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NYC Art Shows on the piers

Immense exhibit
by Stephen Kaye
Fri Mar 3rd, 2017

Ironically joyful in a bubbly paradise, a fragment of a huge Asian mural

Splash was everywhere in this year’s Volta Show that we explored on Wednesday afternoon with the Volta opening.  There were 96 galleries each showing one – and sometimes two – artists – from 38 countries.  This was the 10th Volta show.  Their first show was a hodg-podge of young galleries and untested artists in two loft buildings in SoHo.  This year’s galleries are mostly established and most of the artists are young and the prices are reasonable. As you enter the show you find a zero interest finance facility set up so you can make monthly payments.

What struck me was first, the even quality of the art, and second, I was impressed by the amount of color that artists were using.  The splash was in color, not action painting or uncontrolled drip, but well-conceived compositions that embraced color as part of the artists’ vocabulary.  I saw a lot of blue and yellow. 

 Among the more singular artists was a young Cree painter whose work depicts imaginary meetings  between the white settlers and his ancestors..  Picnics with youth sporting in forest glades are marred by arrows piercing flesh.  Cultures clash but it isn’t all horror.  The rich landscape seems undimmed. These are vibrant paintings that are outside the mainstream.

The amount of art is overwhelming, confusing; one suffers feelings of helplessness. One needs a guide, but what guide would not also feel helpless. The excitement of finding new artists is what makes this show an essential part of the art world, a world that is both global and local at the same time.  These artists are from somewhere and where they are from colors their viewpoints, their concerns and to some degree their artistic language. Many were on hand, so you could ask them what moved them and they were ready with answers.  Some are inspired by myth, or by ideas, or have conceptual leanings.  But conceptualism seems to have gone offstage.  Memory was a word circulating amongst the dealers as they talked to their clients.  And seldom nostalgic memory; rather fractured memories clashing with other memories combined to form a colorful montage of suggestions, chards and impressions. Sue Williams, an American painter exhibited by Galerie Eva Presenhuber of Zurich, is an example.

One generality I can dare advance is that these artists were all sure in their work. There was a strong sense that these artists knew what they were about.  Very few were outwardly derivative or consciously working in an identifiable style.  Gone are the days when artists could be called pop or abstract or super realist or as belonging to a group or movement.  Whether from Georgia, Turkey, Japan, Greece or Brooklyn,  the artists were individuals working in a global world.

On day two we hit the Armory Show on Piers 93 and 92 in that order.  93 had more foreign galleries than local, although the foreign galleries very often showed NY or American artists.  We stopped by Bernie Jacobson a London dealer, whose booth had a bunch of Motherwell’s, some fairly good sized, some modest in size.  A catalogue raisonne was being poured over.  The prices were mentioned… that’s 4 million, and that 500.  Very handsome they were too.  There were more Motherwell’s on Pier 92. /


The galleries on 92 were more of the elite type.   The crowd was thinner in proportion to the prices.  There was the kind of hush one would expect in a German banking house when important deals are being discussed.  There was a smattering of the familiar names, Alex Katz being represented with several stunning works.  The old names were few, few Picassos, only a handful of Stella’s, no Rothko’s.  Many of the legendary names were kept in the vaults.  Hollis Taggart showed abstract expressionists (that was a name from the 1960’s and the artists are all dead)  – Jack Tworkov,  Grace Hartigan, Sam Francis and a brash Norman Bluhm who painted in a barn on Chestnut Hill Road.  I thought he looked angry in the dark confused picture on display.  


We spoke to Lo Nylen of Wetterling, a Swedish dealer, who showed large and very large works by Mike and Doug Starn, twins who work in a studio in Beacon, part of the Talex complex.  They made collage type works cut out of old record jackets.  Their very large works use whole record jackets with, we were told, the records in them.  You can pick a jacket off the work – they are attached magnetically- and play the record on a turntable.  The hub-bub was such that the music was hard to hear.

They also work on glass framed in steel.