Independent 20th century's artists in a cozy new fair spinoff

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Independent 20th century's artists in a cozy new fair spinoff
Chico da Silva (Francisco Domingos da Silva), 1910-1985, Sem título [Untitled], 1974, Signed bottom right corner, Gouache on eucatex glued on cardboard, 121 x 170 cm, 47 5/8 x 66 7/8 in, courtesy of Galatea and Independent, photograph by Ding Musa.

by Will Heinrich



NEW YORK, NY.- The Independent Art Fair, already curated and intimate, has gotten even cozier. In its brand-new spinoff, Independent 20th Century — some 32 galleries showing work by 20th-century artists both famous and unfamiliar — occupies a single floor of the Battery Maritime Building on South Street. (I found the building a little claustrophobic when it hosted the regular Independent last year, but for this it works perfectly.)

Despite the fair’s small scale, there’s plenty of room for surprises — a copy of Yayoi Kusama’s porn magazine (Specific Object at Susan Inglett Gallery); photographs of the conceptual artist André Cadere marching around 1970s SoHo with one of his celebrated round bars of wood over his shoulder like a rifle (Galerie Hervé Bize/Nicole Klagsbrun). What follows is a list of highlights, but the overall level of work is consistent enough, and high enough, that it would be hard to go wrong. Note that the booths don’t have numbers, only names, and that the Online Viewing Room will remain accessible through the end of the month.

James Fuentes

Juanita McNeely, now 86, has been making uncompromising feminist painting since the 1960s. In conjunction with a show of her winsome, occasionally grotesque portraits at his new Tribeca space (at 52 White St.), the gallerist James Fuentes presents McNeely’s dramatic polyptych “Woman’s Psyche” (1968), along with a pair of other large-scale works. It’s not just the subject matter — menstruation, birth, female genitals, bloody-jawed wild dogs — that makes the work uncompromising. Or the impassioned, expressionist brushwork or dark blues and maroons. It’s the way it all combines into a singular assertion of the importance, and artistic substance, of McNeely’s own lived experience.

Salon 94 Design

Following up on a show it staged this year, this Upper East Side design gallery brings three pieces of “fantasy furniture” made by Kate Millett in the mid-1960s, before she became famous for her book “Sexual Politics,” along with five later ink drawings. The sculptures use striped upholstery, marbles, carved wooden eyes and easily recognized social or biological characteristics — neckties, breasts — to lampoon domesticity. But they also linger ambivalently in the mysteries of gender. The drawings, all sensual curves and suggestive dots, evoke Zen paintings — but with a sexual tinge.

Galatea

The self-taught Indigenous artist Chico da Silva (1910-1985) worked as a house painter on the northeastern coast of Brazil. Peacocks, jellyfish, giant frogs and a mermaid inhabit a dreamtime of otherworldly balance in the gouaches and watercolors, all from the 1950s and ’60s, of this presentation. Da Silva’s color scheme, in which surprising accents of orange and red enliven the pale, serene brown of unpainted cardboard backgrounds, is irresistible, as are the distinctive backward D and S of his signature, which he sometimes lays down right in the middle. The obsessive dots and squiggles that give his animals their texture, meanwhile, are safely contained by razor-sharp edges.

Garth Greenan

Three terrific untitled works by Al Loving bracket a decisive moment in his artistic evolution: his decision, in 1972, to cut up 60 of his own hard-edge abstract paintings and make quilt-like collages with the pieces. The first work, a triptych of canvas hexagons from before the breakthrough, uses understated drips and a few visible brushstrokes to bring a little movement into what is otherwise some pretty static geometry. In the second work, from 1975, overlapping strips of stained canvas make something that could pass for the curtain from an avant-garde theater run by elves; the last, from 1976, is a glorious explosion of speckled, paint-spattered cardboard.




Richard Saltoun

Trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw after World War II, Barbara Levittoux-Swiderska (1933-2019) made some excellent textile art in the 1960s and 1970s. The pieces on display here — a loose weaving of ropes and sticks; a length of carpet with irregular holes, like a poncho for a mutant; and a piece of scrap metal, suspended in a frame, that could be mistaken for an esoteric musical instrument — are inventive but demure, transgressing your expectations of the material while remaining neatly self-contained.

Inman Gallery

Paintings and works on paper by Dorothy Antoinette (Toni) LaSelle from the 1940s, when she was studying with Hans Hoffmann, reminded me — anachronistically, of course — of Stanley Whitney’s musical, grid-like arrangements of brightly colored squares. But LaSelle (1901-2002) disturbs her grids with sudden black circles, or unsettles them with irregular rectangles of unpainted white paper. Looking at her work, I felt as if I were watching a juggler fling chain saws around from the front row. As confident as I might have been that she wouldn’t drop anything, the experience was as nerve-wracking as it was thrilling.

Cheim & Read

Gallerygoers may be familiar with the saddle-shaped paintings Ron Gorchov (1930-2020) is known for. But “Choir” (1983), on which a beautiful cluster of primary-colored ghosts huddle expectantly, was bought directly out of his studio, and is now, along with several other works, being exhibited for the first time. Like all of his signature pieces, “Choir” uses what the gallery describes as “bespoke warped stretchers.” Unlike the more extravagant departures from the traditional rectangle, pioneered by artists like Robert Rauschenberg or Elizabeth Murray, though, its shape remains reassuringly familiar.

Gordon Robichaux/Parker Gallery

Gerald Jackson was born in Chicago in 1936 and lives and works in Jersey City, New Jersey. But in the 1980s, when he made the huge, unstretched canvases presented here by Gordon Robichaux of New York and Parker Gallery of Los Angeles, he lived in a Bowery loft. You get some sense of it in one untitled, blue and green piece — red circles and triangles and blue X’s float above the yellowish-white shape of a man moving horizontally across the middle. Is it a chalk outline, or is he flying?



Independent 20th Century

Opens to the public Friday through Sunday, Battery Maritime Building at Cipriani, 10 South St., Lower Manhattan; independenthq.com.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










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