Native Fashion – Cross Cultural Boundary Shattering

The Messenger (The Owl), Margaret Roach Wheeler (Chicksaw) cape and headpiece, silk-wool year, metal, silver, glass beads and peacock feathers.

February and March bring us reports of fashion shows from New York, Paris, Milan, London… all of which have bragging rights, but they may meet their match in some of the garments and accessories on display at the Museum of the American Indian, in the fabulous new show, Native Fashion Now .  Divided into four parts (Pathbreakers, Revisitors, Activators, Provacateurs) the exhibit features over 60 pieces of contemporary clothing, jewelry and footwear designed by Native Americans. While many reference traditional sources and design, they are adapted to today’s materials and sensibilities. The pieces are all about the creation that happens when cultures collide, bringing forth something new but that still has heritage at its foundation.  The craftsmanship is exquisite.  As an embroiderer, I was immediately drawn to the beaded pieces, of which there are many splendid ones.

The first gallery – Pathbreakers  features the work several trailblazers, such as Frankie Welch (Cherokee), who dressed First Lady Betty Ford, and Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo), who you may recognize from the 2013 season of Project Runway.  You’ll also find dresses by Cherokee designer Lloyd “Kiva” New, whose custom clothing and accessories in the 1940‘s and ’50’s were part of mainstream (as opposed to “ethnic”) fashion, combining Native imagery with modern silhouettes and palettes. New housed his studio in an artisan-run boutique complex in Scottsdale Arizona, and sold his fashions in high-end boutiques and through Neiman Marcus.  He was the first Native designer to show in international fashion exhibition in the 1950’s.  This dress is his variation on Dior’s “New Look.”

1950’s dress, Lloyd “Kiva” New, (Cherokee) screen-printed cotton

 

Maria Samora (Taos  Pueblo) created this stunning Lily Pad bracelet of 18 carat gold, palladium white gold and diamonds, in a design that is a total break with the turquoise and silver that defined “Native” design for so long.

Lily Pad bracelet, Maria Samora (Taos Pueblo) gold, palladium white gold, and diamonds

 

In the Revisitors section you’ll find hats, parasols, dresses by designers who incorporate and reinterpret Native symbols in their work, or use new materials while maintaining a traditional aesthetic.  Be sure to visit the room to the right of this section, where you’ll find lots of fabulous bead work like the belt by Niio Perkins below.

Belt from Emma Ensemble, Niio Perkins (Akwesasne Mohawk) cotton, velvet, glass beads, metal pins

 

Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock) transformed a pair of Christian Louboutin boots, completely covering them in a design of swallows and flowers reminiscent of her childhood, using beads from the 1880’s which she hand stitched over the course of hundreds of hours.

Boots, designed by Christian Louboutin, France, beadwork Jamie Okuma (Luiseno/Shoshone-Bannock)

 

This Old Time Floral Elk Tooth Dress, by Bethany Yellowtail, (Apsaalooke (Crow)/ Northern Cheyenne) is a knock-out, combining elements of heritage – elk teeth are the epitome of Apsaalooke wealth, while the leather appliqués hearken back to Crow and Nez Perce floral motifs – with the thoroughly “fashion” underdress and lace overlay.

Old Time Floral Elk Tooth Dress, Bethany Yellowtail, (Apsaalooke (Crow)/Northern Cheyenne)

 

The Activators section features younger artists, many of whom use fashion to express their political views or to raise awareness of issues affecting Native communities.

One of my favorites is the tee-shirt by Dustin Martin (Diné [Navajo]) with it’s image of a Colt .45 revolver below which is the inscription:  “Ceci n’est pas un conciliateur”  a play on Renee Magritte’s Ceci n’est pas une pipe” – but the kicker is in the explanation on the bottom near the hem:

This is Not a Peacemaker, Dustin Martin, (Diné [Navajo])

THIS IS NOT A PEACEMAKER”  The “New Model Army Metallic Cartridge Revolving Pistol” was adopted as the standard military service revolver from 1873-1892.  Nicknamed “The Peacemaker”, Samuel Colt’s revolutionary side arm was used by Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry during the Great Sioux War of 1876.  On June 25th, Custer and 267 of his men were killed when they engaged a combined force of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors desperate to protect their families camped alongside the Little Bighorn River.  Let by the likes of Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, these sovereign original land owners understood that the implement on Custer’s hip meant anything but peace.  RESIST THE HYPE.

