Verge Art Fair, held for the first time in Brooklyn, has been criticized as disappointing, fractured and disorganized. Combining gallery exhibitors, curated shows and individual artist booths held between six different venues in the DUMBO area with nothing but a tiny map and some scattered signs to guide you, admittedly, it was a bit confusing. It seemed more like an open studios event than an art fair, with artists cramming their work on either sides of long, narrow studio suites, and the gallery exhibitors occupying a few open, airy ground floor galleries, with lots of conspicuously empty space. All the logistics aside, however, as a field to wander around and check out art, Verge: Art Brooklyn had some great offerings.
Both of the curated shows, Brooklyn Art Now: 2011, curated from Brooklyn gallery submissions by Loren Munk/James Kalm, and Tomorrow Art Stars, a juried open call exhibition, besides a few logistical hanging issues, were absolutely fantastic. Stand-outs of Brooklyn Art Now included Meg Hitchcock’s mind-boggling collage of individual letters creating a vision of meditation and emptiness. Photographs by Carl Gunhouse and Stephen Mallon complemented each other perfectly—resolutely eerie images. When each of the four drawers on Nick Yulman’s Song Cabinet, was opened, percussive music emerged from mechanical hammers rapping on various items of detritus. Patricia Smith’s delicate maps showed the regions of the mind as geographic bays, sounds, hills and quarries with distinctly evocative names. And Patrick Martinez’ flawless video the Jesuses extracted images of the dead and dying Jesus from art history, setting them against a black background, then playing them in succession as an animation, where the crucifixion and pieta became a flopping, flailing dance. In Tomorrow Art Stars, though the hanging was a bit sloppy (unavoidable due to the constrictions of the space, I concede), some great work was to be found: Lisa Levy’s Ego Challenge, judging your ego on a scale of 1-10 from “no self esteem” to “inflated ego”; Mu Pan’s impenetrable drawing The Book of Mountain and Sea 3; Nobutaka Aozaki’s tongue-in-cheek Lego recreation of a Duchamp readymade; Brian Moriarty’s enormous architecture defying photograph; and Melissa Sunny Amstrong’s stained-glass windows made of candy.
In the hallway outside Brooklyn Art Now, Wayne Coe was busy creating one of his large sand paintings, a confluence of retro male porn advertising with big name art stars. His work was also on view in static wall-hanging form at Scope, in contrast to the ephemeral performance at Verge, where the social nature of interacting with the artist at work becomes the most vital component. Another work combining sociability with art was found up in one of the artist project spaces: Ines Sun’s Tea Garden, a tiny nook for tea drinking and chatting. Other notable works in the individual artists booths included a series of serene yet tense large-format photographs by Ilisa Katz Rissman; Chin Chih Yang’s installations and sculptures made of aluminum cans; and Dan Wonderly’s photographs of compositions arranged of watch parts and abstract paintings inspired from riding the NY subway.
Though Verge overwhelmingly identified itself as a Brooklyn art fair, there were a few gallery exhibitors from overseas represented among the New York gallery booths. A fine collection of street-art works from the likes of Sweet Toof, Cept and Swoon were on view at London’s Arch 402 Gallery’s space. A few Tokyo-based galleries clustered in the back, while a few galleries from Seoul were also represented. Brooklyn held its own with some fine work, especially MOCADA showing a live performance of Jabari Owens, creating cloth covered “paper” airplanes made of sheet metal. Other New York galleries made the trip over the bridge, like Cue Art Foundation, which showed brilliant paintings by Sara Pedigo and prints by Lisa Young. Eric Parnes’ culture clash artwork with Stilllife Gallery included a neon sign reading “Sex, Drugs & Rock’n’Roll” in Farsi, and two skateboard decks with Persian rug designs as graphics.
Verge: Art Brooklyn gallery exhibitors
Writing this, I’m finding that I’ve separated and categorized the different exhibitors and exhibits according to their function—as either gallery exhibitors, individual artist booths, or curated shows—but the experience of the fair was anything but neatly categorized. Winding my way between the different sites, it was more of a scattered mix, almost like a treasure hunt, finding art goodies, stopping for a chat, enjoying a cup of green tea, wandering under the bridges, in and out of galleries not part of the official fair spaces, encountering performances, and meeting friends. It was more of an art wander than an art fair.
(*all photos by the author)
Top Image: Rosa Valado, Brooklyn Art Now: 2011 installation view.