Ask anyone how they're enjoying the New York Art Book Fair and you'll likely get a response along the lines of, "It's great, but I'm overwhelmed." That's not a knock at the fair's organization, which was excellent, but instead a reaction to the sheer size of the event, both in the number of exhibitors and attendees.
Despite the evidence that the fair is primarily a "buyer's market," as confirmed by curator Shannon Michael Cane in our preview interview last week and the collectors leaving with bags full of books, the event manages to feel not entirely driven by pure commerce. No publisher makes a hard sell to those flipping through books, and while you'd surely be missing out on some great titles, it's entirely possible to get a lot out of the fair without making a purchase.
Those who braved the crowds and impressive roster of exhibitors saw plenty of Nothing Major favorites including Edie Fake, the Packet Biweekly Team, Gottlund Verlag, Nieves, Rollo Press, Bad Day, and Kayrock Screenprinting.
Check out our photos from photographer BJ Enright.
There's a large contemporary and modern art fair hitting Chicago this weekend (the monstrous EXPO Chicago at Navy Pier)—but we're more curious about the small energetic one happening nearby. Fountain Art Fair Chicago, spun-off of the exhibitions of avant garde artwork in New York during Armory week and Miami during Art Basel Miami Beach, features exhibitions from Arch Enemy Arts, Cinqunquatre of Montreal, Maxwell Colette Gallery of Chicago, S&J Projects of NY and many more (read Fountain's full list of exhibitors), a weekend-long performance art series TUYAU, the sonic sculpture installation Dave Ford’s Swing Set Drum Kit, and nighttime sets from DJ Reuben Wu of Ladytron and Detroit synth rockers ADULT.
Fountain Art Fair runs Friday through Sunday at Mana Contemporary, 2233 S. Throop St, Chicago, IL. Friday’s VIP Preview from noon until 7pm benefits the Detroit Institute of Arts is followed by an opening night reception open to the public. Tickets are available online and at the door, including $15 weekend passes. Complimentary shuttle service is available from EXPO Chicago at Navy Pier all weekend.
Creative expression might not be a high priority for those housed within the concrete walls of Tennessee’s Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, home to the state’s electric chair and lethal injection machinery. The insiders are likely more concerned with the grim reality of their situation. But thanks to artwork created by prisoners in tandem with students and professors at nearby Watkins College of Art, Design & Film in Nashville, the wider world has a window into ther lives and minds.
Robin Paris and Tom Williams with writing by Gary Cone, Harold Wayne Nichols, and Donald Middlebrooks: Surrogate Project For Harold Wayne Nichols, The Night Sky Series
Watkins professors Robin Paris and Tom Williams spearheaded “Unit 2 (part 1),” a series of collaborations between students, local artists, and 11 death row inmates. The project is split between collaborative "add-on" works, where students added to and modified pieces in a back-and-forth exhange with prisoners, and “surrogate projects,” creations directed by incarcerated artists who physically couldn’t follow through on their ideas in the outside world. Within this framework, a simple photo of a night sky gains extra resonance, as the transfixing image of stars is one the artist hadn't seen for three decades.
“This project has fundamentally changed my understanding of both criminal justice and prison,” says Williams. “Many of these prisoners look a lot more like us than we've been told, and we look a lot more like them. They're billed as 'the worst of the worst' within the popular media, but the situation seems far more complex than that to me now. Death row raises a lot of difficult questions. Many of them are responsible for serious crimes. But they have also been failed by a justice system that has offered them inadequate defense and has failed to consider the often-tragic circumstances that led up to their crimes. In many instances, their crimes are comparable to those of individuals living with sentences that are far less severe.”
Upreyl Mitchell and Kennath Artez Henderson: Photograph and drawing
Abu Ali Abdur’Rahman and Kristi Hargrove: Untitled, mixed media on paper
"Unit 2 (part 1)" can be seen at the Coop Gallery at 75 Arcade Street in Nashville through September 28. Future collaborations are planned but, as Williams notes, “Many of the insiders don't have a lot of time, which is a difficult thing to consider.”
In the world of art museums, James Turrell has been hard to miss this summer. He currently has major exhibitions open at the Guggenheim in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Put simply, Turrell’s medium is light. He creates indoor and outdoor spaces designed to demonstrate both the powers and limitations of human perception. As Turrell puts it, “My work has no object, no image, and no focus. With no object, no image, and no focus, what are you looking at? You are looking at you looking. What is important to me is to create an experience of worldless thought.”
To pique your interest, here are five of our favorite Turrell works:
Hard Scrabble Sky
In the midst of the University of Illinois, Chicago’s campus, Turrell created one of his signature “Skyspaces”—a structure with an opening at the top that obscures the horizon, allowing viewers inside the elliptical structure to observe the ever-changing light and sky patterns through the roof above them.
This 2005 work at a private home in Calistoga, CA combines one of Turrell's Skyspaces with an infinity pool. The large square at the end of the pool holds the Skyspace, accessible by swimming underwater at the end of pool. The interior is lined with teak and a square opening at the top opens the structure to the sky.
Many of Turrell’s works focus on enhancing the experience of looking at the sky or the natural world, but works from his Ganzfeld series use electric light to challenge the power of our eyes. "End Around" (2006) is currently being shown at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and like his other Ganzfeld series works, "End Around" simulates a total loss of depth perception. The viewer is bathed in a field of blue light and, at some point, the light almost becomes a physical presence because of the loss of depth perception.
Turrell has been working on this massive space in a natural cinder cone volcano in Arizona since 1972. Turrell’s site picks up on the ancient tradition of creating manmade monuments to view celestial events, with different rooms heightening the viewer’s perception of sunrise, sunset, the stars, and natural light. Roden Crater combines Turrell’s explorations of light and perceptual science into one unique site in Arizona’s Painted Desert but, unfortunately, it’s not open to the public (yet).
These works are Turrell’s most intense. He’s been creating these types of immersive pieces since the late '80s, and there’s at least one on view at LACMA this summer. In a Turrell Perceptual Cell, the viewer enters a small, enclosed space alone to experience an intensely bright light that slowly changes over the course of the visit. Most viewers describe the experience as somewhat hallucinatory, while some find it too unsettling to view twice.
Gemis Luciani's meticulous collages take the paper detritus meant for the recycling bin and turns it into incredible sculptures. Some of his pieces are carefully folded and hung design magazines; others are made from the often annoying but sometimes useful bit of near obsolescence, the telephone book.