Frieze NY 2018
Influential art fair Frieze (May 4-6) filled a series of expansive tents on New York’s Randall’s Island with contemporary works showcased by global galleries. We highlight the prominent themes and standout works.
- Bold & Bright Colour: Expanding on a recent theme (see Art Basel & Design Miami/Basel 2017 and Miami Art & Design Trends 2017), vibrant rainbow shades punctuated the fair – used in both playful and darker, more ironic ways.
The more joyful works included a bright conical wooden piece by Moroccan multimedia artist Yto Barrada; American artist Tony Tasset’s Mood Sculpture, a totem pole of smiley-to-unhappy faces; and a wall sculpture by Brooklyn-based Josh Sperling comprising squiggles in Memphis Group-inspired hues. See also Playful Optimism: Colour from our A/W 19/20 Colour Spectrum.
Bright hues were also deployed in more serious pieces, like New York-based painter Josh Smith’s richly coloured paintings of the grim reaper and Korean artist Cody Choi’s neon-lit commentary on capitalist excess, reading “Free Orgasm”. Swirling colours dominated American multimedia artist Nick Cave’s Tondo, a six-foot-diameter circle constructed with metal, wire, bugle beads, sequined fabric and wood. Part of a series by the artist, the coloured patterns in the deceptively seductive piece were derived by mapping cataclysmic weather patterns onto the brain scans of black youth traumatised by gun violence.
- Attention-Demanding Red: Rich reds similarly conveyed a spectrum of moods. Some works used the colour for an exuberant pop-art effect, including a red Lego wall piece by British artist Michael Wilkinson, heavily lipsticked lips by New York-based artist Gina Beavers, and a wall-mounted snake by German sculptor Katharina Fritsch. Red represents rage in an installation by British artist Tracey Emin titled I Never Asked to Fall in Love – You Made Me Feel Like This.
- Fine Art Via Craft & Folk: Artists enlisted traditional craft or folk-art materials and practices as a means to explore identity, memory and heritage.
A Frieze highlight, an installation by Jamaican-Canadian sculptor Tau Lewis consisted of arresting figures seated or lying on the floor, made by sewing, carving and assembling found and repurposed materials. Meanwhile, both Canadian-Trinidadian artist Curtis Talwst Santiago and American artist Jeffrey Gibson(whose background is Choctaw-Cherokee) used beadwork to convey rich cultural tradition.
Embroidered works by Jordan Nassar, a Palestinian-Polish American artist, reference traditional Palestinian crafts and patterns. American artist Summer Wheat achieves a tapestry-like effect by pressing acrylic paint through a framed mesh screen in works that stretch up to 20ft across.
- Art & Commerce: Works explored consumer culture and aesthetics across artistic media. New York-based Roe Ethridge and Norwegian-born Torbjørn Rødland subtly played with the polish of commercial photography in compelling works, notably Ethridge’s portrait of a transgender subject holding an iPhone. American painter David Salle wryly referenced mid-century advertising illustrations in The Housewife’s Dilemma.
American artist Hugh Hayden and British ceramicist Jesse Wine both juxtaposed organic forms with mundane commercial products, while Polish-born conceptual artist Agnieszka Kurant and Swiss multimedia artist Tobias Kaspar riffed on branding and marketing mechanisms. Kurant’s display cabinet Placebo was packed with tongue-in-cheek fake pharmaceutical products – for instance Berzerk, whose packaging claims it “boosts the user’s bestial behaviour”. Kaspar’s large-scale installation, The Complete Aesop, reproduced Australian luxe cosmetics brand Aesop’s product line in porcelain, intended to recall ancient Greek sculpture.
A whimsical installation by American artist Ann Agee displayed around 200 items of shoe-inspired stoneware, earthenware and porcelain sculptures, each marked with variations of a ‘logo’, such as “Agee Manufacturing Co”.
- Discomfiting Portraiture: The show’s most striking portraits were slightly unsettling, like British artist Nicola Tyson’s graphite drawing of a woman balling her fists and another crying. Several pieces distorted or erased identity, as in works by American painter Nathaniel Mary Quinn and Mexican-American multimedia artist Eduardo Sarabia.