SCOPE art fair, held in the elegant, modern surroundings of Lincoln Center, packed an eye-catching punch. With about fifty galleries from fifteen countries worldwide, plus fashion, jewelry, even perfume designers, SCOPE was far-reaching and global in its purview of the worldwide contemporary art scene. With all this art packed in, smaller works tended to get overwhelmed by the eye-catching, monumental works which, on more than one occasion, grabbed one's attention but failed to hold it. I saw lots of gimmicks rolled out for the occasion, some big blustery works that wowed for a moment but were achingly obvious in concept. Two separate galleries even showed up with big photomosaics--remember how cool those were in the 90's?--the gallery equivalent of showing up with the same dress on as someone else at a cocktail party.
(EVOL, Wilde Gallery, Berlin.)
I did, however, find lots of work that was not only eye-catching, sometimes monumental, but also young, fresh and brilliant. Right inside the door we were excited to find Wilde Gallery from Berlin whose eye-catchers were paradoxically made from one of the most humble materials around: cardboard. Renowned street artist EVOL uses precise, hand-cut stencils on cardboard to provide a nearly photorealistic evocation of the Berlin street-scape. Berlin itself is becoming a powerhouse of contemporary art, producing exciting new artists by the score. Peter Wilde gushed about the vibrant scene in Berlin, which boasts over 120,000 registered artists. "Registered?" I asked. Yes of course, to receive government-supported healthcare, not only for German artists, but for international residents too. Seems we might be missing a part of the equation here!
(Ryan V. Brennan, Jackie Paper, Brooklyn.)
For you New Yorkers keep your eye out for Jackie Paper--a group of curators, none of them named Jackie, based in Brooklyn who have made a conscious decision to eschew the permanence of a gallery location, preferring to work at a variety of venues. I was drawn in by the fresh beats blared from a couple of wildly painted ghetto-blasters on the floor, and stayed for the artwork by Ryan V. Brennan whose fantastical, day-glo-dreamy "cinemallages" served as the film sets for the tiny characters in his videos--which were then integrated directly into the piece.
(Kim Dorland, Mike Weiss Gallery, New York.)
But I found myself spending the most time at Mike Weiss Gallery's booth, which was probably the largest and most impressive at SCOPE. The monumental mixed-media texture-fest of Kim Dorland's heavy-metal wilderness themed canvases immediately grabbed me. These are works that demand to be inspected in person where the expressive, almost violent use of paint can be appreciated in all its glory. Graham Gillmore's Misguided by Invoices was another deservedly monumental work--based on a drawn-out email conversation between the artist and a collector in Vancouver; the canvas was filled with a dizzying collection of phrases, an overwhelming sensory vision of micro-management and controlled creativity.
(Graham Gillmore, Misguided by Invoices, 2010, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 86 x 106 inches. Courtesy Mike Weiss Gallery, New York.)
All in all, there's too much to mention, of course, but to wrap it up: there was a lot of painting, some sculpture, not many photographs, almost no installation work. As is almost a given for any fair situation the focus was on the salable works--which in that sense limits the fair's purported scope of contemporary art. A notable exception was the installation by performance-art-cum-electro-DJ-cum-fashion-design collaboration Chicks on Speed, which was tucked away into a dark corner of SCOPE Markt. Featuring a video projection of the girls dancing over a mish-mash of erotically charged photographs, splashed paint and torn fabric, it was impossible to pick out just what designs might be for sale--completely subverting SCOPE Markt's mission to offer contemporary fashion "ready to be consumed."