Who's At The Fair?

The Usual High-Profile African American Artists Plus Some To Watch

 Hank Willis Thomas, Freedom in our lifetime, 2014, prefab dry wall, security wire, spray paint,  2.3m x 4m x4 x 15 cm. Goodman GalleryWhen the original Armory Show (the International Exposition of Modern Art) was held in New York in 1913, the black presence in the show was very limited (but consequential): the African art that captivated American avant grade artists and collectors and the African-influenced works of the European Cubists.  

Trenton Doyle Hancock, Fix, 2007. From a portfolio of 20 pages utilizing etching, lithography and silkscreen, 14 x 14What a difference 102 years makes!  

Mickalene Thomas,   Susanne Vielmetter Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles ProjectsThe African presence, via the Diaspora, is pervasive in the 2015 Amory show and other venues of the big art fair conglomerate in New York, March 5-8.  The other fairs include Pulse Contemporary, Moving Image, Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), SCOPE and The Independent show.

Hank Willis Thomas’ work is spread across exhibition spaces at The Armory and Pulse — 46 works in all plus Thomas' commissioned design for the Artsy booth. His Artsy commission is a sly piece: fair goers will have to shoot the booth design with a cell phone camera in order to clearly see it but they won't be prompted to do so.

The Goodman Gallery of Johannesburg, South Africa is showing the lion's share of Thomas works at the fair — 32. Thomas' first solo exhibition at Goodman was History Doesn't Laugh in 2014. For more about Hank Willis Thomas’ Artsy commission and a look at his studio, see: Hank Willis Thomas on Race, the Media, and His Upcoming Armory Show Takeover.

Other Armory Show artists include: Mickalene Thomas, Charles Gaines, Wangechi Mutu and My Barbarian (an artist collective that includes Malik Gaines) at the Susanne Vielmetter booth. Chris Ofili, Trenton Doyle Hancock and Carrie Mae Weems at Rutgers' Brodsky Center booth. Also at the Amory: works by Benny Andrews, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Beauford Delaney, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Betye Saar, Alma Thomas, Bob Thompson, Charles White and Hale Woodruff at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery booth.

Lorna Simpson, Going Grey, 2013  Salon 94, Booth B5Odili Donald Odita, In Between, 2002 Pérez Art Museum Miami African and African American artists represented at The Pulse include Betye Saar, Kehinde Wiley, El Anatsui (Roberts & Tilton Gallery booth). William Villalongo (Lower Eastside Printshop), Theaster Gates (White Cube) and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (Jack Shainman Gallery), Odili Donald Odita (Pérez Art Museum Miami) and El Anatsui (Axel Vervoordt Gallery).

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye A Few for the Many, 2013 Jack Shainman Gallery

At the ADAA show, Lorna Simpson continues to do hair but now the hair is greying. Her latest hair series is at the Salon 94 booth.

Works by Mike Cloud (Thomas Erben Gallery) and Alexandria Smith (Rush Arts)  are at the Independent and SCOPE respectively.  

New York art fair week representation is a good indication that the less-well known artists in this roster are ones to watch.  Here’s what we know about them from previous IRAAA coverage:  

Commenting on Mike Cloud’s Bad Faith and Universal Technique show at Thomas Erben Gallery in October 2014, Diana McClure, said the the artist “has not been seduced by conceptual art.  That is not to say there is not a conceptual framework to his aesthetic. It appears that he has taken a most challenging approach to his creative instinct, engaging the intersection of concept and emotion to animate ideas in his work.”   The article is here.

Alexandria Smith, When the Bough Breaks, Rush ArtsAlexandria Smith was one of six women artists whose work sharpened the contemporary cache of the southern institution that showed it (I See You: The Politics of Being, Harvey Gannt Center, Charlotte NC January 26, 2014 - June 1, 2014).  Smith’s artist talk at the Center showed how her edgy work is rooted in a familiar tradition:

She traced the history of her work back to influences from her grandmother’s house in North Carolina. Her use of wallpaper designs, doily patterns, allusions to wooden floors and the ever-present pig-tail create an ever-expanding visual language that has informed her 2D and now 3D and performance-based work.

