Monday, March 2, 2015

'Art on Paper' Gives Itself the Space to Make Bolder, Grander Statements

John Baldessari National City, archival inkjet and acrylic paint; 19.125 x 18.75 inches: each image 48.6 x 47.6 cm 25.25 x 24.5 inches: frame 64.1 x 62.2 cm; 1996-2009. Image courtesy of Richard Levy Gallery.


always offers surprises such as wickedly detailed huge satirical drawings on political fantasies or retakes on classics, like painted versions of Goya’s Capriccios in contemporary cartoon style.

“Art on Paper,” one of numerous art fairs opening over the next few days during what is known in New York City as Armory Week, has always been a favorite. Like the others, its focus is mainly on contemporary and modern art from around the world. It is also one of the most diverse.

In addition to sculpture, “Art on Paper” favors the intimacy of drawing and the cleverness of watercolor over the sententiousness of painting. Photography is also one of its stars.

This year’s fair, from 5 March to 8 March at (Thursday through Sunday) at Pier 36, hosts 55 galleries presenting major innovations in paper sculptures and book carving.

Among these innovations, according to the fair pr are “monumental installations by Wayne White, Mia Pearlman and William Beckman. Each reaches beyond traditional boundaries and into the fair's public space.”

Sandow Birk, Universal Declaration of Human Rights 2013, direct gravure etching on handmade gampi paper; 62 1/2 x 48 unframed, 66 x 53 framed; 2013. Image courtesy of Catharine Clark Gallery.

Indeed, the fair's new location at Pier 36 lends it the required scale to display MP's immense cloudscape in suspended paper, “Maelstrom” (2008; JHB Gallery).

“Some of the book artists, for example, are taking even rare books and carving them, an implicit critique of the obsolescence of knowledge in our culture,” notes Jayne H. Baum, owner of JHB Gallery, which is presenting a wide range of works this year. “On the other hand, we’ve seen a return to drawing as a backlash against new [digital] media.”

Meg Hitchcock, Mundaka Upanishad, Letters cut from the Koran (detail); 28 x 22 1/4; 2013. Image courtesy of RandallScottProjects.

A surprising inclusion is an untitled oversized piece by novelist David Eggers. Granted, as a writer his medium is paper. Yet, one can't help but wonder how he will explore it in its physical dimensions. Another installation of note is one by Rose Eken“Remain in Light,” an examination of the anatomy of the lightbulb (2014; The Hole).

Los Angeles-based New Image Art showcases work by graffiti artist RETNA, combining gorgeous topless models with enigmatic graphic symbols. At the Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects booth, fairgoers can glimpse works by modern masters such as Richard Diebenkorn, Ann Gale and Arshile Gorky.

Meanwhile the Richard Levy Gallery suggests a series of photographs by the venerable John Baldessari titled “National City” (actually the name of his hometown, near Los Angeles). In these, he spotlights the suburban banality of the place by superimposing large, blank monochromatic circles (in acrylic) over parts of the image.

Mia Pearlman, ONE, paper, India ink, tacks, clips; two individual installations; 16 x 11 x 7; 2012. Image courtesy of JHB Gallery.

My own tastes go to the elaborated intricacies that capture entire worlds of perception in a single large piece, such as Sandow Birk’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (2013, Catharine Clark Gallery).

One is always fascinated by clever cutting and pasting, a child’s art turned to sophisticated purposes.

Visit to learn more about “Art on Paper.”

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