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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.