For those looking for new insights and fresh perspectives on contemporary art practice, its hard to ignore the call of the NADA New York art fair during Armory Week. Set up in the sprawling Skylight Clarkson Square complex on downtown Manhattan’s western edge, the show is a dense pathway through the landscape of new art, mixing playful performance pieces, studied painting and anything in between, making the fair one of the more expansive and freewheeling events of the week.
Having opened its doors for a preview event yesterday, NADA was still buzzing when Art Observed dropped in on Thursday for a stroll around its grounds, a walk that unveiled a broad range of interesting projects and pieces. Even the Red Bull Studios, a branded exhibition and arts space on the edge of Chelsea was getting in on the action this year, bringing a series of vivid sculptural abstractions by Eric Wesley to the fair, and infusing the aisles with a certain degree of vivid formal energy. In another corner, the Situations booth had taken a similar prompt in another direction, filling the booth with work by Mariah Dekkenga, Rainen Knecht and Jerry the Marble Faun (who famously appeared as the gardener for the Beale family in the classic documentary Grey Gardens), each taking their own path through colorful and emotive arrangements of space.
Multi-media work was also in ample supply this year, including at Arkansas gallery Good Weather, which was showing an audio and sculptural work by Sondra Perry. Sitting on the couch and listening to an audio recording, visitors were forced out of the haze that occasionally settles over fair-goers as the fair week progresses, snapping them back into an intense physical and mental engagement with the artist’s work. A similarly brusque engagement with viewers was provided by Ian Svenonius during a performance at the fair. The frontman of Chain and the Gang and Washington D.C. punk legends Nation of Ulysses, Svenonius brought his taught and frenetic energy to the space, preaching to the audience through his new project, “Escape-ism.”
More studied, historical work was also on hand for the fair, including, among other works, a series of minimal photographs by John Baldessari on view at Alden Projects, hung next to a set of text pieces by Jenny Holzer. the pairing felt like something of a tie back to the fervent energy of past eras of young artists, and a strong connection to the history of challenging new bodies of work. Elsewhere, one could view a body of work by Jan-Ole Schiemann, swirling masses of gesture at Nino Mier that seemed to echo older eras of abstraction while remaining tied to the present.
Overall, NADA continues to make its presence felt during Armory Week, growing into something of a default stop for the myriad young voices of the contemporary art circuit. As Independent grows into a boutique alternative to both NADA and the Armory Show, it should be interesting to see what space NADA takes as the years wind on, and the landscape of the art fair circuit continues to change.
The fair closes March 11th.
— D. Creahan
NADA New York [Website]