FAIR FACTOR: Basel/Miami

Yinka Shonibare, Black Gold, wall painting with stretch fabric attachments, at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

First stop on the FAIR FACTOR tour is ArtBasel/Miami Beach, which is only fitting since this is the event that started the December ritual known as Miamipalooza, The Fairs, or simply Miami. If you've been to the Miami Convention Center, home to Basel Miami, you know the place is huge: big booths, high ceilings, long stretches of wall. Big paintings are typically installed on the aisle-facing walls--part billboard, part preening, all fabulous show, like the installation above.

The most shocking thing about BaselMiami this year is that it wasn’t shocking. Oh, sure, there was the chocolate Santa carrying a giant chocolate butt plug, but the installation of neatly stacked figures on metal shelving, organized by size and placed against the matching Santa wallpaper was so clean and unrelentingly cheery that it could have been Macy’s Cellar. And that appliance? Its proportions made it look more like a lava lamp than a sex toy. The Santa was conceived by artist Paul McCarthy and presented by the Maccarone Gallery, which apparently has turned some of its West Village space into a chocolate factory.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Maccarone Gallery, but that's not a tree Santa's toting

.Below, the Santa wallpaper--different scale and background color--is the backdrop for Martin Creed's monochromatic pen-on-paper drawings at Hauser & Wirth, Zurich

An up-close look at Creed's drawings

Now, onto painting. There was more of it than I can recall in any previous outing (this was the sixth year of the fair). Moreover, it was painting that punched through the walls of drawing, collage, sculpture, quilting and carpentry. There was plenty of sculpture, some of which crossed the line into drawing and painting. There wasn’t much photography (which I assume found its way to the two big photo fairs in Wynwood) and even less video. Ah, my kind of fair!

There was so much of everything that you could make a strong case for whatever interested you: figuration, realism, pattern, expressionism. If you follow this blog, you know that I’m interested in geometry--from minimal to wildly configured--and in painting with a material sensibility. There was plenty to like.

Let’s start with the geometry . . .

Sarah Morris, Dragon (Origami), household gloss on canvas, 2007, at White Cube, London

Gary Hume, Jim (Little), enamel on aluminum, 1991, at Matthew Marks, New York

Delson Uchoa, Portal 1, acrylic on canvas, 2006-2007, at Brito Cimino, Sao Paulo

Mary Heilmann, Mode O'Day, oil on canvas, 1991, at 303 Gallery, New York

Dan Walsh at Paula Cooper, New York

By the way, I was practicing paperless journalism this time around--shooting the work, the wall ID, and then the gallery sign--in an attempt to eliminate the fumbling of camera, glasses, notebook and pen. It worked quite well, though not all dealers provided complete information on their wall text.

Rebecca Warren, Yes, Olga, painted clay, 2007; Bridget Riley, Red with Red 2, 2007; and Arturo Herrera, Loma, acrylic on felt, 2007, at Hetzler, Berlin

Material Abstraction . . .

Herrera's painted felt painting moves us seamlessly from geometric abstraction to what you might call material abstraction, paintings whose image, whose essence, is formed and informed by stuff—thick paint, gobs of medium, collaged fabric, stuffing and whatnot. Here I'm looking not only at geometry but at a broader kind of abstraction.

Jonathan Lasker, The Equality of Apples and Oranges, oil on linen, 2007, at Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin

Jacin Giordano, Untitled Quilt Painting (Weave Texture), acrylic on wood, 2007, with detail below, at Frederic Snitzer Gallery, Miami

Rodney Graham, Inverted Drip Painting #12, liquid acrylic on linen, 2007, with detail below, at Lisson Gallery, London

Tomma Abts at Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne. No info on the wall ID, but this painting, which is easel size, maybe 20 x 24, looks to be metallic oil on canvas

Roxy Paine, PMU #33, acrylic on canvas, 2007, at James Cohan Gallery, New York

Jon Pylypchuk, Let Me Hold You in the Water For These Last Moments, mixed media on panel, 2007, with detail below; not sure of gallery

Andre Butzer, Untitled 12, oil on canvas, 2007, at Hetzler Gallery, Berlin

Below, Arturo Herrero, Orfeo, 2007 (also visible in the image aboe). Medium is not given, but it's felt, so you can call it sculpture or painting. In either case it fits under the umbrella of Material Abstraction

(Herrero is represented by both Sikkema Jenkins and Hetzler, whose booths were adjacent and whose installations were so seamless I'm not sure whose wall this was on.)

Chris Martin, Mother Popcorn, acrylic and collage on canvas, 2007, at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York

Also at Lisson: Daniel Buren, Zigzag for Two Colours (Blue and Green), paint, fiberboard and tape, 2007, left; Jason Martin, Limbo, oil on aluminum, 1998, with detail below

Thomas Glassford, Portitura Multicolor, anodized aluminum, 2007, at OMR, Mexico

To my eye, the dimensional painting flows seamlessly into sculpture, like Glassford's ridged aluminum piece, above. The work that most appealed was planar, like Helio Oiticica’s and Imi Knobel’s, but I found equal pleasure in Sirous Namazi's dimensional grid and Petah Coyne’s baroque bouquet of wax flowers, which could have come straight from a Neapolitan wedding.