Provacateurs contains one-of-a kind items, that push tradition into the realm of experimental, and are sometimes used to provoke thinking on charged subjects such as colonialism and sexism, or the influence of technology.

Sho Sho Esquiro (Kasha Dene/Cree) has created an elegant evening gown of surprising materials:  rooster feathers, seal, beaver tail and carp, as well as silk and beads, displaying a very skillfully tailored garment.  Hailing from Canada’s Yukon region, Esquiro knows the importance of clothing that is well sewn and constructed.  This garment is from her “Day of the Dead” series, meant to be worn by her departed loved ones at an imagined reunion.  The clothing in this series also takes inspiration from the Mexican holiday of the same name.  I really like the animal skull and tulle fascinator by Dominique Hanke (British).

Wlle, Wile, Wile dress, Day of the Dead Collection, Sho Sho Esquiro (Kaska Dene/Cree) seal, beaver tail, carp, beads, sik, rayon, rooster feathers; skull and tulle fascinator by Dominique Hanke (British)

 

Brothers David Gaussoin and Wayne Nez Gaussoin (Diné [Navajo]/Picuris Pueblo) have created a new take on that glamour standard bearer, the feather boa, crafting an accessory for the 21st century (from stainless steel, sterling silver, enamel paint and feathers) that captures all the attitude of its more malleable predecessor.  Try wearing this on the subway – even jaded New Yorkers would look twice! The  Gunmetal Pleat dress by  Consuelo Pascual (Diné [Navajo]/Maya) fashioned from organza recalls the aesthetics of Paco Rabanne and Courrèges, but takes them to a new level.

Postmodern Boa, David and Wayne Nez Gaussoin; Gunmetal Pleat dress, Consuelo Pascual

 

There’s a lot more to see in Native Fashion Now  (more photos are on my Instagram feed) so get over to the Museum of the American Indian at Bowling Green before it closes on September 4th.   The catalogue (written for the exhibit when it originated at the Essex Peabody Museum) that accompanies the show is fabulous!

The Museum is hosting two events in conjunction with the exhibit:

On Thursday, April 20th, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, The Power of Native Design an evening of fashion and music, and you can hear the personal stories of designers Dorothy Grant (Haida), Jamie Okuma (Luiseno/Shoshone Bannock), Bethany Yellowtail (Apsaalooke/Northern Cheyenne) and others.  Admission is free!

On Saturday, April 22nd, an all-day symposium, Native/American Fashion: Inspiration, Appropriation and Cultural Identity, will bring together Native and non-Native historians, fashion designers and artists working in the fields of fashion, law and indigenous studies, addressing  fashion as a creative endeavor and an expression of cultural identity, issues of problematic cultural appropriation, and offering examples of creative collaborations and best practices between Native designers and fashion brands. The symposium is co-sponsored with the Fashion Institute of Technology. Admission is free!

Apply to NYFA’s Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program

Applications are now being accepted for the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA)’s  Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program! The program is open to artists working in music and composition, dance and choreography, performance art, theater arts (acting, producing, directing) and literary arts including fiction, non-fiction, playwriting, storytelling, and poetry. This includes folk and traditional artists in these disciplines. 

The program will run from June to September 2017, and will bring performing and literary artists together to nurture a productive environment for collaboration. The application deadline is Wednesday, April 26, 2017.  More information here.

French Culture and Language in La Grosse Pomme!

The French language and French culture is found throughout the globe.  According to the Organisation internationale de la francophonie,   French is spoken by 274 million people on 5 continents.  This article focuses on France, which has the largest French-speaking population in New York City that has grown exponentially over the last dozen years or so.    

There are 67 French-related organizations in New York City, under the umbrella of the Committee of French-Speaking Societies.   I’m just going to talk about a few of them.

If you’re looking for French film, theatre, lectures, books or even lessons, here are three great places to start:  the French Institute, Alliance Française (FI:AF)  which has all of the foregoing, all year round.   In addition to their midtown facility, FIAF also has language classes in Brooklyn. 

