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VOLTA New York opened yesterday at Pier 90 on the Hudson River. Whitewall was there for its vernissage (the minty, gray exhibition carpets were only just adhering to the floor). On view through March 5, VOLTA is a deliberated selection of solo artist projects, international in scope, refreshing in its digestibility. At the heart of the fair, Wendy Vogel sets up “Your Body Is a Battleground,” a thematic exhibition referencing the seminal media deconstructions of Barbara Kruger circa 1989. Vogel showcases eight artists tackling body and identity construction in our mercurial, present day.
This year, the fair leans on the side of painting—with rousing results. There’s plenty of tussle between the figure and ground. There’s also the pinch of Western art precedent. Who are we kidding, though? The citation game is always fun to play. The swirly, viscous brushstrokes of Francis Bacon, and the decorative schematics of Matisse are knowingly rehearsed. There are Dan Flavin semblances, some fat chairs that could be cousins of Joseph Beuys’, even Claes Oldenburg’s legacy loiters. Visual vanguardism hinges on citation. Fresh figuration doesn’t rise out of a vacuum.
We loved the photographs of Carlos Jiménez Cahua (Samsøñ Gallery) and the acrylic-on-paper works of Robert Otto Epstein (Bool-e-an). Epstein’s figures are standard model prototypes and basketball players. Their conventional readability is, however, entirely disrupted by the polychromatic grid of the artist’s backgrounds: a discordant color scheme. How can acrylic paint, two-dimensionality, and geometry disrupt pictorial markers of race and gender for millennial eyes?
Victori + Mo presents a series of works by Langdon Graves, who images the ghost stories of her grandmother in pastel tones. Graves breaks up domestic space, figuring the feminine through occult symbols—and through tactics of erasure. The Lodge Gallery has some pigmented, plaster works of Levan Mindiashvili on display. They’re poetic transcriptions of walls from spaces the artist once inhabited.
Rubber Factory presents a new series of works by Pacifico Silano entitled “Arrangements.” Silano’s source imagery for his photo collages are vintage gay pornography magazines. Examining queer identity through print culture and the circulation of niche imagery, Silano scales and spatializes the male body in order to magnify an obfuscated, queer imaginary.
Pablo’s Birthday mounts the photomontages and portrait assemblages of Thorsten Brinkmann. His works cheekily deconstruct the binary of painting and photography by collapsing one into the other. By muddling genres, materials, and techniques, Brinkmann conjures (and literally dresses) up the uncanny.
The viscid fracture of Rudy Cremonini’s oil paintings (represented by Galerie Thomas Fuchs) turns the canvas into a near haptic intimation of life in retreat. Marc Straus presents the new abstractions of Liliane Tomasko. She sections and proportions her play of contour and coloration in ways that are entirely captivating. Galerie Ora-Ora curates the works of Zhang Yanzi, whose contemporary ink drawings on paper and analgesic plaster are serene replications of forms that promise to cure: whether the figure of Buddha, the pill or the syringe.
Check out Ruth Hardinger’s “Bundle of Rights,” a plaster and rope sculpture that conjures up thoughts of vertebrae, desert digs, and a telluric preservation of prehistory. Joshua Smith’s miniatures of houses from cities like Sydney, Los Angeles or Hong Kong (Muriel Guépin) are curios to note. The artist Quisqueya Henríquez (represented by Ana Mas Projects) recycles a shot, faux-leather seat cushion from a nondescript chair. She frames and re-mounts it to the wall. It’s cracked materiality—from the weight of so many bums—is the stuff of ascension. Anthony Palocci Jr’s “measured minimalism” and meticulous, hyper-realist renditions of household appliances and audio/video systems are eye catching. Snag a headset to tune into the video works of George Jenne (Lump). And we are sure VOLTA’s crowds will admire the paintings of Sebastian Helling (Kristin Hjellegjerde).