Oh look there was a whole disorganised rant here about the banality of words and not eating octopus and what is with all the tedious sloganeering and meaningless words on canvas everywhere. We walked for miles and miles (with computerised smiles) during the last week, miles and miles around the vastness of Freeze, over those tracks at Moniker and that very powerful Legacy of War show, through the tumble-weed at Sluice, around one or two other art fairs, galleries, fringe events, shows, we thankfully avoided the openings and the parties and stuck to just art, we tried to stick with the positives found, the exciting art, the things that move us, we tried to leave our cynical smiles at home. We’ve written pages of words, far too many words! Why are there so many damn words? The one thing we found ourselves asking again and again at Frieze was why so many damn words on the walls? why so many empty slogans and tedious bits of words on the walls of the gallery booths? Why so… Oh look, I just had to cut out a whole rant about not eating octopus and that Jeremy Deller wall-wasting wordery, at least a star has several points to it. If you must use words than make it about wanting a f””king pony daddy or something, make it something a little more, part of something more, no time for ranting, Frieze London has been and gone again, the media can mostly forget about art for another fifty-one weeks, those of us who know, will go exploring the excitement of paint and performance and installation as we do ever thrilling week of the always busy always rewarding art year. This then, not in any particular order – and not including all the glorious history of the main event’s sister show, the best of main contemporary art event, not the Masters.
Here then, now there’s been a little bit of time to chew over it all rather than just rushing it out as clickbait ten minutes after the show had opened, here then is the Organ pick, a considered and chewed over best of what we saw at Frieze London 2017 – there was of course extensive coverage, too many words and several bag loads of fracture photos on these pages during the event here from day one and here from day three. Here comes the Frieze top nine…
1 The whole Sex Work timeline, area and collection of a dozen or so galleries from all over the glove – “Sex Work is where Frieze is at, forget everything else” said performance artist Amy Kingsmill still very clearly buzzing off the Cosey Fanni Tutti talk she had just been to, she may well have had a point. Was it feminism or was it more about females just daring to paint sex and the reactions to them doing just that? Was it ongoing empowerment or was it just some rather positive historical documentation? A celebration of radicalness past? Whatever it was it was excellent. It was officially billed as “Sex Work: Feminist Art & Radical Politics”, the A.I,R timeline wall itself was excellent – A. I. R Gallery (Artists in Residence) A New York based feminist artist-run organization that has apparently been “fundamental in the careers of Mary Beth Edelson, Judith Bernstein and many more” – a gallery that was clearly at the pioneering centre of it all back there, the only thing it really lacked is some of the current crop of artists who are taking these notions forward., would love to see artists like Megan Pickering, Kim Leutwyler, Emma Harvey, Julia Maddison, Aida Wilde or Agata Cardoso alongside all this…
The whole of the Sex Work area has a little buzz of excitement around it, it did kind of lift the whole 2017 Frieze experience – “New for 2017, Sex Work: Feminist Art & Radical Politics is curated by independent curator and scholar Alison M. Gingeras. The section features nine solo presentations of women artists working at the extreme edges of feminist practice during the 1970s and ‘80s, all sharing a focus on explicit sexual iconography combined with radical political agency”, yes it was almost all in a historical context and much of it maybe a little dated and not so challenging now as it must have been at the time? but so so much of it was very much now and it was good to actually see the Betty Tompkins F**k Paintings in the flesh, in the full rather than reduced to the size of a mere page in a book or a tiny image on a computer screen, t osee them up there on the wall in all their glory. The Betty Tompkins paintings were shown by Galerie Andrea Caratsch, St. Moritz, and so good to get to see those very 60’s counter-culture flavoured Dorothy Iannone pieces shown by Air de Paris, (Paris) as well, they might be as dated as hell now, refreshingly brilliant to see all the same..
The wall of Renete Bertlmann pieces on the Richard Saltoun gallery booth are worth a mention as well – “Renate Bertlmann is an Austrian feminist artist whose practice is dominated by issues surrounding sexuality and gender, with her body often serving as the medium. Bertlmann actively confronts social stereotypes assigned to the ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, using fetishistic objects as her props – dildos, condoms, pacifiers – to subvert our expectations”.
