The 2023 Spring Art Season in New York is here and kicked off with one of my favorite shows, the Affordable Art Fair. Opening night was packed, with lines to enter curling around the block. I am thrilled to report that all of my favorites from the last show returned with fabulous offerings (you can read my review of Fall '22 here) and I have a new group show highlights to share with you.
Interior Portrait No. 1
I was excited to see Lustre Contemporary back at the show and showing more of Mara Minuzzo's elegant brass inlay mixed media compositions, but if you step further into their booth, you're rewarded with a cheeky twist. Minuzzo has begun a series of intriguing interior compositions featuring iconic mid-century modern furnishings accented by paintings of her own work. The results are boldly graphic, slightly surreal, and very satisfying.
"As a multi-faceted artist whose practice also includes works of intricately detailed contemporary realism, her abstract works represent a refreshing counterbalance to the formality of her figurative work. With her abstract compositions she explores the interaction of color, line and shape, combining these three simple elements to create compelling and playful interplays infused with a sense of joy. Her deliberate use of visible, sweeping brush strokes and flowing black lines evokes an additional sense of movement and lively energy."
I've always enjoyed Minuzzo's sculptural compositions, and am very excited to see where she will go with this new direction.
Marisol Art NYC
Established by Marisol Lozano-Loza, Marisol Art NYC specializes in contemporary Latin American art by women artists. Marisol has an excellent eye and never fails to bring fresh and interesting work to AAF. This year is no exception, and Sara Santamaria's three dimensional compositions took my breath away.
"In the oldest farmlands of Argentina, from La Pampa to Patagonia, the origin of the wood gathered in Sara's work is found. These wooden rods who witnessed generations of families and countless stories over the years, are chosen and reused to become part of unique art pieces. The fundamental premise of her work: the use of natural, organic, and minimally intervened materials. Therefore it is the artist's challenge to achieve a contrast of intense colors and vibrant textures through the simple observation and careful selection of the right wooden rod. As if it were a game, the process of her art begins with a treasure hunt, traveling miles through countryside fields finding the ideal raw material. Then, delicately tearing it apart and putting it back together, like a puzzle with a thousand resolutions, until the perfect combination is found."
I was awed by the quantity and variety Santamaria is able to achieve by dismantling and reconfiguring these humble weathered fence poles. On top of that she has a second series carefully arranging hundreds, if not thousands, of dried boxelder samaras (the maple helicopters you may have stuck on your nose as a kid...no, just me?) The elegance, detail, and richness of her work cannot be overstated.
Arbor 3 Arts
Arbor 3 Arts is another women-run gallery celebrating female artists, art experiences, and community. Their first showing at AAF featured both photography and mixed media pieces by Vanessa Filley, which are as thoughtful and historically grounded as they are visually rich, textured, and inviting.
"With references to quilts and imagined cosmic maps, Vanessa Filley's work honors the historic craft of sewing. Through her use of gridded watercolors, colored pencils, pinpricks, and thread, she teeters between sacred geometry and geometric abstraction coupled with the error and energy of the human hand. With each stitch and stroke she opens a channel between the past, present, and future. Each piece in this series is a quilted conversation, a way of taking the disparate questions and feeling of a given moment and mingling them with inspiration from the outside world and the work of those who came before. The synthesis creates a new form, an imagined cosmic map or quilt on paper that coheres these disparate pieces into a grounding, geometrical structure."
One of the most beautiful aspects of using thread as a medium is the ability to layer without sacrificing the integrity or legibility of other elements. Filley's compositions read almost as historical documents, with one thought, grid, or motif, resting above the next; separate but intertwined, related but independent. Together they are beautiful tapestries and worthy successors to her inspirations: Lenore Tawney, Sophie Tauber Arp, Francoise Grossen, Emma Kunz, and Hilma Af Klint.
Fugitive Ecologies No. 10
Leonard Tourne Gallery
Llanor Alleyne's mixed media collages are an absolute joy and bit of a mind-bender. On first glance they look like beautiful watercolor paintings. Soft and fluid, it's hard to imagine how Alleyene is able to achieve such sinuous yet crisp compositions. A closer look reveals the answer: they are actually collages of her abstract paintings, cut, reassembled, and reimagined, to create a beautiful new ecology.
"Alleyne is a Barbados-born New York-raised mixed media artist. Exploring the transformation and transfiguration of female selfhood through the use of paint and photography, her work breaks away from the conventional demands of modern collage-making by using originally created abstract paintings on various materials, including mylar amd paper, to examine female figurative presentation and the empathetic rapport women are often assumed to have with the natural world. "
The works are dreamy and surreal, particularly when set in a group; an imaginary garden of possibilities. I find the idea of creating new work out of old pieces particularly compelling and architectural - anything could be a raw material; you just have to imagine the possibilities.
To Break, To Blossom 3/23
emmanuelle G. Contemporary Art
Aida Subira's work takes you by surprise in the best possible way. From a distance it looks like a garden variety floral (sorry, I couldn't help myself) but a closer inspection reveals more layers, complexity, and depth. You get the feeling that rather than looking at an object you are looking into a story.
"Aida experiences resilience: she paints, she breaks and she rebuilds. Watercolor, subtle and delicate, turns into great sculpture. The beauty of scars in her work — imperfect and fragile — as well as the voluptuous nature of the paper used make Aida an accomplice of a limitless universe in constant transformation. The spontaneity and magic of nature are the great protagonists of her work. She explores the immensity of time through color and paper, breaking their limits and playing with light and transparencies. The nakedness of the materials, the contemplation of emptiness and the serenity of flowers are Aida's imagery."
Her work is also monumental in scale, over 4' x 5', and the contrast to the subject matter makes the pieces all the more arresting. The dynamic juxtaposition of positive and negative space, both within each piece and the series overall, is bold and refreshing, and I cannot wait to see where she goes next.
As per usual, the pattern emerges when I see the highlights, and for this show it's unquestionably mixed media. Brass, wood, thread, mylar, paper...each of these women found new ways to interpret and utilize their materials. Of course there were more terrific pieces and booths at the show, but here you have my top 5 and my top trend.