Hopping around the fairs you start to notice some trends in material and content. We’ve noticed a healthy use of floral foam at Independent and Armory, rock-climbing grips as wall plinths, new-media on canvas, and a whole bunch of animated icons making their way into the pictorial plane. There is a lot of playfulness this year… but it’s all rather childish.
Per Fhager at Stene, exhibiting at Volta NY
On a far wall in the upper reaches of Independent, there’s a photo diptych, one half of which is an image of Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry fresco at the Detroit Institute of Art. I had one of those moments when you get lost in a work, feeling it with my eyes, searching it and gleaning as much information and affect as I could. A few minutes went by and I snapped out of it. I looked around and a wave of despair lapped at my toes. I had come to the end of Independent and was circling back down and I knew there was nothing here that was going to affect me like that one photo reproduction had. It had gravity, it had weight, it reached for universal truths of humanity in a moment of great change. Its heroism left me feeling inadequate and empty.
Jack Featherly at Upfor, exhibiting at Volta NY
We are at one of those great transitional moments now; the anthropocene is evident and technological change is fast approaching exponential expansion which may cause a complete shift in the definition of what it means to be human—and all we get are a bunch of childish remembrances. Vapid references and solopsistic nostalgia abound but you can’t blame the art or artist. It is, in a very cruel way, the art we deserve.
Given a lack of counter-ideologies, anything that resists capitalization is labeled as sentimental and therefore loses affective traction for the majority of viewers. We’ve been conditioned to reject the sentimental and compartmentalize the heroic so that it cannot apply to personal experience but is rather outside of ourselves. Production within this system then relies on quick apperception and I mean quick. We expect instantaneous relation and instantaneous gratification, not the gratification of contemplation and growth.
It is no one’s fault—and who is to say it is even a negative that we prefer our relationships with objects of culture to be fleeting and innocuous? I perceive this shift as negative because it is in opposition to the mores I was raised with and attached my self-worth to but this acknowledgement dismisses any negative feelings and now I am the perfect receiver for this childish art—a tabula incompletus, waiting to be filled with new formulations of knowledge and relation. This was the point of postmodernism, to wipe away the old systems in favor of new formulations that favored new values of equality and flattened paradigms of power. Post-postmodernism was heralded as a new beginning but all we get is some childish art with semi-sentimental references.
Promotional image from the movie Heathers, 1988
Heathers, starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, told a dark tale of a murderous high school duo disaffected by 1980s suburbia and croquet. Jeanette Mundt, represented by Société at Independent, produced three monochromatic paintings of three girls holding croquet mallets behind their back like the popular girls in Heathers, threatening but innocent. On the adjoining wall hangs a large print (image at top) of American males that look ripped from an American Eagle catalogue by Timur Si-Qin from his Premier Machinic II Memorial. Perfectly paired with a transparent heart box from Refraction. The Image of Sense series, an odd tension of teenage girl affect is touched and then left. Connections to Tiger Beat, Heathers, American Eagle, heart emojis all pop up—“related content”—but the grand narrative is missing. The pieces don’t fall together and I feel neither empowered nor validated. I feel childish.
(Image at top: Independent. Photo: Stephanie Cristello)