The only shame about the whole Sex Work wall, the area and the collection of work and partaking galleries is that it was only there for inaccessible-to-most four days, sure the whole thing needs to been seen for a couple of months at somewhere like the Tate or the Barbican, surely that wasn’t the last we see of it? The whole thing really did lift Frieze 2017. We needed a whole day (and far more) just to explore the writings, the artand the talks of Sex Work…
2: That Thomas Scheibitz painting, that big yellow flower or whatever it was officially called, a painting shown by New York’s Tanya Bonakdar Gallery – “Among the leading German artists of his generation, Thomas Scheibitz has developed his own conceptual language that bridges the realms of figuration and abstraction, at times dissolving them entirely. Drawing from classical painting and architecture, the contemporary urban landscape, and popular culture, Scheibitz deconstructs and recombines signs, images, shapes, and architectural fragments in ways that challenge traditional contexts and interpretations”. Not sure how many times I went back for another lingering look at that big painting during our visits to Frieze…. Painting excites.
3: The painterly collection of Piotr Uklański takes on the Stars and Stripes – Untitled (All Gave Some, Some Gave All) – and hung so well in the Massimo de Carlo gallery space (Milan/London). painted in 2012 and right now hanging here in the time of Trump and the kneeling at the NFL and the who knows what Donald will Tweet tomorrow, they’re possibly even more timely now than they were five years ago. I get the feeling they might be more personal that that though? There’s a touch of counter-culture pop art about this powerful wall of pieces as well, the tie-dye feel and the stitched-on painterly feel of them all. There’s a rather useful artist profile here – they just shouted out from across the floor, oh what’s that over there, who’s that? This is why, for everything wrong with the event, exploring Frieze is always exciting…
4: the always interesting P.P.O.W Gallery (New York) space, not so pink this year as their space was in 2016, a little more low-key but the P.P.O.W booth, without making quite so much colourful noise this year stood out again with the excellent pieces from the 90’s from Carolee Schneemann and that wall of now outdated Suzanne Triester software from 1994 as well as another slightly more tender Betty Tompkins painting. P.P.O.W did it once more
5: South Korean artist Haegue Yang (and just maybe the man in the red suit bring out the colour), I do so hope it wasn’t just the man in the red suit bringing out the colour of the art that made that piece look so good
The rather geometrically satisfying beautifully coloured Haegue Yang was hanging in the Galerie Barbara Wien (Berlin) space, I know nothing about her – “Haegue Yang was born in 1971 in Seoul, South Korea, and received her BFA from Seoul National University. In the late 1990s, she moved to Germany, where she earned an MFA from the Städelschule Frankfurt am Main. Traversing a wide range of media, from collage to performance, Yang’s body of work often features quotidian and domestic found objects ranging from tea cozies to cans of Spam. The artist dissociates such materials from their original context rearranging them into abstract compositions that build upon a unique and personal visual vocabulary….” read on
6: Thrilled by those bold Emma Hart pieces, her Commercial Breakz installation and her pieces on the wall, placed as randomly as they would be on any tower block in any city around the globe, the work was there at the Sunday Painter (London) booth. Apparently on just finished in time for the show, you don’t catch on to the fact that their not actual repainted satellite dishes at first, they’re actually ceramic (and apparently they sold out rather quickly). There’s something rather simple, something rather delightful about those dishes, they’re fun, but they’re a little more that just fun, a lot lot more, there’s a lot underneath the surface of Emma Hart’s art….
7: Emalin Gallery‘s mouth has a bit of wit about it, as does the semi-playful ceramic work of Moscow-based Russian artist Evgeny Antufeiev – Emalin are one of the more rewarding of the current signless London galleries (there’s a rather interesting Nicholas Cheveldave show in their Shoreditch space right now if you can work out where the actual door t othe gallery is, they also put that brilliant kembra Pfahlar show last year)
Apparently it is important that we know the artist is from somewhere called Kyzyl (in the Tuva Republic) and not from the big city of Moscow. that he carves wood, boils bones, hides in the woods (he’s rather like those Liars) there’s all kinds of symbolic significance, fantastical narratives, oddities, you’re not quite sure if he’s playing with you or not, bits of shamanic playfulness (was it playfulness?), is he paying with us? Apparently Kyzyl is located exactly in the geographical center of Asia.
While every other gallery and artist in the vast Frieze pavilion is intent of being deadly serious, to view Antufiev’s very tactile work – objects made of metal, wood, ceramics, textiles, bone and who know what else – to view his work you need to walk through the mouth of a giant cardboard monster he’s constructed to separate himself from the rest of the fair. He’s back at Emalin, here in East London, there’s a solo show in November, and he’s off to the Mostyn in North Wales as well, wonder what they’ll make of his monsters there?
