Never under estimate the power of exhibition design. The minute I arrived at Pulse I felt enthusiastic about the fairs again. No over cramped booths, very wide aisles, a large open public exhibition space; I may not have liked everything I saw, but at least I could look at it. Speaking to this, the floor plan created several large open walls with long vantage points, none of which were diminished by the amateurish hanging I witnessed at so many of the other fairs. Rather than filling a large space with countless tiny drawings, work appropriately sized hung on these walls.
Mark Shetabi in the Pulse entrance. Also at Jeff Bailey. Photo AFC
As a fair attendee enters Pulse, Mark Shetabi iterative models and paintings of a nondescript GTA inspired parking garage fills the front room. I’m not convinced its the best work of art I’ve ever seen — even though it intends to leave a viewer cold, viral banality as a concept plays out fairly quickly — but as objects they do manage to maintain some authority. The sculpture sets the stage for the next ten or so booths; not too much in the form of “good” or “engaging” art shows up, mediocre art finally receiving its moment in the spotlight (as if the rest of the fairs weren’t enough.) Timothy Greenfield Sanders’ flat portraits of amputee soldiers exemplify this, succeeding in little more than documenting its subject.
Kim Rugg at P.P.O.W., photo AFC
P.P.O.W., marks the changing of the tides in this fair, the majority of its booth filled with engaging work. A suite of four gritty Kaleidoscope-esque prints by Carolee Schneeman documenting her nude performance on a train track struck a chord with me — their denial of beauty seeming more calculated and rationalized than much of the fashionably ugly work I’ve seen at the Whitney or the New Museum. Kim Rugg‘s envelopes also interested me, even if there was more to the process of determining their success than the work itself. Remaking stamp compositions by slicing them up and rearranging the bits is a bit of a one trick pony, but I suppose the real art happens when she mails the suckers. The UK postal system reads pigment, as opposed to using image recognition software, so the idea that color engages distribution may not be so bad, but I’m still not convinced mailing the letter leaves us with anything more than a fun factoid.
Leo Villareal at Conner Contemporary, Photo AFC
On the subject of art with what seems to be limited meaning, perhaps someone can explain to me the appeal of Leo Villareal, because as far I can tell, his blinky light pieces, represent a refined version of a Times Square billboard.
To my mind, Yossi Milo had the strongest booth of the fair, which isn’t too much of a surprise given his strong stable of artists. A beautiful suite of horizons by Sze Tsung Leong hang on one wall tempering what might otherwise become a heavy opposing wall, with a 68 x 68 inch photograph of a Nigerian man and his giant musseled dog by Pieter Hugo, and two creepy Loretta Lux portraits of children.
Finally, at the far end of the Pier rests a large cafeteria with plenty of seats, Wifi access and a large performance space. At 7:00 pm yesterday I watched Chez Bushwick’s The Invention of Minus One, 2008, a star studded collaborative dance project including music by Christian Marclay, Costumes by Isaac Mizrahi, and the dancers Jonah Bokaer, Jean Freebury, and Banu Ogan. More on that and Dark Fair to come.