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PULSE New York kicked off its 11th edition this week, merging established galleries with emerging ones—and this year, it’s offering a few bright twists.
Upon entering PULSE, we were greeted by a neon sign shining “DYKE BAR” and beneath it, a pool table made of paper mâché. It led us to the fair’s bar on the right, Macon Reed’s Eulogy for the Dyke Bar, which proved to be a fully-immersive installation—including said bar, jukebox, wall-to-wall wood paneling, and seats—revisiting the legacy of dyke bars in New York, and shedding light on the fact that they are becoming an increasingly rare component of queer culture. Throughout the fair, the bar is hosting daily performances, such as drag shows, DJ happy hours, trivia nights, and panel discussions, with recognized multidisciplinary artists and historians that work within the genderqueer culture, like Wanda Acosta, Lisa Cannistraci, Jen Jack Gieseking, Aay Preston-Myint, Asia-Vinae Palmer, and Reed.
From there, we wandered down the first row of exhibitors and found ourselves ankle-deep in black confetti from Italian mc2gallery’s Back to Black. By alternating photographs by Renato D’Agostin with cutouts by Gianluca Quaglia, the exhibition offered an “open road” sense of mentality, tying together photographs that D’Agostin took last year while driving his motorcycle from New York to California. We saw a silvery graphite powder on digital printing in Quaglia’s Silver Cosmos among D’Agostin’s Alabama Road—a silver gelatin print of a strip of an Alabama highway lit by car’s headlights. This exhibition dislocates subjects from their realities, making us feel like being lost is nothing but an adventurous ride.
From then on, it was easy to get lost in works and installations made from an array of media. We saw Swarovski crystal covered sculptures by Nicola Bolla including skulls, snakes, rifles, and even a bunny, as well as his masterpieces made of playing cards. Gallery Cynthia-Reeves presented a large, natural sphere made of larch tree wood by Jaehyo Lee, and nearby, a mirror, wood, steel, fiberglass, and rods piece by Brookhard Jonquil presented In a Perfect World I. Two favorites were found within Denmark-based Gallery Poulsen, with William Powhida’s aluminum-mounted Mid-Career Anxieties and Christian Rex van Minnen’s oil on linen piece Bathhouse Pussy Poppin.
Switching gears, we saw Galerie Wagner + Partner artist Thomas Wrede’s piece, The Luminous Screen, which follows his artistic approach to showing shrunken cities. We also caught sight of a beautiful piece by Garis & Hahn artist Michael Maxwell called Phosphenes, made of clay, crushed quartz crystal, silver lead, beeswax, natural pigments, oil, and acrylic. As we walked throughout the venue, there were many large, experimental pieces that covered common areas or booths entirely, such as Richard Vivenzio’s sisal rope piece Untitled (interstitial), and Visual AID’s room. There, the organization debuted art wallpapering with My Body is Not a Biological Weapon and a self-portrait by Kia Lsbeija. We also saw Deborah Kass’ familiar light piece Enough Already, which was now transformed into neon fluorescent silkscreen ink, and a box full of take-aways—individual fun bags with Kyng condoms and homosexual art by artists like Jayson Keeling and Carmine Santaniello.
Sergei Isupov also showed an eight-foot-tall figural sculpture The Rising. Directly behind, Isupov offered Inspiration and Motivation—heads of a male and a woman with a hand firmly on top, and their bodies drawn on the wall below—and his backdrop piece of a woman with a sculptural ear. We saw a urinal made entirely of cigarette butts, pop-out panoramic photographs of New York City by Black & White Gallery’s artist Isidro Blasco, screen-prints by Lower East Side Printshop’s artist Ryan McGuinness, and a reflective painting of youth culture’s narcissism with Armando Marino’s oil painting Narcissus.
After winding our way through PULSE, we had a farewell drink inside of Dyke Bar, and one last look at Jason Willaford’s lobby art Mappings, happy to have indulged in a contemporary change of pace.