The Maison Française at NYU  and the Maison Française at Columbia  offer a wide variety of lectures, screenings and exhibitions. 

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy in NYC  has been a  force for spreading French Culture in NYC.  You can find out about dual-language education programs here ; they maintain a robust calendar of film, theatre, readings, festivals on their events calendar 

If you’re looking for books – in both French and English, head over to  Albertine, the book store located in the Cultural Services building, or Idlewild bookstore, which has locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

If you’d like to be part of an on-line community of French speakers and people interested in the French language, check out New York in French 

For more general information about the French in NYC, take a look at French Morningwhich publishes in both English and French, and covers French activities in LA, Miami, San Francisco and Texas

You also might want to take a look at French District,which has 10 editions in the US (three are also in English), and a large directory of service providers.

To find out about Québecois artists appearing in New York, go to Québec’s international page then scroll to “Events” at the bottom  

The Consulate of Luxembourg has events posted on its website 

Belgium Consulate in NY posts events on its Facebook page   

For Swiss events in NYC, you can sign up for a newsletter through the Consulate’s website

A great source for finding information on concerts by musicians from French speaking Africa and the Caribbean is Afropop  

I realize I don’t have everything in here, so if there’s another organization I should know about, just drop me a line!

Come From Away – Canada Puts Its Best Foot Forward

Last week, the Canadian Consulate began celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Federation of Canada by inviting some 600 guests (including your intrepid blogger) to see Come From Away, the new musical that opened at the Gerald Shoenfeld Theatre. 

If you’ve read any of the reviews about this work, you’ve probably seen it described as big hearted, heart warming, feel good… which it is – all without being treacly or sentimental.   The plot revolves around  true story of the almost 7,000 passengers from around the world who found themselves stranded in Gander, Newfoundland and surrounding towns on September 11, 2001.  The opening scenes convey the sense of chaos that prevailed on that day (and many of the following) not only in Gander, but around the world, as US airspace was closed, and every person and aircraft that would be traversing it was treated as a potential weapon.  A small town with a huge airfield (until the advent of long-haul aircraft, flights to Europe would refuel in Gander) has to figure out how to cope with the sudden influx of people from around the world who need food, shelter and information. Plus a pregnant chimpanzee and other animals.

Then there are the passengers on 38 planes who find themselves far from their final destinations, with no information as to why or how long they would be stuck on the planes or in Gander.   

Through the stories of a few characters, the play gives us a window into the wider events on the ground: the Mayor of Gander, who has to scramble to create accommodations for the newcomers;  the American Airlines pilot whose pride in her profession has been profoundly shaken by the weaponizing of airplanes;  a master chef from Egypt who is ostracized and treated as a potential terrorist; and the mother from New York City trying desperately to contact her son, an NYC firefighter.  But there is also a more comforting, joyful side to this tale, as the locals volunteer at the makeshift shelters to cook for these strangers, and even invite them into their homes.  There’s an especially fun scene where the newcomers become honorary New Foundlanders (alcohol and cod kissing are involved).   After a few days, the strangers board their planes to their ultimate destinations, but the bonds created with the townspeople remain strong, despite time and distance – a reunion was held in 2011.  (The play is based on interviews the playwrights held in Gander on the 10th Anniversary commemoration)

The cast of 16 does yeoman’s work, each taking on several roles as both passengers and townspeople.  I liked the use of the revolving stage to move from one scene to another.  And the score, inspired by Cletic-based Newfoundland music, is played by an outstanding 8 piece ensemble.

Don’t come expecting  high drama or show stopping tunes – this is the story of common human decency and generosity in extraordinary circumstances, and the book and score are in that vein, with characters rendered in broad strokes.  I was very glad that the play isn’t sentimental, although every now and then it dances close to the edge.  But you’ll leave this charming musical – with book and music by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, and a first rate cast – feeling uplifted, but also with a sense of the loss that is never far from our happiness. 

So get over to the Schoenfeld Theatre and see Come From Away as soon as you can!

