Volta Experiences A Surge
March 7-11, 2012
7 West 34th Street at Fifth Avenue
New York City
At Blythe Projects’ Volta booth artist James Clar has a text piece in which the phrase “global English” is transliterated in six non-Latin scripts – Chinese, Russian, Hebrew etc. It is a good place to start, conceptually, with this popular boutique fair in which style refuses to be pinned down to place. This LA gallery’s neighbor, for instance, is Frankfurt’s Galerie Heike Strelow, which is showing the Turkish duo Özlem Günyol and Mustafa Kunt, while Pristine Galerie of Monterrey, Mexico, has an Israeli, Oreet Ashery. If you want to see a German you are best off at Vane, an English gallery based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with their presentation of Kerstin Dreschsel. As for the joys of international English, someone someday is going to do something cruel with the name of one of those Turks.
“Must have’er” is the operative phrase, indeed, for Dreschel, the aforementioned German, who makes exquisitely sexy oil sketches based on photos she takes of lesbian sex parties in Berlin. The painterly sense of participation works to cancel the potential voyeurism of these hard-core images, at least the artist’s. More complex sexual politics underscores the transgendered theatricality of Zackary Drucker’s photographs and videos at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles’s booth where the most visually arresting works are actually the more understated images: the performer fur-hatted at a snowy football field is more poignant than herself nude and writhing on a dining table, for instance. Carina Linge, at Jarmuschek + Partner, Berlin, keeps up the libidinal quotient in her reworkings of art historical images, although again, the most erotic is not necessarily the ones that are overtly sexual: a young woman fondling a skinned rabbit that channels Leonardo’s Lady with an Ermine is actually her most startling piece.
Canadian galleries are a forceful presence this year. O’Born Contemporary from Toronto has Alex Fischer whose digital manipulations are entirely made from portions of images sampled on the web, mostly from fine artists. Janet Werner at Montreal’s Parisian Laundry has two large paintings, Currin-like in their satirical vacuity but out-Currining Currin in their sheer painterly relish. The artist is to be included in MASS MoCA’s upcoming survey of sixty contemporary artists, Oh Canada, this May.
Sexiness, meanwhile, is not confined to nudes or skinned rabbits: it pops up in the elegantly crafted abstract sculptures of Rachel Beach, Canadian-born and presented by New York’s Blackston gallery, and the slick, glossy artchitecture and graphic design-based abstractions of David E. Peterson who is showing with Alejandra von Hartz Gallery, Miami. His series based on a clothing catalog feel like they could outfit the schematic beauties of Julian Opie – bringing us back to bodies, in other words.
Of course, what happens at fairs updates what’s going on elsewhere. Andrew Masullo, at Steven Zevitas Gallery of Boston, signals the ascent of the funky abstractionist secured by his Whitney Biennial triumph – by virtue of default as he provides that dour display with rare instances of color and personal touch. If you are unaware of the work of Mary Heilmann these are paintings that might feel fresh. The fair also provides the first commercial outlet for Models for (the) People, an installation by Indonesian Dutch artist Tiong Ang first seen at the Shanghai Biennale in 2008, reassembled by Florence Lynch at <<Rewind<<.
A young artist by the name of Wilmer Wilson IV, who is still a senior at Howard University, stole the show, however, with a performance at Conner Contemporary Art of Washington DC. Echoing – by bizarre coincidence – one of Zackary Drucker’s videos in which she is embalmed in gold tape, Wilson, a tall, lithe African-American youth, patiently mummified himself before his audience with gold stickers, each of which had apparently been authorized by a notary public in DC (past performances and their resulting photographs have used postage stamps and “I Voted” stickers.) The ritual sends up notions of validation and self-worth and yet has an eerily calm and timeless dignity about it that belies its satirical intentions.