In this week's Art Basel-precipitated blur of fairs, performances, museum openings, art dinners and art parties, it is sometimes difficult to ascertain exactly where one is at any given moment. Liste—the well-loved "young art fair" that is generally acknowledged to be the stepping-stone for promising young galleries on their way to Art Basel—proper-immediately made its presence felt, as within two seconds of stepping into its environs I was perusing a vitrine filled with crystal vases, skulls, and—of course—bongs. Matthew Derbyshire's installation (for Herald St., London) immediately reminded me that no matter how esteemed, Liste always manages to bring the party.
Nevertheless, much of the work on view managed to be more serious stuff than frivolous fun, even if it was housed in the wonderful old Warteck Brewery, which literally has "bier" writ across it. Directly across from Derbyshire's works was the booth for Loraini Alimantiri Gazonrouge, Athens, which was showing a series of small, infinitely gorgeous C-prints by the Berlin-based Greek artist Yorgos Sapountzis. Sapountzis—who was the subject of an Art Statement at Art Basel in 2008, and was shortlisted for the Deste Prize in 2009—made the spectral, saturated images during his recent show at the famed Cycladic Museum in Athens, where he installed a number of his signature, tent-like shelters of brightly colored fabrics. Each image reveals a number of small, pale Cycladic figures as seen through their thick glass cases, which in turn reflect a swirl of bright fabrics from Sapountzis's installation, which was built in the rows between them. Though the images, pedagogically titled "Post Canonical Forms," are not manipulated in any way, they have a lucid smoke-and-mirrors sense about them, evoking both classical myth and recent photographic geometric abstraction. LEFT: POST CANONICAL FORMSA6, 2010. COURTESY LORAINI ALIMANTIRI GAZONROUGE, ATHENS, AND ISABELLA BORTOLOZZI, BERLIN
Elsewhere, Layr Wuestenhagen, Vienna, had a fantastic solo presentation of works by Austrian artist Nick Oberthaler, whose lovely and allusive mixed-media works on paper—which married austere abstraction with bits of newspaper clippings and photocopied images—had a wonderful energy, despite their reticence. Also outstanding was the booth for Croy Nielsen, Berlin, which offered a group of works by young Swiss artist Tobias Kaspar. The installation was comprised of a gleaming white mannequin in a soft, cerulean blue sweater, and a series of C-prints of details taken from a 1980s gallery advertisement featuring a blond model in a blue sweater holding an André Cadere "Barres de bois rond," one of the late artist's long, attenuated poles made of brightly colored wood pieces in cylindrical units. Each image is imprinted with an evocative chapter title taken from Bel Ami, Guy de Maupassant's famed 1885 novel about the journalist Georges Duroy's rise from poverty to riches via a succession of wealthy women.
Not all the works on view were so conceptually layered and referential. There was a surprisingly good showing of painting, and not just of the hard-edged geometric abstraction that has gotten so much play during the past few years. NewYork-based painter Joe Bradley's scribbly canvases popped up in a number of gallery booths, including Fortescue Avenue/Jonathen Viner's, London, which also showed antic canvases by Oscar Tuazon and Josh Smith. Ida Ekblad's well-made if curiously conceived expressionistic paintings were also shown by multiple galleries.
INSTALLATION VIEW OF KARMA INTERNATIONAL, AT LISTE, BASEL, 2010.
In terms of multiple showings, Los Angeles-based photographer Shannon Ebner was in fine form, with a few of her huge images on view at Wallspace, New York—including one wonderful photograph of a giant ampersand propped up against a background of brush—as well as some newer works on show with Altman Siegel. In fact, the latter San Francisco gallery was the winner of the Redtoo Art Prize, awarded to the most outstanding newcomer gallery to the fair. It was indeed a lovely booth, with some covetable photography-based works by American artists Sara VanDerBeek and Will Rogan, in addition to Ebner.
But the prize for brightest booth, awarded by myself, goes to Karma International, the young Zürich gallery, which had a fantastic constellation of works by Martin Soto Climent, Tobias Madison, Ida Ekblad, and Kaspar Müller (who also showed with Nicolas Krupp at Art Basel itself). Climent's window-blinds sculptures—at once birdlike and robotic—were sprayed with a painterly mix of fluorescent and more subtle hues, then draped insouciantly across Madison's large, color prints of compact discs, which the young Swiss artist scanned and warped into a hazy hallucination of commercialism and brand worship. Madison's tall, attenuated display cases bearing synthetic plants sprayed with Pollock-y drips of paint stood nearby, as did his bamboo poles—done in collaboration with Müller—which were studded with marbles and laced with brightly colored plastic rope. The bamboo poles were apparently inspired by the wealthy tourist enclave of Bora Bora, but no matter. The overall effect of the entire installation was of a kind of neon noir: stunningly artificial and yet deliciously, decisively dark—and very impressive. LEFT: TOBIAS KASPAR, UNTITLED, 2010.