The Fantastical Landscapes of Hercules Segers

River Valley With Four Trees, Hercules Segers, ca 1625-30, line etching, first state of two

I first heard of the 17th-century printmaker Hercules Segers this spring at the TEFAF, where the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam showed a short film about his work, in advance of the recently-opened show at the Metropolitan Museum.  This is the first major exhibition in the United States devoted to the artist.  The Rijksmuseum has lent its entire holdings (74 prints, two oil sketches, and one painting) to the exhibition, and you’ll find work from other European institutions, such as the British Museum and the Kupferstichkabinett of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden. The Met exhibit, while highlighting Segers’ artistry, also showcases his innovations in printmaking.

Not much is known about Segers – he was born around 1590 to a family of moneyed Flemish merchants in Haarlem, which was an important printmaking town.  He later moved to Amsterdam, and then, in 1631 to the Hague, due to financial difficulties.    

In the show are two small display cases with the brushes, inks, papers, and etching needles Segers would have used.   Among his innovations were the use of Asian papers (later employed by Rembrandt), and colored papers, as well as printing on cloth, and using sugar to create texture. Rather than creating multiple identical prints of an image, Segers sought to make each impression a unique work, a departure from the practice of the day.

Segers seems to have traveled no farther than Brussels. Yet he created fantastical landscapes that combined aspects of Dutch cities with those of more Alpine landscapes, which he would have seen in the etchings of artists such as Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

The show – which has most of Seger’s 53 known prints in varying impressions plus six of his paintings and two studies – begins with a very short video on Segers (which I recommend watching).  It then proceeds chronologically, giving you the full flavor of Seger’s ouevre – you’ll quickly understand why Rembrandt owned several of his works (including a plate he reworked).  Because the various states of Seger’s prints are grouped together, you get a more complete understanding of his innovations, and how his technical mastery and daring allowed him to create very different impressions of a given scene.  On it’s website, the Met does a wonderful job of explaining this with an interactive feature that lets you move between different states of a print.  Here are some of my favorite paintings and prints in the exhibit:

Houses Near Steep Cliffs, Hercules Segers, ca 1619-23, oil on canvas

Houses Near Steep Cliffs, an oil painting from around 1619, faithfully renders buildings that Segers would have seen from his window in Amsterdam – but the artist has chosen to set them in an imaginary landscape with cliffs and a lake, like you might find in the lower Alps.

View Through the Window of Segers’ House Towards the Noorderkerk, Hercules Segers, ca 1625-30, line etching, unique impression

A few years later, he created a line etching, View Through the Window of Seger’s House Toward the Nooderkerk , again faithfully showing the buildings – now with the newly completed North Church – Segers would have seen from his window (even including the shutters and window frame); however, the trees in the distance are a fanciful element, replacing actual buildings.

River Landscape with Figures, Hercules Segers, ca 1625-30, oil on panel

We can gain some insight into Segers’ methods by looking at River Landscape with Figures, an oil he completed sometime around 1625-30.  We see buildings that would not have been out of place in a Dutch city in that era, now set in a landscape that is clearly not in the Lowlands.

About a year later, he created an etching, Valley With a River and a Town with Four Towers,  which seems to have been derived from the River Landscape painting, as their compositions are almost identical.  Even though the buildings in the etchings are more Gothic, and there are other details, such as the vegetation, which are different, there’s a clear relationship to the painting.  While the etchings are all the same, you see from the three states below how Segers’ use of colored backgrounds and wash convey completely different atmospheres.

Valley With a River and A Town with 4 Towers, Hercules Segers, 1625-27, etching and drypoint printed in black ink

This is a drypoint etching in black ink.

Valley With a River and A Town with 4 Towers, Hercules Segers, 1625-27, etching and drypoint printed in green ink on cream-tinted ground, pen in gray ink with gray wash

Segers printed this line point etching in dark green on a cream-tinted back ground, over which he used a pen with grey ink, and a grey wash.

Valley With a River and A Town with 4 Towers, Hercules Segers, 1625-27, etching and drypoint printed in blue ink pm cream-tinted background, colored with brush

This version was printed in blue on cream-tined ground, then colored with a brush.  The streaks that seem to point upward suggest that the print was hung upside-down to dry.

