On the final leg of my journey through artMRKT 2013, it became apparent that I had seen just about all of the best booths already. There were, however, still some that were well worth the trip.
Hung Liu at artMRKT San Francisco, 2013 (Image courtesy of the Nanacy Hoffman Gallery)
Michael Gregory at artMRKT San Francisco, 2013 (Image courtesy of the Nanacy Hoffman Gallery)
Viola Frey at artMRKT San Francisco, 2013 (Image courtesy of the Nanacy Hoffman Gallery)
Wondering around the fair a bit, I found the Nancy Hoffman Gallery with a lush display of works. The first thing that anyone would notice was the beautiful painting by Hung Liu on the outside wall of the booth. Turning into the interior space, I encountered two large Michael Gregory landscapes. While neither was among my favorites, I found them to be very well done. Standing next to one of them was a ceramic sculpture by renowned bay area ceramicist Viola Frey, which displayed her trademark bright colors and heavy patterning in full force.
Michele Pred in performance at artMRKT San Francisco, 2013 (Image courtesy of Greg Flood and Michele Pred)
Michele Pred at artMRKT San Francisco, 2013 (Image courtesy of the Nanacy Hoffman Gallery)
As I was leaving the booth, I turned to find artist Michele Pred in the middle of a performance piece as ‘Miss Conception’, while behind her were a number of related works she had created. Dressed in a ball gown, sash and Tiara, Pred’s ‘Miss Conception’ seemed to have just arrived from the pageant circuit. The theme underpinning these pieces is women’s reproductive rights and an exploration of the larger cultural issues surrounding this issue in the US.
Markus Linnenbrink at artMRKT San Francisco, 2013 (Image courtesy of the Patricia Sweetow Gallery)
Cornelia Schulz at artMRKT San Francisco, 2013 (Image courtesy of the Patricia Sweetow Gallery)
Joachim Bandau at artMRKT San Francisco, 2013 (Image courtesy of the Patricia Sweetow Gallery)
Walking along the right side corridor, I found Patricia Sweetow in her booth chatting with other fair goers. Employing a more minimal approach to her selection of works, Sweetow only showed the work of four artists: Markus Linnenbrink, Cornelia Schulz, Robert Hudson, and Joachim Bandau. I was delighted to see the new paintings by Ms. Schultz, with their dense paint whipped up to form thick abstracts in the center of each of her shaped canvases. On pedestals in front of these were small sculptures by the legendary Robert Hudson. Playful, yet serious, and made of steel, Hudson’s work is always refreshing to see in person. On an outside wall, I found two large resin paintings by Markus Linnenbrink, who I believe is the best painter of stripes living today. There is intellectual heft behind them, but what makes them so alluring is how he is able to create the illusion of depth while letting his colors vibrate off of one another in ways that intensify that illusion. As always, these works left a memorable impression as I continued my journey through the fair.
Esther Traugot at artMRKT San Francisco, 2013 (Image courtesy of the Chandra Cerrito Contemporary)
David Allan Peters artMRKT San Francisco, 2013 (Image courtesy of the Chandra Cerrito Contemporary)
Randy Colosky at artMRKT San Francisco, 2013 (Image courtesy of the Chandra Cerrito Contemporary)
The last booth I found with a good showing this year was that of Chandra Cerrito Contemporary. This young gallery, located in Oakland, also selected to show the work of a small number of their artists. The obsessive sculptures of Ester Traugot are a blend of knitters craft and found objects. Traugot spends hours meticulously encasing twigs, eggs, and other natural materials in knitted skins, which simultaneously add a level of abstraction to the original object, while also calling our attention to it. The thickly layered paintings of David Allan Peters sit on the line between painting and sculpture. Made of potentially hundreds of layers of paint, Peters cuts into these layered paintings to create reliefs in the medium, revealing the colors hiding beneath. The third artist on view was sculptor Randy Colosky, who uses a variety of techniques in his work. The one that most captures the imagination, and fools the eye, are his casts of materials, such as styrofoam, in bronze. These casts are so perfectly finished to look like the original material that the viewer doesn’t even think about what it is made of at first. Instead, they will most likely question why the odd hunk of ‘styrofoam’ is sitting on a pedestal being called art.
During the course of the fair weekend I overheard a fellow critic say that artMRKT was too conservative and that the other fair was where the edgier work is, while I saw another critic question online whether an art fair is a place to see cutting edge art. Personally, I do not expect the artMRKT fair to change anytime soon in terms of what it shows. Art fairs entail a huge economic risk for galleries, and while the payoff can be big, there is no guarantee of that happening. Therefore, to increase the likelihood of success, galleries show work they think has a higher probability of selling. The majority of the collecting class in the Bay Area has a history of not spending its money (at least not a great deal of it) on young, cutting edge art. Until this changes, it is unreasonable to expect the makeup of the fair to be different.
In all, artMRKT made it through its third iteration in decent shape. While the majority of the galleries were from out of town, the best showings were mainly from the Bay Area, with one notable exception. Hopefully the mix for next year will be better, but we will have to wait to see what the next installment will bring.