BWW Reviews: Cured to Perfection the ADAA Art Fair is a Pleasure to Visit
Cured to perfection the ADAA Art Fair is a Pleasure
By Barry Kostrinsky
The Art Dealers Association of America- ADAA for acronym lover's, is consistently the classiest and most enjoyable art fair experience every year. Temporarily housed through Sunday in the Park Avenue Armory at 67th street, it is more than the simple things like aisles capable of handling a heard of elephants, good lighting and enough but not too much art and exhibitors that make this a Fun Fair with two capitals.
The Fair feels like a dollhouse version of a modern museum without the bland glowing white walls that scream unnatural setting. Most of the exhibitors have created a room like feeling that you want to enter, engage and maybe even brake into late at night to have a mad sleep over art party with cookies and milk at 3am.
However what most makes me feel elevated and enriched while doing the slow alpha vampire walk we all do when we seeing art is the curating job by most of the exhibitors. What is and makes a good curation? It is the combination and proportions of vinegar, salt, spices and sugar- that little know but often used trick for soups, salad dressing and even tomato source as extolled in the Godfather, used to immerse your cucumbers and transform them to pickles. Okay so maybe my hunger has coated my focus but as with cooking, in art curating, it is not necessarily the individual ingredients- the works of art in themselves that make it work, but the combination, interaction and mutually supportive roll and counterpoints that leads to an understanding beyond the individual art work. At it's best, great curating like the type present consistently throughout the ADAA fair, can help you to see something more, something undescribable like poetry in the setting of the objects. At it's worst curation can be disjunctive and reduce the impact of the individual pieces.
This early Pollack from 1939 at Manny Silverman Gallery reveals the influence of Gorky and Picasso on the young pre-dripper. A good curation would pull that out and have works by Gorky and maybe a Picasso drawing from the Guernica series or even a Leonardo horse drawing to open up the dialogue amongst the works. Even with the Picasso ceramic from another booth you can see the link.
Good creation has adjacent or nearby pieces reinforcing visual themes like line, form, materials and color as well as the more romantic themes of love, death, sex and rock and roll. At times it can be as simple as a few works that have similar objects like a smile or a figurative form varied from work to work to reveal a deeper sight into a hard to describe but in your face essence of form and art.
The gallerists at fairs seem to have an advantage over Museums curator's that get the big bucks, notoriety and respectability of their peers in Arthur Danto's aptly named art world. Museum curators are wrongly tied to a tight chronological history and often work so closely within an era that they are just time-lining the art on walls. Even worse, sometimes their curating is so obscure it is as if they are saying, "this is a great job I did and I know no one will get it because it is so esoteric and obtuse." Though a former math major and lover of the field, I don't have much use for big angles.
In short, for I already have done it in long, good curating is similar to the awe of a forest as compared to the beauty of the individual trees. The gestalt multiplier advantage (Johnney Mac) thing is going on.
At the ADAA Fair many of the gallerist's are working with art that ranges 25-75 years between execution- did I or someone just kill a painting? Some gallerists work with a variety of artist and offer insight into how the artist's relate, others show only one artists works but somehow the whole show is much more than any of the individual parts.
May Wilson, 1973 at Pavel Zoubok. See how the combination of images on the left in the grid presentation yields more than the parts. Similarly the addition of the dolled up image on the right contrasts in a positive way to reinforce each work. A great thrill of seeing a fair is exposure to artist you are not familiar with.
In the contemporary art world so much has to be garnered about an art work by reading the schpeel. I don't like the schpeel. Visual arts is my bag and it should be and here comes a big surprise....it should be visual. A well curated space works with the visual language and creates a soft sfumato blending of art to achieve a unification around themes and form.
Robert Kinmont's 26 dead animals from 1937 at Alexander and Bonin is a naturally compacted curation of poignent and striking views we often pass on our city streets.
Is good curation a game only curators play? No. Collector's choices and combinations within their collections and how they hang it reveal not only links in the art world but the unique vision of the collector. Often it is sad when a lifetime of collecting amounts to a pile of unrelated holdings or a well thought out collection is dispersed and the unity of the collecting vision and the gestalt multiplier is lost. Never lose your gestalt multiplier. What makes you more than the sum of your parts?
Hopefullly you checked it out, make the trip, hopped in a cab, rode the subway or used one of errant elephants that broke with the heard and rode on over to the Armory at Park Avenue to see the ADAA fair. If not, there is always next year. Can you spot a well curated booth? Give a look and try and see why did the gallerist place this work next to that work? Talk to the gallerist. Yes, some will look deep into your pockets for your worth and will Washburn you (not the elder, Joan is a gent). Some will offer insight. Their eyes will light up. Stories will be told you cannot read in art history books. The gallerist will see someone gets what they are doing. This is so important in our "put it out and then never know who gets it" one way world of zeros and ones we all digitally communicate in.
One negative, if it really is a negative is that the ADAA Fair is more of a modern art fair than a contemporary art fair. True there are many booths with contemporary artist but the show exhibits many works from 1900 through1960 and earlier. These precursors of Contemporary art set the context in a strong light and contemporary artist become more palatable and relevant to the canon of art history.