Other big likes: Louise Bourgeois’s cast bronzes and carved marbles; Franz West’s lumpy, painted organic form-on-a stick; Antony Gormley’s hanging metal sculpture, whose linear materials--and certainly its shadows-- functioned as drawings in space. There was even a massive digging tool, about six feet in diameter, that scribed a huge drawing as it clawed its way around the surface of a cement floor.

Here’s some of what I liked:

Imi Knoebel, Twins, acrylic on aluminum, 2007, at Galerie Lelong, New York (and elsewhere)

Below, Helio Oiticica, Relievo Espacial No. 20, painted wood construction, 1959, also at Lelong

Sirous Namazi, Untitled, iron and enamel paint, 2007, at Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm

Antony Gormley works on paper and sculpture at Sean Kelly, New York

Franz West, untitled sculpture, at the Grasslin and Nagle booth, Frankfurt and Berlin

Louise Bourgeois bronze sculpture and Joan Mitchell painting at Cheim & Read, New York

(This gallery's installations here are always distinctive and they always showcase the work of the women they represent. Last year it was Benglis and Bourgeois. Their roster includes Lynda Benglis, Louise Fishman, Jenny Holzer, Monique Prieto, Pat Steir and others.)

Petah Coyne, Untitled # 1243 (The Secret Life of Words); cable, chicken wire, bolts, wax, silk flowers and other materials, 2007, at Galerie Lelong

Detail below

From beauty, courtesy of Coyne, we move to beast, courtesy of Galerie Nicola Von Senger, where that giant grappling claw was caroming off the walls like a Roomba on steroids.

Arcangelo Sassolino, Untitled, modified hydraulic steel grapple, 2007, at VonSenger, Zurich. Presumably the tool and the drawing on the poured cement floor comprise the work

Watching this giant machine claw its way around the poured cement floor, I hung around to see if perhaps I could overhear a cell conversation along the likes of, "Yes, a grappling hook that moves on it own power. . . .Oh, enormous, maybe six feet, but its claws open and close, so sometimes it's smaller than that. . .Well, yes, it's a sculpture, but it makes a drawing on the floor. . .Um, yes, I suppose we'd we'd have to pour a floor. . . . The mechanic? I'll ask." No such luck.

A Splendid Installation
Walking by the Lehmann Maupin booth, I was struck by the installation: Teresita Fernandez’s quietly beautiful wall stones, Jennifer Steinkamp's haunting tree of pixilated light; Shirazeh Houshiary’s meditative, almost mathematical grids; Mickalene Thomas’s bling-y nude that challenges your gaze; Lee Bul’s chain mail chandelier. It was one of the strongest curatorial efforts I’d seen at the fair.

Foreground, Teresita Fernanez wall installation; background, Jennifer Steincamp video at Lehmann Maupin

Lee Bull sculpture, Shirazeh Houshiary painting

Bul sculpture in foreground; Tracey Emin neon on the wall

Mickalene Thomas glittery nude, with Emin in the background

The wall text, in light gray, stopped me in my tracks: This year, Lehmann Maupin Gallery is pleased to present a selection of works by the female artists from the gallery.

Feminism lives! I hung around to gauge the response. "Do it but don’t advertise it," said one man to his male companion. "I don’t think this is necessary," said another.

Au contraire, my testicular friends. It’s exactly what’s necessary. Not to get too pedantic here, but the art schools are full of women, and the art world is full of men. (Notice how many male names are attached to the work I show in this post?) What’s wrong with that picture is what makes Lehmann Maupin’s elegantly kick-ass installation so necessary.

And just to prove the point: Check out the twinned piece on ArtNet in which two reporters were sent on a virtual shopping trip at the fair, Robert Ayers with $10,000 and Judd Tully with $10,000,000. Their articles show and describe what they "bought." There wasn’t the work of even one woman in their cache. You can make the case for personal taste (of course they were free to select what they wished). But what’s shown and critically praised helps inform personal taste. So kudos to Rachel Lehmann and David Maupin and your (female) gallery directors for your good taste and smart strategy, which I can only hope will help inform that of others. And I hope you sold the hell out of that show.

First you walk though a tunnel to get to this new exhibition. Then the first thing you see are the storage racks. The booths are set along the perimeter, the same way the Art Nova booths are set around the perimeter of the large hall. Some of these galleries are heavy hitters, but this appendage felt like the kids table at holiday dinner.

And what’s the deal with the no-chairs-in the booth mandate sent down from management? I walked into one booth late one evening and the gallerist was slumped on the floor. "Are you OK?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, just tired," he responded. I offered to get him a chair. "They won’t let us have chairs in here," he said, stopping me as I went out the door in search of seating.

He wasn’t kidding. Another said wearily, "I came all the way from [a distant European location] for this?" He asked me not to name his city, because it would give him away, and he didn’t want the fair overseers to know he’d been lounging on the floor. OK. Why dim his chances to come back next year for another round of the same mistreatment?

By the way, according to today’s Miami Herald, 850 galleries vied for the 200 booths. Think about that next time you get a rejection letter. They know the feeling, too. Even the big ones.

What I liked--no, loved--here:

El Anatsui's aluminum and wire tapestry at Jack Shainman

Mindy Shapero’s fabulous material agglomerations, above and below, at Breeder Gallery, Athens. Shapero's shapes are organic and mysteriously familiar, like Martin Puryear's, but she's the anti Puryear: bright and shiny, with lots of buttons and trinkets making up the work

Next post: The Containers