POOL Art Fair, held at the exceedingly cool Gershwin Hotel definitely benefited from the location's Pop Art collection, New York heritage and bohemian style. Three floors of the hotel were given over to independent artists and curators from around the boroughs and the world, plus performances, live music and films in the lobby.
(Laurence Billiet in collaboration with Rachael Antony, Found, installation of photographs and wall mural, 2010.)
I was first welcomed to the fair by an excellent exhibition by Laurence Billiet, a French TV producer and artist. Grouped along the walls of her hotel room / exhibition space were arranged a series of found and bought vintage family photographs--a project in collaboration with Rachael Antony, which began with a 1920's wedding portrait of a young couple Antony bought in Barcelona, framed, and then dubbed her "Spanish Family." Since then many of these anonymous family photographs, from formal portraits to snapshots have been brought into "the family." Knowing this history we inspect these curious and nostalgic photos, seeking commonalities to draw us all together. Along with the photographs Billiet produced "Lost" flyers for the native species of New York City like wolves, pumas and eagles which have since disappeared from the urban landscape; and paintings of plastic trash bins. Entitled Dumped, Lost, Found these three projects created a cohesive exhibition along the themes of loss, memory and belonging.
(Jae Hi Ahn, Urbanscape, 2010, polyethylene tube, wire.)
POOL Art Fair had an abundance of these mini-exhibitions--each hotel room offering four walls not only for the exhibition of salable works, but units for a uniquely intimate viewing experience. Especially successful were those rooms curated by artist collectives and collaborative groups for mini themed (or not) group shows; and by independent curators like Kathryn Miriam's Curiosity Room, which evoked the 18th-century "cabinet of curiosities"--quite fitting for the environment. The greatest detriment to the fair was the inadequate, rather greenish lighting in the rooms--the most successful artists brought their own lights.
(Margaret Roleke, Tinkerbell at War, detail.)
Despite the dismal lighting, the rooms were lit up by some super fresh artwork. Here are some of the outstanding works: Bushwick-based Bulgarian-born interdisciplinary artist Daniela Kostova's incredibly perplexing large-scale photographic self-portrait, "a freeze-frame of an implosion of space and time"; Jae Hi Ahn's installation's superb use of space and spontaneous albeit not necessarily intentional integration of the hotel furniture; "Advanced Art" from the "MuseuM of Art After Art" directors Liz-N-Val (also known as the MuseuM of Advanced Art, MuseuM of Abstractrealism, MuseuM of Truth-N-Beauty, MuseuM of Something-N-Nothing, MuseuM of Anything and MuseuM of Everything); explorations of facial symmetry by Cat del Buono; Per Pegelow's industrial photographs and interactive videos; Kristin Meyers' bound idols and fetishes based on the Haitian pantheon; Ellen Hackl Fagan's synesthetic exercises in painting; and Margaret Roleke's mixed-media paintings made up of gender-specific playthings, like toy soldiers and Disney princesses.
(Liz-N-Val, My Family Background, 2009, mixed media, 10" x 8".)
For all it was worth POOL was indeed a welcome "alternative" to the art fairs--its format induced genuine conversation and interest, and it was just, well, really fun to be there. They even had a closing fete by hosting--you guessed it--a pool party.
(top image: Daniela Kostova, I Am Whatever You Want Me To Be, 2008, inkjet print on canvas, 80 x 42." Composite digital photography, staged and performed by the artist who is in the costumes of all four characters.)