Mike Cloud, Cycle and Stable, 2015, oil on canvas & wood, 100 x 106Like many children being raised in New York City, Smith was sent to the south during the summer to escape the sweltering concrete. Her paintings and collages in some way recreate that space, while manufacturing a place where a young woman’s identity can be formulated, transformed and re-constructed. 

Marcus Jansen, Souls in Gaza. Untitled ProjectsThe exhibition curator Jonell Logan contributed the Alexandria Smith coverage in this article: Edging Further Out in Charlotte Contemporary Art Thrives in the Southern City.

Modern Urban Expressionist Marcus Jansen is preparing for solo shows in the U.S., Europe and China. "A Movement that has gained more traction in Europe than in the U.S. is Modern Urban Expressionism," writes IRAAA contributing writer Phillip Harvey. " Having coined the term, no artist embodies this idea more than its primary proponent, Marcus Jansen.... Jansen explains: 'I refer to my work as ... a combination of the German 1900s movement of expressionism, the New York movement of Abstract Expressionism and modern elments of urban voices such as graffiti art, using bold brush strokes, graphics, sketches, metaphoric like symbolic messages to create dialogue and a puzzled mystery'." ("The View From Now," IRAAA, v. 22, no. 2).

 William Villalongo Through the Fire to the Limit, 2006 Lower East Side PrintshopWangechi Mutu, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles ProjectsIn 2005, "post-black" was still a white hot issue in art conversation. Responding to the issue at that time, William Villalongo said,  “Right now there’s a growing black middle class and a lot of artist are coming out of that....As a result, there is a different set of issues being communicated: these issues are not necessarily always about victimization. Our voice has changed from one that is fighting for the idea of civil rights to fighting within a market.” 

William Villalongo’s imaginary worlds are populated with naughty cherubs, fanciful creatures and curious hybrids. Born in Hollywood, Florida in 1975, he creates drawn and painted scenarios that recall European history painting, mythology, surrealism and romanticism.  (From “A Rising Generation & the Pleasures of Freedom” by Soraya Murray and Derek Conrad Murray, IRAAA, vol. 20, no. 2, 2005).

Collector's alert: the Villalongo print shown here, Through the Fire, is offered for $1,500 by the Lower Eastside Print Shop.

The Shows

Betye Saar Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah, 2014 Roberts & TiltonTheaster Gates Painting Black People, 2012 White CubeThe Armory Show is devoted to showcasing the most important artworks of the 20th and 21st centuries. In its 16  years the fair has become an international institution, combining a selection of the world's leading galleries with an exceptional program of arts events and exhibitions. Its main location is Piers 92 & 94 in central Manhattan. 

Since 2005, PULSE Contemporary Art Fair has been the premiere satellite fair for the discovery and acquisition of cutting-edge contemporary art presented by international galleries.  It’s at 125 West 18th Street.  

The Moving Image Fair, devoted to film, video and perfomance art, is at  the Waterfront New York Tunnel, 269 11th Avenue, between 27th and 28th Streets.

Kehinde Wiley George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol, 2014 Roberts & TiltonSCOPE New York’s open-plan design liberates the art from being divided into small booth.  Galleries have more floor and wall space and the art on view flows into one another, creating curatorial narratives that encompass the entire show.  Scope it out at Metropolitan Pavilion West, one block across from The Armory Show piers.

Carrie Mae Weems When and Where I Enter the British Museum, 2007 Brodsky CenterThe Independent at 548 West 22nd Street features over 50 international galleries and non-profit art spaces from 14 countries.

Gallery presentations at the 27th annual ADAA Art Show, organized by the Art Dealers Association of America, feature thoughtfully curated solo, two-person, and thematic exhibitions by 72 of the nation’s leading art dealers.

— Juliette Harris