8: Eric N. Mack‘s piece – “Supreme, Knowledge, Affirmative, – dye on cotton with aluminium armature (2017)” – was another piece that couldn’t fail to delight, and no of course it wasn’t just a load of shirts on a rail. There’s a delight in the way dye works within the material rather than on the surface, this is obviously one piece of work rather than twelve shirts. Seems he hand dyed and hand painted a long length of cotton then sent to the makers to be fashioned into garments, but this is just not twelve shirts on a rail, jsut one rather pleasing piece of work and a rather exciting artist.
A “rising star” from the Bronx apparently, “Pieces of fabric, rags, moving blankets, piles of books, magazines, and photographs are strewn across the floor, loose components that go into the artist’s paintings. While he refers to himself as a painter without hesitation, Mack’s work rarely, if ever, takes the shape of the traditional canvas-on-stretcher format. Instead the artist’s work resembles drapey assemblages of sewn-together bits of painted-on fabric that take on architectural and installation-esque characteristics”(Artnet)
There’s something rather special about the way hand-painted cotton hangs. The Eric N. Mack installation was shown by London’s Simon Lee Gallery
9: the layers of that big Corinne Wasmuht piece. Did enjoy the precise layers and those enveloping dimensions (as well as the beautiful colour) of that big Corinne Wasmuht oil painting in the Konig Galarie booth, some kind of analogue oil painting on wood that feels rather digital, something that you really have to get close up to really see and enjoy, to really explore
You really have to get close up and in between the layers of that painting, so much in there, never seen one in the actual flesh before, paintings need to be seen in the flesh to really appreciate them, there is no substitute for a painting on a well-lit gallery wall – which thankfully, you do get here in the very bright spaces of Frieze…
10: Shouldn’t there be ten? Well yes, but in all honesty, on the whole, even though there were some exciting piecs, it was a little flat this year, a little conservative, there were other things, the Paul Chan Pillowsophia After Trinity piece blowing away on the wall of the Greene Naftali Gallery booth, the modest Gillian Wearing Me as Mirror piece shown by the Maureen Paley gallery, that big bright Eddie Peake painting, lots of good things, the energetic movement of the wall work of Brooklyn’s Kaws. There were other notable pieces but nothing really up there with the very best we picked out up there (and there was a lot of very average art, and we’re still wondering about that heart full of greasy looking chips, was that really the best you could come up with to represent your flashy front-line international cutting-edge gallery at an event like Frieze? And there was far to many empty bits of word on canvas and…
Maybe Number ten in terms of art uncounted during Frieze week should be one of several very sobering very moving very powerful paintings from the art exhibition that made the most impact during the busy art-swamped week, the tenth selection is one of those paintings in that empty room over at that harrowing Legacy of War exhibition over on Brick Lane? Some of the most powerfully moving paintings we encounted during the buying and selling and the complimentary copies of the Financial Times of a very busy the Frieze week
So Frieze 2017 then, for everything that is so obviously wrong about it, everything that’s so so wrong about the whole art system and the way it all works, the aloofness of the galleries, the men in the suits and no ties and the obvious fact that for those of us who do bother exploring the back street artists-run galleries, the artist-led shows in the old warehouses spaces or empty shops of the land, there was very little on show at Frieze that was anything better than the art we encounter on a regular basis on any given week, indeed most of what we saw at 2017’s Frieze was rather more conservative that the art we tend to encounter regularly back here in the undergrowth. So much of the art at Frieze felt like the safe option, not too much evidence of any risk taking, but for all that Frieze does excite, it does reward, we do look forward to it, to searching out the highlights, discovering something we didn’t know about, we did enjoy the positives, we were underwhelmed by most of it, besides Sex Work, there were nine stand out things and some other besides that made it all worthwhile, if we were able to go spend another couple of hours tomorrow we’d probably find something else we should have mentioned, loved that big yellow flower, delighted in the piece that was far more than just twelve shirts on a rail, those powerful stars and stripes, on the whole we rather enjoyed Frieze, hopefully more of it, more of P.P.OW and the other positives to be found next year, and now we’ll get back to the back streets where the really challenging exciting art is, where the gate-keepers of Frieze never dare to venture…. (sw)