Tobias and the Angel, Hercules Segers, ca 1630-33

I started off this article by mentioning that Rembrandt van Rijn was among Segers’ admirers, owning several of his works, including the plate that Segers used around 1630 to create this etching of Tobias and the Angel.  Sometime later,  Rembrandt reworked the plate, taking  out the figures of Tobias and the Angel…

The Flight into Egypt, Rembrandt van Rijn, ca 1652

… then sketching directly onto the plate with a drypoint needle, he changed the subject into The Flight into Egypt.  Hubirs or homage?

Even though he’s not that well-known today, in his lifetime Segers was widely admired and influenced his contemporaries.  There’s much more to this exhibit, so get to the Met to see The Mysterious Landscapes of Hercules Segers before it closes on May 21st.

Irish Culture – Beyond St. Patrick’s Day

Detail of stain-glassed window depicting St. Patrick in St. Bennin’s Church, Kilbennan, Ireland. Photo by Andreas F. Borchert [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en), or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

As today is the day many people of Irish and non-Irish heritage will march up 5th Avenue in honor of Irish saint Patrick (who’s also the patron saint of New York City), here’s a short run-down of Irish cultural activities in the Big Apple.

New York  boasts a number of Irish performing arts/cultural centers. The Irish Arts Center hosts theatrical and musical performances, as well as classes in Irish music, dance and language, not to mention lots of programs for kids!

The Irish Repertory Theatre is back in its renovated space, presenting a full calendar of classic and contemporary works by Irish and Irish-American playwrights.

Just across the East River (and only one stop from Grand Central) in Long Island City, Queens is the New York Irish Center, an intimate space that’s great for concerts,  films and theatre, and has low ticket prices.   The Center also hosts classes in Irish music and language.

The American Irish Historical Society hosts lectures, seminars, readings and performances throughout the year. Its library and archives contain a wide variety of rare books and artifacts from the 17th century to the present.

Glucksman Ireland House NYU hosts concerts, films, and talks, as well as readings by writers, poets and playwrights throughout the year, many of which are free, the others of which are really low cost.

In the fall, Origin Theatre produces 1st Irish, a festival of Irish plays, readings and films that’s simply wonderful.  Every year I attend several of the performances, and they’ve all been great.  Mark your calendars NOW!

The Yeats Society hosts events related to the great poet, and also sponsors an annual poetry competition.

If you’re down by Battery Park, stop and visit the Irish Hunger Memorial at Vesey Street and North End Avenue. It blends very well into its surroundings, and you may take a moment to realize you’ve found it.  Designed by artist Brian Tolle, this calm and pastural site representing  a rural Irish landscape, contains a rebuilt 19th century Irish stone cottage, set in a field with walls made of stones from all across Ireland.

ENJOY!

Black History in US Currency

Loreen Williamson, Co-founder, Museum of UnCut Funk making remarks at the opening of the exhibit “For the Love of Money”

Coins and bills may seem to be just a way we pay for things, but they have a psychic and symbolic weight that belies their physical heft.  Just think about the debates around imagery when the Euro was created, or the more recent dust-up over changes to the U.S. $20 bill. 

It was against this backdrop that the Museum of American Finance opened its newest exhibit For The Love of Money:  Blacks on US Currency, featuring coins, medals and medallions bearing images of Black icons, historical events, and institutions central to American history. 

The exhibit comes from the Museum of UnCut Funk, a virtual museum dedicated to 1970’s Black Culture and Funk.  Loreen Williamson, co-curator of the Museum of UnCut Funk, opened her remarks noting that announced changes to US Currency will include images of prominent African Americans: Harriet Tubman will be featured on the front of the new $20 bill; the reverse of the new $10 bill will feature several women’s rights activists, including Sojourner Truth; and the reverse of the new $5 bill will honor prominent individuals including Marian Anderson and Martin Luther King Jr. (You can find the full US Treasury announcement here) As she said, quoting the O’Jay’s song that gives this exhibit its title, such a “small piece of paper carries a lot of weight.”

When Ms. Williamson and Pamela Thomas started the Museum, they collected objects they loved, centered on 1970’s Black culture and Funk.  They didn’t know that there were black people on U.S. currency – they found their first coin some 15 years ago at a memorabilia show.  Ms. Williamson noted that the 41 objects in this exhibit are tangible, permanent, accessible objects for people to learn from – many of the coins have images of historical first events and people who carried the hopes and dreams of their race  on their shoulders.  For her this exhibit also brings history full circle, as enslaved people were bought and sold on Wall Street, steps away from this exhibit. 

