VOLTA NY is a refreshing reprieve from the chaotic onslaught of art presented by almost every other NYC art fair. It seems someone at the top heard our collective grunts and cries of dismay at the impossibility of coming away from any of the more massive art swap meets with anything other than a headache and stinging retinas. VOLTA is an invite-only fair that requires the galleries to put together single artist shows, making for a cohesive experience, at least as far as each booth is concerned.
Having circled around the show a few times and returned for a second look at the work that captured our attention, here are some selections for the most intriguing work in the show, in no particular order:
With his aggressive array of paintings bristling with youth angst and vitality, Toms seems to be a punk rock blend of Steven Parrino bumping into Christopher Wool in a seedy back alley. Stark white canvases have been emblazoned with bold passages of spray enamel and oil paint. Metallic silvers and rich blacks compete for dominance across surfaces pitting misty, spray applied pigments with hard-edge, taped-off geometric elements. Here and there loose grids and other gestures have been burned into the surfaces as well. In front of the booth a table displays an array of violent looking home made daggers, rough carved wood and formed plastic, lined up in an inviting array that begs the viewer to choose their own weapon. Toms is certainly operating within a known and artistically traveled subculture, but finds clever ways to keep the work feeling raw and fresh.
The grey area between painting and sculpture is an aesthetic venue many have passed through, but it is one that few have lay claim to as their aesthetic home. In painstakingly extracting the facades of known objects and introducing them into the two dimensional realm via meticulous inlay, Zelehoski not only hovers between sculpture and painting but between each simultaneously in transforming the experiential tangibility of his subjects. It is almost as if the divide between perceptual and real space no longer exists. One of the more impressive works shows two materially sturdy and enticing painting stretchers floating inches apart from each other within the available image space of the booth wall. Having been cut into their essential shapes when viewed in perspective and reassembled into their new home within the excavated drywall, the artist creates a work in dialogue with both the lived and perceived physicality of these at one time pedestrian objects.
Patrick Bernatchez of Battat Contemporary, Montreal. Photo courtesy of Metropolism
An all black rider strides towards you in slow motion on his helmet-clad steed, emerging from the ethereal void of a snow covered nowhere. The silent work is displayed on the wall in small format through a beautifully preserved film projector, emitting that seductively comforting mechanical hum only a work on film can provide. On the facing wall hangs a large standing portrait of the rider, wearing a motorcycle style helmet and semi-futuristic looking expedition gear. The photographic image is printed in an aged style reminiscent of early tintypes in a move that confounds the viewer’s ability to place the subject within a discernable history. To supplement the existential premise of the work, the artist has included a handsome wristwatch preserved for viewing in a glass vitrine. Seemingly motionless, a peek at the provided information reveals that this watch is apparently ticking away the minute increments it takes to measure the time of a millennium.
Opting for confident display of poetics and a keen eye for carefully constructed formal relationships, D.E May’s work mines the inherent beauty of architectural drawing and diagrammatic project proposals. Widely created on a fairly humble scale utilizing muted tones and subtle shifts of color, the artists work looks like a portfolio of unrealized structural relationships, left on the page to become configurations to be encountered by the mind’s eye. Measurements and ruler guided pencil under drawing play as important a role as the resulting forms themselves, laying the process bare while alluding to something more than naked geometric forms. The work made me think about Beaudrillard’s concept of the fragment’s inescapable reference to its former home as a part of the whole, no small feat for work so bare and concise in its nature of expression.