At the Independent Art Fair

Charlie Billingham

With at least three art fairs on offer one March weekend in New York City, the question was how not to become overwhelmed. A review in the New York Times pointed us toward the Independent Art Fair:

If, like me, you find the full-tilt art fairs a little overwhelming, the formally ambitious but modestly scaled Independent is a godsend. With just 54 exhibits, many of them solo presentations, arranged over four spacious floors at Spring Studios in TriBeCa, it’s like a leisurely all-star game: It’s not exactly representative of the year in art, perhaps, but it feels as if it ought to be.

Tomashi Jackson

Tomashi Jackson (detail)

I was particularly curious about the work of Tomashi Jackson, not least because of her choice of materials—paper bags, cheap netting, even a Jon Ossoff palm card. It transpired that, in 2014 or thereabouts, Jackson read Josef Albers’s Interaction of Color at the same time as she was reading Brown v. Board of Education: A Documentary History by Mark Whitman. Here’s something of what she had to say:

Though most of the cases [Thurgood] Marshall worked on in the 1940s and 1950s were collegiate, the Brown cases focused on primary schools. The documents are filled with paranoid rhetoric defending the separation of “colored” people from “white” people at all costs. . . . I recognized terms about how “colors” interact from Albers’s text: colored, boundaries, movement, transparency, mixture, purity, restriction, deception, memory, transformation, instrumentation, systems, recognition, psychic effect, placement, quality, and value. The language around de jure segregation is similar to Albers’s description of the wrong way to perceive color, as if color is static. Marshall and Albers concluded that color is relative, and what a viewer perceives a color to be is determined by the color nearest to it. [citation]

The labeling on the slideshow photographs is often only the artist’s name, but at least that allows for looking up more if you’re intrigued.

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To see more photographs of works at the fair, click here.

Listening List

I was reminded recently how modern Debussy was:

As a sulky Paris Conservatoire student in the 1870s, Debussy had been apprenticed to a tradition in which all the great questions of form and content had been decided at least a century earlier. The boy’s job, as his masters saw it, was to absorb these inherited templates, add his five sous-worth of fancy, before handing them on duly refreshed to the next generation of nimble-fingered prodigies. Debussy, instead, aimed to do nothing less than rebuild music from the bottom up or perhaps, more accurately, from the inside out. He would produce sequences of what he called “colours and rhythmicised time” that expressed his inner vision, rather than ready-made sounds to be crammed into some pre-arranged shape. Form would follow content, even if that meant that the form had no beginning or end, no climax or lull, but instead appeared as an uninterrupted weave held together by its own dense internal logic. [citation]

Claude Debussy Syrinx (1913)

Syrinx has been hailed as the first significant piece for solo flute since the Sonata in A minor composed by C.P.E. Bach 150 years before, and is the first solo composition since Böhm perfected his flute in 1847. Many musical historians believe that Syrinx played a pivotal role in the development of solo flute music in the early twentieth century. [citation]


Credits: Sources for the quotations may be found at the links in the text. The photographs, as always on the blog unless indicated otherwise, are mine.


13 thoughts on “At the Independent Art Fair

  1. Mark Kerstetter

    Your reviews always make me wish I was there to see it. Still, it’s fun to get a glimpse. It’s nice to look at the large photos of Jackson’s work. On first glance they look a lot like Rauschenbergs, but the detailed photos reveal exactly what’s going on.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Mark: I would have loved for you to be able to see this show and get your view of what stood out to you. Interesting re Jackson vis-a-vis Rauschenberg, and I can definitely see the connection at initial glance. I’m glad the detail photos gave a better glimpse–the photos really don’t capture all the texture, as one of many limitations.

  2. sackerson

    Interesting that Debussy described his own music like that. I found myself playing through bits of Debussy on the piano a while back, at a time when I’d been listening to a lot of Stockhausen and thinking how similar the two composers were! The comparison seemed to help me make sense of both. (Apologies if l’ve said this before in a different context but it occurred to me reading this post too). It’s a shame people tend to name-check Webern when they talk about antecedents to Stockhausen when to point to Debussy is at least as helpful.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      sackerson: I am not familiar enough with Stockhausen to hear for myself, but I love the idea of a connection with Debussy’s music!

      1. sackerson

        I find one in this… But I do appreciate it’s an acquired taste! I think both composers were acutely aware of the sound their music made: it’s always *a* part but, for both, timbre was a really important part of their musical language.

  3. David N

    Yes, Tomashi Jackson is impressive. ‘Syrinx’, by the way, is the shortest piece ever to have had a BBC Radio 3 Building a Library devoted to it.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      David: Love that “fast fact” about Syrinx! Delighted you found Jackson impressive–the photographs don’t do her work justice, but she is definitely someone I’m keeping an eye out for from here on out based on the pieces we saw “live.”

  4. shoreacres

    Your slide show was wonderful, and I found several pieces that appealed. I laughed out loud at Gary Leibowitz’s me-me-me pie chart, and Elisabeth Kley’s black and white constructions brought to mind some dishes that my mother purchased in the early 1960s. Unaccountably, they were square, with curved corners and an abstract black-and-white pattern. The cups were solid black, and perhaps some of the accessory pieces. I’ve always remembered them fondly, but never knew the manufacturer or pattern. Now I know, thanks to the internet: they were Edwin Knowles’s pattern called Ebonette.

    I’m almost tempted to read Alber’s Interaction of Color on the basis of this alone: “Marshall and Albers concluded that color is relative, and what a viewer perceives a color to be is determined by the color nearest to it.” It brought to mind all of the discussions I’ve been privy to over the past years about flower color: is it purple or blue? Is that yellow or gold? What color is a winecup, since fuchsia, magenta, rose, garnet, scarlet, and purple all have been applied to it? And so on.

    For some reason, the blue and white walls in the first photo remind me of your collages.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Shoreacres: I, too, laughed out loud at the me, me, me. I am glad you enjoyed the slideshow. There was a lot of fun stuff on view at the fair. I was also tempted by the Albers book, and you point directly to another reason why.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Steve: I didn’t do “my homework” on this artist and am so glad you did! Here’s a quotation from the NY Times piece that made me chuckle: ‘If I would have known my paintings were going to a museum, I would have worked a little longer on them.”

  5. Curt Barnes

    We went to Art/Miami/Basel (or words to that effect) for our own expo outing (free tickets), but even though the energy was invigorating, it turned out to be too much slickness interspersed with a lot of overfamiliar icons. This one may have been the better choice. Thanks for letting me visit this too!

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Curt: I would have loved to have your take on what was on offer at the Independent. We really enjoyed it and are glad we ended up being steering to it rather than the behemoth fair that was also on that weekend.

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