The exhibit covers a lot of history, and is divided into 5 parts by type of object: anti-slavery tokens used in the US and England; commemorative coins – they are made in small batches and their sales are used to build museums, maintain historic sites and support Olympic programs;  Congressional Gold Medals – one of the highest civilian awards bestowed by the US government to honor particular individuals or events; replica bronze medals – these are replicas of the Congressional Gold medals and can be sold; and commemorative gold medallions – in1978 legislation authorized the creation of commemorative American Arts Medallions, to provide a way for U.S. citizens to invest in gold bullion-type coins. 

Commemorative coins and medals  require an Act of Congress, signed by the US President, to be created, which makes the images that adorn them even more significant.

And who makes our money?  US Currency is made by the Department of the Treasury:  bills by the Bureau of Printing and Engraving  and coins by the U.S. Mint.

Throughout the show you’ll find coins bearing the likenesses of many famous figures or commemorating well-known historic events, such as Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, the desegregation of Little Rock schools, as well as objects with images of less famous people like Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman aviator in the world.  In the displays you’ll be rewarded with the fruits of Ms. Williamson’s research: biographies and descriptions of the people, events and institutions depicted, as well as explanations of how these coins and medals are created. Below are a few of the objects you’ll see:

Copper American anti-slavery token “Am I not a woman & a sister” 1838

The sale of Anti-Slavery tokens supported by American abolitionist movement; the design of the American tokens was inspired by British ceramic medallions projected by Josiah Wedgwood, and commissioned by Benjamin Franklin. American copper hard-times tokens were privately minted and used by merchants to make change.

Louis Armstrong commemorative gold medallion

The great jazz artist Louis Armstrong was the first Black man to be honored on a gold commemorative medallion.  He was also the first Black man to get feature billing in a major motion picture, Pennies from Heaven.  For over 10 years, Armstrong refused to play in his hometown of New Orleans, because they didn’t allow integrated bands. You can also visit his home in Corona, Queens. 

Civil Rights Act of 1964, silver dollar created in 2014

The 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was commemorated on a Silver Dollar in 2014. 

bronze replica of gold Congressional Medal presented to the American Fighter Aces

This medal is a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal presented to the American Fighter Aces in recognition of their heroic military service.  American Fighter Aces are military pilots credited with destroying five or more confirmed enemy aircraft in aerial combat during a war or conflict.  This medal includes the likeness of Lt. Col. Lee Archer, the first and only Black Fighter Ace, who fought in both World War 2 (with the Tuskegee Airmen)  and the Korean War.  He flew 196 missions and shot down four enemy aircraft; with another pilot he downed a fifth enemy plane. 

George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington silver half dollar 1951

This 1951 silver half dollar was designed by Isaac Scott Hathaway, the first Black artist whose work was produced by the US Mint. It depicts George Washington Carver, who was born into slavery and became a famous agricultural scientist and inventor; and Booker T. Washington, a former slave who served as an advisor to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, and founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, now known as Tuskegee University.

Dorothy Height Bronze Medal Front. Photo by Museum of UnCut Funk, courtesy of Museum of American Finance

Dorothy I. Height was President of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) for 40 years.  She was also the only female member of the Council for United Civil Rights leadership and was one of the organizers of the March on Washington.  The NCNW national headquarters building is named after her.

This exhibit is both highly educational and fascinating.  Be sure to get to see it before it closes next January!  The Museum of American Finance is at 48 Wall Street;  the Museum of UnCut Funk is on-line.

Volta – Art Fair Review

Now in it’s 10th year, Volta features mostly solo artist projects, so you can get a better understanding of an individual artist’s oeuvre.  Some of the highlights for me were:

Sapar Contemporary exhibited the work of Faig Ahmed.  Originally a student of ancient languages, his current work is a deconstruction of the language of carpets.  The artist takes traditional Azerbaijani carpets as his point of departure, deconstructing and reimagining  them into unique, exciting pieces, often with sculptural elements, which are hand woven by local artists in the area around Baku.

