Non-Profits Shine at The Outsider Art Fair

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From Creative Growth, Oakland, CA.

This past weekend marked the 30th anniversary of the Outsider Art Fair, which debuted in NYC in 1993 at The Puck Building. Now housed at The Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, it has come roaring back after a few quiet pandemic years.

Out of the sixty-four galleries exhibiting thirteen were representing non-profit organizations that work with developmentally challenged populations. For me these were the most exciting booths at the fair. The non-profits bring work that is consistently fresh and exciting. This year’s fair included organizations from Germany, Portland Oregon and Chicago that I had not seen in previous years. Several showed work among the most surprising and compelling at the Fair.

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Myrlande Constant: Drapo at Fort Gansevoort

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Reincarnation Des Morts 110 x 111 inchex. Beads, sequins, tassels on fabric. 2022.

Fort Gansevoort Gallery in New York’s Meatpacking District has long been one of my favorite galleries. Housed in an old three-story building, they have been presenting some of the freshest and most original shows in the city. The current exhibition, Myrlande Constant: Drapo is one of their best. Constant is a Haitian artist who works in textiles, taking a traditional form called “drapo” and rocketing it into the realm of contemporary art. Drapo is based on a 19th century embroidery technique developed in France, called tambour. Fabric is stretched tautly over a wooden frame and embroidery, using sequins and beads done from the reverse side.

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Ulf Puder at Marc Straus Gallery

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Taormina, Oil on canvas,39.4 x 47.25, 2018

Marc Straus Gallery is currently presenting the paintings of Ulf Puder, a German artist whose landscape paintings are deeply evocative and strangely alluring. I was not familiar with the artist or his work, and I’ll admit, it took a beat to enter his Universe. But once in I began to see deeper into the complex issues he deals with in his paintings.

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RADIANCE: THEY DREAM IN COLOR. THE UGANDA PAVILION AT THE VENICE BIENNALE

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Install photo of Radiance: They Dream in Color

The Venice Biennale, a sprawling art Universe, takes over the city every other year alternating its focus between art and architecture. Due to Covid, 2020 was cancelled, and the 2022 festival attracted an unprecedented number of visitors. The 2022 exhibition has received almost unparalleled praise for its inclusiveness, its artistry and its cohesion as a statement of the art Zeitgeist. It hasn’t hurt that the principle exhibition, The Milk of Dreams was curated by women, celebrates women and under-represented artists, and is for the most part simply superb.

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Vanessa German – SAD RAPPER at Paul Kasmin

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Partial installation view of Sad Rapper

So much has happened in six years. It was six years ago that I last wrote about the work of Vanessa German for Hyperallergic. Donald Trump had just been elected, and the country was bracing itself for a trip down a new and dangerous path. Vanessa German, a poet, activist and visual artist, had mounted a powerful show at Pavel Zoubek Gallery entitled I am armed. I am an army. German filled the gallery with a fighting corps of women, armed with weaponry, poetry, history and power. It was a fierce exhibition, and one that both mourned and celebrated the power of women.

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Motel in the Catskills

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The rural Catskill mountain village of Fleischmanns an unlikely a place to find a world-class contemporary art installation.

In the nineteenth century, the village was a flourishing, prosperous Catskill vacation spot for the New York well-to-do, resplendent with Victorian mansions and lodging houses, attracting both Jewish and non-Jewish summer residents. By the mid-twentieth century, the town had languished, and many properties had fallen into disrepair. Over time, Fleischmanns became a summer retreat for a large ultra-Orthodox Jewish community who juxtapose oddly with deer hunters, RV owners, motorcycle enthusiasts, and other locals. “Eclectic” is an understatement. If Fleischmanns were on a deli menu it would be an Everything Bagel.

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My Upstate Art Weekend Adventure

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Vanessa German,  Black on Black, 2021, Handmade folk art cloth Black woman pin cushion, glory, wood, love, astroturf, Black seed beads, confusion, Black rhinestone trim, Black bead trim, (they traded your grandmother for a handful of beads), vintage hand purse, rage, old doll parts, ptsd, the fallout from white supremacist delusion, cork, Black pigment, sorrow, vintage mirror, self loathing, cotton, a miracle, twine, tears, yarn, heartbreak, love. 26 x 18 x 9 1/2 in

Last weekend was the third annual Upstate Art Weekend, a wildly ambitious and fun three-day art fair that winds its way from Westchester to Catskill NY. Founded by impresario Helen Toomer in 2020, Upstate Art Weekend celebrates and promotes visual arts throughout the Hudson Valley. One hundred and forty venues participated this year, and there was everything from art in a big-box truck in Kerhonkson to the gallery/studio campus of Foreland in Catskill.  The intense heat of last week made this year’s event a challenge, but totally worth the sweat. Here is a brief travelogue of my schlep around the Hudson Valley: 

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Hew Locke: The Procession at the Tate Britain

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Each year The Tate Britain commissions a large-scale art installation for the iconic Duveen Galleries at the museum. This is a vast space, an art-filled hall, more than a typical gallery that winds its way down the center of the museum on the first floor. This year they tapped the Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke whose visual musings on migration, history, national identity and ritual are well known in the British art world. Locke has long worked these themes, but never on such a scale. It is a wildly ambitious vision that embraces his interests and presents a fully developed Universe.

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KATHY BUTTERLY AT JAMES COHAN GALLERY – COLOR IN FORMING

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Installation view

Staring at Kathy Butterly’s ceramic sculptures, I am overwhelmed by an urge to reach out and touch them. The marriage of color and form is perfectly wrought, shapes and colors inextricable yet sharply distinct. I want to trace my finger along that delicate whisper thin band of orange in Between Things, and feel the little bumps along the rim of Luminious Flow. I want to feel the change between matte and gloss surfaces and the weight of the sculpture in my hand. 

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Artists on Coping: Merritt Johnson

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.

Merritt Johnson was born in West Baltimore and spent her childhood navigating between trees, tarps and concrete. She earned her BFA from Carnegie Mellon University and her MFA from Massachusetts College of Art. Her work navigates the spaces between bodies and the body politic, land and cultures by making images and objects that connect, reflect and refract vision and experience. The multiplicity of materials and processes Johnson employs embody her multiplicity, exploring layering, allegiance and agency in the face of continued threats to land, water and bodies. Johnson’s works are containers for story, feeling and thought: images of what cannot be seen, exercises for existence, and political bodies. She lives and works with her family on Tlingit land in Sitka Alaska.

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