Many art fairs in the later half of last year had a decidedly fired-up political edge—especially in a post-election Miami in December—and one of 2017’s first fairs, UNTITLED, San Francisco, reflects the muddle that hangs in 2016’s wake, with dismembered body parts, obscured forms and Bacon-esque scrawls.
California’s own Interface Gallery pick up on the trend with Lauren McKeon’s playful solitary bronze hooter (not that kind, though the open-to-interpretation title Parts To Rub might suggest otherwise). The body is vulnerable also in Nando Alvarez-Perez’s Untitled (Feedback) (2016) which is shown by the same gallery. The pose of the photographed nude sculpture is left to the imagination of the viewer (is this a coverup or a reveal?) and the lone human hand entering the side to touch the statue’s cold arm draws the mind back to the climate we currently find ourselves in. How protected is the female body? The statue’s precautionary gesture, though created pre-Trump, can’t help but remind us of one of the most regretfully standout lines we heard from the President-Elect last year.
Barbara Bloom’s works at David Lewis are precise and disconcerting, Rodin’s tangle of sculpted muscular flesh in her 1998 photograph Corner: Rodin Sculpture sliced cleanly in half by the use of sharp shadow and two-tone mount. In her 2010 work Thank You bbbbrrrruuuuuuucccccceeeee, a singular hand waves chillingly from the top of a black box.
Edgar Orlaineta’s Masks I (after Charles and Ray Eames) (2013)—named after the most famous of chair-makers—at Mexico’s PROYECTOSMONCLOVA is a fusion of furniture and human form, elongating the metal frames of chairs to appear as giraffe-like necks on top of which the wooden backrests mimic faces with holes for eyes and phallic wooden-spun forms for noses.
A Martin Soto Climent work, Rendezvous (2016), at San Francisco’s CCA Wattis Institute For Contemporary Arts also fuses multiple human forms with inanimate objects—and a fish—in a suggestive print, that becomes more and more so the longer you look.
Both Jane Lombard Gallery and Vigo Gallery, from New York and London respectively, are showing paintings which pull apart and distort the human form. Daniel Crews-Chubb’s works at Vigo are thickly worked with oils, acrylics and spray paints as well as charcoal, pastel and collaged fabric. The large works obscure the body and face, with scratchy facial features and body parts emerging from the surrounding chaos. Some are more evident than others; Belfie (blue hand) (2016) has instantly recognisable features that are, nonetheless, isolated at times from one another, while Tribal Belfie demands a more thorough observation before legs, bottoms and eyes begin to reveal themselves, or perhaps, the viewer simply begins to imagine them into existence. Sarah Dwyer’s paintings at Jane Lombard are similarly chaotic at times, though there are moments of more focused intensity, and again, they show us detached forms with an underlying sense of anguish.
At a moment when truth and fiction are the subject of the news (in the form of some less than palatable stories) the works of Norwegian artist Martine Poppe, shown here with London’s Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, seem relevant; her paintings hugely obscure their original subject matter, showing only hints of recognisable scenes and objects amongst a sea of pastel-toned, abstractly applied oil paints.
Bruce Connor’s pieces at Anglim Gilbert Gallery (also showing Sprange, an excellent, fleshy ceramic work from Annabeth Rosen, which calls to mind a pile of mutilated fingers) offer a healthy reminder that chaos is not just 21st-century phenomenon. His work UNTITLED (CT1637) shows the outline of a head and shoulders from which an explosion of inky forms emanate, and while it could be used to illustrate our current panic, it stems from the post-war period over fifty years ago. His selection of ‘Punk Photos’ from the 80s are a reminder also of some of the best creative responses to times of unrest.
In all, UNTITLED, San Fransisco offers a space to succumb to, and contemplate, disorder. It’s safe to assume we can expect it for the foreseeable future.
‘UNTITLED, San Fransisco’ runs from 13 until 15 January. art-untitled.com/san-francisco