Virgin, by Faig Ahmed at Sapar Contemporary

 

OCP featured Permutations by Sandra Muss , who transformed seven doors from an old lumber mill in the Berkshires into portals to other dimensions.  Dating from the 1800’s, these wooden doors had been encased in metal to make them fireproof (ironically, the lumber mill burned down).  The artist kept her manipulations very simple, wanting to maintain the integrity of the doors, which she found quite beautiful on their own – in Door # 4, part of the wooden door is exposed. She noted that doors have their own mythology, of being simultaneously entrances and closures.

Door #7 Sunburst by Sandra Muss

Detail, Door # 4 Beneath the Surface, Sandra Muss

 

Charlie Smith London showcased Haunts by Welsh artist Emma Bennet, who combines old masters technique and subject matter – especially still lifes – against an intensely dark plain background, making the flowers, fruit and drapery seem to float in a void.  Some of her  pieces contain lamps which provide only partial illumination of objects that are then reflected in a mirror, playing on themes of absence, familiarity and memory.  I’m keeping an eye on her.

Some Days a Shadow, by Emma Bennett, 2016, oil on canvas. Image courtesy of Charlie Smith London gallery

 

It was a pleasure to meet Adrian Esparza, whose work I had previously seen in Brooklyn.  Taubert Contemporary from Berlin showcased several of Adrian’s large-scale works, which he makes by deconstructing Mexican serapes, rewrapping the wool on wooden frames, and transforming them into abstract, architectural works.   Several of his preparatory drawings were also exhibited. Adrian, who lives and works in El Paso,  mentioned that he had studied painting at CalArts, where they took apart the notion of painting.  I would say his work moves that concept in new directions.

Adrian Esparsa and me in front of his piece Tunnel Vision at Taubert Contemporary

 

Rockleman & from Berlin featured  New York artist Kathleen Vance’s Traveling Landscapes, which are really that: aged suitcases, trunks and other pieces of luggage containing landscapes of soil, stones and artificial plants, often with water running through them like streams.  The artist used this work to question ideas surrounding land ownership and water rights.

Traveling Landscapes by Kathleen Vance at Rockelman &

 

This was another great show from Volta, so be sure to put it on your list for next year!

NADA – Art Fair Review

The New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA)  held their show at the Skylight Clarkson, with a focus on new voices in contemporary art working across a wide variety of media.  Here are my highlights

The first thing that called my attention to Yours Mine & Ours booth was the sound – as if someone were typing on an old electric typewriter… but it was, in fact, an alien, typing on a laptop, that the artist Jeremy Couillard  based on his video game, Alien Afterlife.  I must say, it gave me the biggest laugh, having spent many years using both manual and electric typewriters…

Alien Typist, by Jeremy Couilllard at Yours Mine Ours

The booth also featured textiles by Robin Kang, which were designed on a computer, then hooked up to a Jacquard loom and woven partly by hand

Textile by Robin Kang at Yours Mine Ours

 

The gallery 11R had a group show of some great work, but it was the mono prints by        Aiko Hachisuka  that caught my eye.  At first I thought they were woodcuts, but the gallery director explained that the artist often makes sculptures from fabric, which, I think, gives her work a textural feel – and she has a great sense of color.

monoprint by Aiko Hachisuke at 11R

 

The Shane Campbell Gallery from Chicago showed work by William J. O’BrienThere were a few large-scale panels with paisley-like patterns made with colored pencils and an ink wash, but it was his smaller scale pieces made from cut and stitched felt that grabbed my attention.

Untitled by William J. O’Brien, felt on felt at Shane Campbell Gallery

 

Safe Galley featured work by Andy Cahill.  I especially enjoyed his large scale cartoon-like paintings, whose colors are applied using a squirt bottle, after which the drawings are made.  There’s incredible detail in his work, which is hard to catch with a camera, but the background in this picture is made up of tiny faces.

painting by Andy Cahill at Safe Gallery

 

Daata Editions commissions video, sound and web work.  They were showing Anhedonia, a six-part video by Jacky Connolly.  This is a machinima film, in which the artist uses game platforms (think Second Life ) to create her stories.  It will be interesting to see how this genre develops.

Image from Anhedonia by Jacky Connelly at daata-editions

 

The NADA    show has always been a great place to get a feel for what’s coming up next, and this year was no different.  Be sure to catch it next year.