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Personal recommendations: Bridge and PooL

Bridge New York was one of last year’s big surprises. As I had only known it as a Miami hotel fair, it was real treat to find it entirely transformed in the Waterfront tunnel that runs between 11th and 12th Avenues in distant Chelsea. This time around there’s not that same sense of discovery, and perhaps inevitably I was a little bit disappointed. The character (and quality) of the work at Bridge is all over the place. There is a lot of excellent, serious, genuinely ambitious art there – and the number of recommendations I’m able to make reflects that fact – but there is also some ghastly kitsch. 
So I am delighted to be able to start with this. Admittedly I have left the Armory Show itself until last, but the little video sculptures by Tim Tate at Projects Gallery are the best things that I have seen in any of the fairs so far.  Mr Tate is quite a celebrity in some circles, but his art is new to me, and all the more entrancing for that. In these most recent pieces he blows the glass vessel, casts the glass object that sits atop it, shoots and edits the video, and even assembles the video monitor that it appears on. The title of this piece is My Heart is Unbreakable and the video is a loop of a glass vase smashing into a million pieces. The poignancy of Mr Tate’s work is actually increased by his willingness to essay so self-pitying a subject.
Tim Tate, "My Heart is Unbreakable" (2008), $7,000

Tim Tate, "My Heart is Unbreakable" (2008), $7,000

Elsewhere, Baiba Morkane is here from Gallery Bastejs in Riga. Among her artists is the mesmerizing Jana Brike, who makes monochromatic, strangely distressed, and highly romantic images that I find quite captivating.

Jana Brike, "Hunters from Sunday School" (2009), $1,900

Jana Brike, "Hunters from Sunday School" (2009), $1,900

Then, at Kathleen Cullen, there are a couple of  pencil and eraser drawings by John Bowman. In this one, a waterfall cascades in the interior of a Victorian opera house, though it is so beautifully crafted and so persuasively imagined that it takes on the utter plausibility of the most vivid dream.

John Bowman, "Torrent" (2001), $3,250

John Bowman, "Torrent" (2001), $3,250

Very different to the romantiscism of these pieces is the courageous and frankly disconcerting provocation of Eric Parnes, who is given a solo presentation by Stilllife. Mr Parnes is a first generation Iranian American, and the fact that his art attempts to make sense of his own identity and that of his family is understandable enough. What is rather less predictable is the intelligence, imagination, and invention that he brings to bear. Here he reconfigures G.I. Joe action figures as Islamic terrorists and presents them in gold-leafed boxes. They cost $150 each. That’s right, $150.

Eric Parnes, “Hamas” and "Hizballah” (2009), $150 each

Eric Parnes, “Hamas” and "Hizballah” (2009), $150 each

And this neon sign in Farsi translates as “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” I really am very impressed by Mr Parnes’ work. He is an artist we should keep our eyes on.


Eric Parnes, "sex, drugs, and rock and roll" (2008), $3,000

SOHO20 has a venerable history as an artist-run operation that champions women artists’ work. I was fascinated by Monica Bock’s sculptures that are featured on their booth. These ghastly little mouth casts are rescued from sheer creepy horror by the fact that they turn out to be the records of Ms Bock’s children’s dental development, and they are exhibited along with photographs of the kids’ toothy grins. The combination was just too much dentistry for me, so here I offer just the cast, which sits on its own little shelf.

Monica Bock, "Cheek by Jowl" (2008), $750

Monica Bock, "Cheek by Jowl" (2008), $750

I am sorry to have to report that PooL was also a disappointment this year.  I was really delighted with their showing at the Chelsea Hotel this time last year, and was very encouraged by Thierry Alet’s comments when I spoke to him earlier this week. But this time around, in their new home at the Wyndham Garden Hotel on 24th Street, art of any real quality is very thin on the ground. 

I was, however, very impressed by William Eckhardt Kohler’s paintings. They are strange and old-fashioned things, landscape-based, gestural, with a dramatic and often highly-charged color palette and little fragments of imagery studded here and there across the picture surface. It actually took me a few minutes staring at these paintings before I could even begin to comprehend them, but they were worth the wait.


William Eckhardt Kohler, "Magpie" (2008)

The cruel joke that people tell about PooL is that it’s the fair for artists without dealers that makes it obvious why a lot of artists can’t find a dealer (and in this regard, using the phrase Salon des Refusés on their publicity material is rather asking for trouble) but in Mr Kohler’s case I genuinely think somebody should take him on.

JoAnna Johnson, "Black Dresses" (2007), price dependent on size

JoAnna Johnson, "The Way" (2007), price dependent on print size

The same is true of JoAnna Johnson, whose work could not be more different from Mr Kohler’s – though once again it took me a few minutes before I even began to get it.  Ms Johnson makes simple cotton dresses, situates them in the landscape, and then photographs them. It’s the photographs that she sells. My hunch is that a lot of people will want to buy them.

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2 comments to Personal recommendations: Bridge and PooL

  • Hi Robert,

    Thanks for the mention in your blog. I’m sorry too that it was posted later than you hoped. I feel very loved by New York City. The art audience here is intelligent and curious and I enjoyed our exchanges. Now it’s back to Texas, but I’ll be back in NYC soon, hopefully in a gallery. The name of the image you posted from my website is “The Way.”

    Best, JoAnna

  • Yep, makes since, must be why the galleries don’t want them…