New York City’s art week has once again come to a close, and despite its perpetual sense of coal coming to Newcastle, the fairs and attendant events still packed them in, with long lines in many cases.
The Armory Show was the anchor commercial event, set at the piers at West 55th Street. The fair started out 20 years ago in a hotel and then moved to the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue at 26th Street in 1999. It co-opted the name of the famous Armory Show of avant-garde art held there in 1913, even after it moved to the piers a couple of years later.
Known primarily for its mammoth contemporary section, with 146 booths this year, the fair has added a dedicated modern element in recent years. It was there in the 59 exhibitions that many artists associated with the East End had showings, with a smattering in the more international contemporary section.
On Saturday, despite fine weather and throngs of people enjoying the park along the Hudson, large crowds waited to get in and the spaces inside were also mobbed. A special emphasis on women artists, which was evident in other places such as the Brucennial, yielded showings of many from the South Fork, including Alice Aycock, Jennifer Bartlett, Lynda Benglis, Vija Celmins, Elaine de Kooning, Audrey Flack, Connie Fox, April Gornik, Mary Heilmann, Lee Krasner, and Toni Ross either in gallery booths or in a special section for works on paper called “Venus Drawn Out.”
Art fair staples such as Adolph Gottlieb, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol could be found in many booths in the modern section, but there were some surprises as well. Work by Norman Bluhm, who died in 1999, was collected by major museums, but he never became a household name like many of his Abstract Expressionist peers. His paintings and works on paper have steadily become a more frequent sight at fairs, and several of his works across multiple galleries could be seen this year. Ray Parker and James Brooks also had some striking works on view. Notable were two early works by de Kooning and Franz Kline from the years before both achieved their mature styles. De Kooning’s still life looked inspired by Giorgio Morandi, whereas Kline’s “ROCKER” from 1948 was a colorful riff on Cubism. Saul Steinberg was represented by “Ocean Parking” and a few other works. Work by Ross Bleckner, who had an opening at Mary Boone’s Chelsea gallery on Saturday evening, could be seen at the Crane Kalman booth as well. Peter Marcelle, a director of the Gerald Peters Gallery, was at their booth in the modern section. Richard Serra was represented by a maquette for one of his larger steel sculptures and a number of two-dimensional works. In the contemporary section Ms. Aycock, Ms. Heilmann, Sean Landers, and Keith Sonnier were on view.
Despite the existence of some 10 satellite and associated fairs, few South Fork galleries took part. At VOLTA in SoHo, the Sara Nightingale Gallery showed work by Ross Watts, an artist from Sag Harbor. His recent work, concerned primarily with the obsolescence of books, takes unexpected conceptual turns that are both intellectually and viscerally satisfying. Halsey Mckay Gallery in East Hampton brought Joseph Hart, a Brooklyn artist, to the invitational fair, which was restricted to booths devoted to solo shows.
The week also saw the opening of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Biennial exhibition, selected by three curators from outside of the museum, each presenting separate and mutually exclusive shows (also excluding East End artists). With a planned move downtown in 2015, this will be the last Biennial held in the Marcel Breuer-designed building, which will be leased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to show its contemporary collection. Known for her use of camera obscura, Zoe Leonard was invited to take one of the building’s unusual protruding angular windows for the purpose. It seemed a fitting tribute to the space and its backward inversion of the outside was a metaphorical passing of the torch on the site.
The Bruce High Quality Foundation’s Brucennial exhibition, typically an open-ended community event, was this year limited to women artists. Representing the South Fork were Marilyn Church, who is known for her courtroom drawings but is also an accomplished abstract painter, as well as Lola Montes Schabel and Barbara Kruger. Ms. Schnabel’s brother Vito, an art dealer who represents the BHQF, was a co-curator of the event. The siblings grew up in Bridgehampton.
Other South Fork artists were apparent at the Art Dealers Association of America’s Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory. Compared to the show on the piers, it was much smaller and sedate. Women continued to stand out with strong collages by Lee Krasner in a focused solo show at Robert Miller and a Michelle Stuart scroll at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects. The work of Fairfield Porter in several mediums took over the Hirschl & Adler Modern booth. There were smatterings of the expected Warhols and Lichtensteins, as well as Robert Motherwell collages, which were also popular at the Armory Show, no doubt due to the recent Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum exhibition. Bluhm popped up again, as well, with a painting brought by the Manny Silverman Gallery from Los Angeles.