After watching Velvet Buzzsaw, I find myself at Frieze New York with a clean conscience. Evidently my status does not put me in danger of being revenge murdered by a work of contemporary art. I was never in the scene to exploit or even criticize. I am an artist, I am here to feel and be inspired — which in itself is not a given at a commercial art fair. A few years back I would have said “If you have seen one art fair, you have seen them all.”
It was only my scholarly interests that kept me going back in search of exceptions. But not these days. #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter have woke even the sleepiest in the hierarchy.
Is it wishful thinking to believe that art may once again be able to represent humanity and not just the market? Some will argue that itʼs all business. But what other chance do we have to experience the works of women, minority and outsider artists which are and have been avidly overlooked for decades. I am happy to announce that this yearʼs Frieze fair did not disappoint — from the array of artists presented to the conversations being had; for example, how to merge creativity from other fields and communities beyond the art market bubble.
Polyester resin paint on canvas
190 x 230 cm | 74 3/4 x 90 1/2 in
And so, in my gold shoes, with a disturbingly overpriced glass of Champagne, I navigate through the maze of endless offerings, hoping that the artists and the works I am meant to discover will themselves call upon me. Because what is art in the end — if not alchemy?
I could not walk past this eye popper by Elvira Bach of Berlin. Born in 1951, Bach studied painting with “Junge Wilde” (Wild Boys) painters in the 1970ʼs. She is making a come back after her 1980ʼs success with an upcoming group show at Kornfeld Gallery in Berlin.
On the other end of the spectrum is the late Anna Zemánkova. Represented by Weiss Berlin . Born in 1908, Zemánkova was a self-taught Czech painter, draftsman and pastel artist. This woman is said to have suffered from a miserable marriage for decades which caused sever bouts of depression. Zemánkova seems to have gone through an efflorescence in her 50ʼs by cultivating luminous stitchings and drawings of mystical flower formations. These drawings struck me as the epitome of maturity — and so it was. The gallerist explained that Zemànkova began working as an artist at the onset of menopause.
Cuban American Ana Mendieta, represented by Galerie Lelong & Co., was a performance artist, sculptor, painter and video artist who is best known for her “earth-body” artwork. Born in 1948 in Havana, Mendieta arrived in the United States as a refugee in 1961. Although her story is academic, her work feels sacred. I want to say more but it feels like violation.
“Through my earth/body sculptures, I become one with the earth … I become an extension of nature and nature becomes an extension of my body. This obsessive act of reasserting my ties with the earth is really the reactivation of primeval beliefs in an omnipresent female force, the after image of being encompassed within the womb, is a manifestation of my thirst for being.”
La Venus Negra, 1981 Estate Print
I became familiar with the late Leonor Fini when I found a book of “Woman Painters” in the garbage on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. From then on I craved to see her works in person. Born in 1907, Fini was an Argentinian surrealist painter, designer, illustrator, and author.
Sphinx pour Barrer, 1954
Oil, gouache and tempera.
Represented by Leila Heller Gallery
There are great artists and then there is Fini, The embodiment of art itself.
I am writing this from the airport lounge at JFK on the way to the Venice Biennale. Stay tuned….