The second-ever Independent 20th Century art fair in New York, dedicated to artists and during that timeframe, has returned in reliably elegant form.
This edition is again held at the Battery Maritime Building at the southern tip of Manhattan, steps from the Staten Island ferry send-off. It runs through September 10, coinciding with the Armory Show, which looms like an extravaganza of excess compared to this svelte affair. Like the inaugural edition, 32 exhibitors are spread across a single floor, from Vito Schnabel Gallery, to Venus Over Manhattan, and the Hauser & Wirth Institute, the nonprofit arm of the same-name mega-gallery.
It was difficult to choose the best booths, as most offer an opportunity to get acquainted with lesser-known avant-garde movements, or talented individuals who didn’t make the final cut of art history. For every Warhol and Picasso, there is a cheery, sideways still life by the undersung German-born Edith Schloss (Alexandre), or a slick silhouette by the Italian artist Sergio Lombardo (1/9unosunove). If you’re willing to pay the $45 admission fee, below are a few other booths to seek out.
American artist Ed Baynard (1940-2016) is experiencing a market resurgence, and a quick glance at the decades-spanning group of acrylics and watercolors gathered here makes the why obvious. Baynard, who daylit as a graphic designer, made floral still lifes in the flat, graphic style of Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, which stress bold blocks of color to convey depth. In the striking “Untitled,” from 1990, the delicate pink petals of an orchid pop against a green background. You almost expect them to rustle in the breeze.
This booth shows three activist artists of 60’s and 70’s New York, Camille Billops, Vivian Browne and May Stevens, all of whom helped found important art spaces in 1973. Stevens became a founding member of the influential feminist downtown gallery SOHO20, which would exhibit Browne and Billops for decades. Women star in delicate drawings, Pop-esque paintings, and one nude with a wavering outline perched on a ceramic chair. The standout (among many great works) is the etching series “I am Black, I am Black, I am Dangerously Black” by Billops, who with her husband, helped promote New York’s Black visual culture through their Hatch Billops Collection.
Winfred Rembert at James Barron Art
Winfred Rembert’s tooled-leather “paintings” command whatever space they inhabit. Carving art into strips of leather, a skill he learned while incarcerated, he memorialized scenes from his life in Jim Crow America, from surviving a lynching, to picking cotton and breaking rocks in a prison line. The self-taught artist had a remarkable eye for color and pattern, and a lingering sorrow that sustains in the work’s quiet intensity.
Peter Nadin, a painter, poet, sculptor, and central figure of New York’s Downtown scene, is represented with a striking self-portrait—which is soon to enter of “ a major European institution”, per the gallery—and a selection of water and pastel works on paper from his “Views II” series, exhibited for the first time since their creation in 1978. It was an exciting time for New York art, when the reigning movements of Minimalism and Conceptualism ceded to new modes of experimentation, in particular a return to figurative painting. Nadin left the city for the Catskills in 1993 and has been there ever since, painting and farming. Given the contemplative nature of these paintings, it was the right move.
Ahead of a retrospective at the Barnes Foundation, Nahmad Contemporary has gathered eight small canvases spanning two decades by Parisian painter Marie Laurencin (1883-1956). For those unfamiliar with the uncanny ladies of her painted worlds, this is a can’t miss booth. With their bone-white skin and ethereal grace, it’s like a peek into a pastel afterlife: the women frolic and fall into each other’s arms, unfettered by the male gaze. In several single-sitter portraits, they train their fathomless pits for eyes at the viewer with remote curiosity. There’s a schism between us and them, which is fine; whoever they are, they’ve earned this time. Laurencin, who lived and worked among male-dominated avante-garde circles, was committed to her aesthetic pleasures. “Why should I paint dead fish, onions, and beer glasses,” she reportedly once asked. “Girls are much prettier.”
Donald Ellis Gallery
Earlier this week, the New York Times published an article on Washoe weaver Louisa Keyser, who was advertised by her dealers as an Indigenous “princess” in a (successful) bid to make sales. According to the story, Keyser didn’t care much for the self-aggrandizing, but more collectors meant she could indulge her prodigious talent for basket-making. She borrowed freely from the art traditions of other Native people; her work’s distinct curving form, known as degikup, is from the art tradition of the Maidu, while her intricate stitching draws from another Native American group, the Pomo. Donald Ellis Gallery has brought five of her baskets to the Independent, for “an offering of a magnitude not seen in over half a century”.