamwathi reacts to religious tensions and terrorist acts around the world by exploring hidden convergences in the praying positions of different religions. His works, rendered in thick layers of charcoal, pastel, watercolor, stencils and collage, depict figures, alone or in groups, who appear to be deep in meditative contemplation or prayer, though the specifics of the religion are deliberately kept unidentifiable. The same goes for the colorful patterned backgrounds that serve as a backdrop in some works, alluding to prayer rugs, yet also kept deliberately vague. They are understated yet somber and thought-provoking.
Chelsea gallery Mixed Greens showed paintings by Rudy Shepherd, whose subject matter is inspired by mass media imagery. A wall of more than three dozen watercolors is a collective “year in review” of portraits of the famous and infamous alike. All painted from media images (and each available for $1,000 each), the subjects include Bill Cosby, Joan Rivers, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and New Jersey governor Chris Christie to give an idea. On a separate wall, an otherwise large, colorful watercolor of a Malaysian Airlines jet is rendered sinister by dint of last year’s still unsolved mystery about its sudden disappearance at sea.
Mulherin New York showed work by Megan Whitmarsh, witty, soft “fabric” sculptures, many of which reference feminist issues and female artists she admires. These ranged from a fabric wall-mounted Kleenex box, to a fabric portrait of Yoko Ono, diary entries that consist of embroidery on fabric designed to look like pencil on lined notepaper, and fictional magazine covers like Flash Art and New Art Examiner featuring women artists Whitmarsh feels should be on there.
Backslash Gallery, Paris mounted a solo booth of work by French artist Rero, including charred wood, cast busts, and vintage photographs covered in resin where the artist’s signature phrases, block letters struck through with a single black line are anachronistic and humorous at once, stating things like: “Sorry, But You Are Looking For Something That Is Not Here,” or “Error: Transmission Permission Denied.”
Brandon Coburn, who runs part time pop up gallery Two Rams on New York’s lower east side, showed works by Brooklyn artist Ryan Schneider, medium and large-scale paintings inspired by a summer spent wandering the deserts of Joshua Tree. The vibrant, tribal-like imagery represent a shift into the artist’s “more positive, spiritual message,” Coburn told artnet News.
Boston gallery Samsøñ showed “Home Court Crawl,” a series of works by artist Lisa Sigal that were also recently exhibited at Prospect 3 in New Orleans. Collectively the works represent the text of a one-act play by Suzan Lori-Parks, 365 Days/365 Plays (2002-3). The images depict relationships between voices and houses, many of which are New Orleans houses that have remained vacant post-Katrina.
Los Angeles-based CES Gallery showed the work of young Czech painter Ira Svobodová, abstract paintings from her two series “Noir” and “Papercut” that create mysterious interiors and play with notions of depth.
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