When it comes to fine art, works on canvas often get all the attention. After all, they are often larger and likely to last longer; therefore perceived as a better investment. But for me, I've always been partial to works on paper. Maybe it's something about the impermanence and affordability of paper that lends itself to more creative flexibility and freedom of expression? Maybe it's the scale of a sketch compared to a final monumental oil painting that feels more intimate? Maybe it's just because it's more budget-friendly than canvas, but I LOVE paper based artwork. I was lucky enough to attend the New York Art on Paper Fair, and I’m so excited to share some of my show highlights.
Abel Fine Art
I've been a fan of Lee Kwanwoo's work for several years, and I'm always thrilled to see it at a fair. Photos do not do justice to the incredible depth and detail of his compositions. What appears to be a pixelated painting is in fact a collage of traditional Korean wood stamps and seals.
"Buddha images and carved seals are both significant in the art of many Asian cultures, but their juxtaposition is rare. In his mixed media works, Korean artist Lee Kwanwoo not only blends sculpture and painting, the ancient and the modern, he also connects the official and the personal, the individual and the spiritual, to create works that encourage viewers to stand still, focus, and even meditate."
Lee carves the stamps himself, which are all different sizes and shapes. Some stamps feature calligraphy, mimicking official seals of a bygone era, while others are depict birds, plants, or symbols of domestic life. Some stamps are inked, while others are left dry. All come together to form a multi-faceted yet cohesive image.
What's Love Got To Do With It?
Fremin Art Gallery
It takes a minute to register that this wedding cake is actually made of books, and the floral icing is all paper. Dr. Lisa Meeks creates beautiful and thoughtful works by deconstructing and refashioning books into sculptures that sit in juxtaposition to the primary work itself. In this example, the wedding cake iconography serves as commentary to the primary texts Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and The Theology of Marriage.
"Lisa Meek transforms books by cutting their bindings, painting the pages and folding them to create floral blossoms rooted in the words of the authors. Each page has been lightly tinted adding a dimension of color to the work without obscuring the words on the page."
She calls her work "BiblioBotany", and uses it to speak to a range of social issues, from racial injustice to socio-economic segregation. Her work succeeds both on a basic level of visual interest and on a deeper level to spark conversations about contemporary society.
This piece was hung on the rear wall of Dolan Maxwell's booth, and the sense of movement and detail compelled further investigation. Upon closer inspection, I saw that this was not a painting, but a collage of beads, sequins, buttons, and fabric sewn onto the paper and complemented by charcoal and magazine cutouts.
"Rachel Selekman's mixed-media sculptures and works on paper are distinctly characterized by her labor-intensive and detailed artistry along with her whimsical and complex imagery. At once her works are delicate and energetic ornamentations, yet weighty and thoughtful captivating the viewer."
Selekman's visually rich work on paper focuses on issues related to women's lives, particularly her own, as she had matured over the course of her thirty year career.
Mask Series (#252)
Donghwa Ode Gallery
I know what you're going to say. Madelaine, this is WOOD, NOT PAPER. Okay, yes. Technically you are correct but on a cellular and philosophical level they're so close, so I'm allowing it. Plus, these sculptures are spectacular.
"Many themes that define Bruvel’s work culminate in his most recent series, 'Bending the Lines.' At first glance, we recognize the ever-prevailing human form but are instantly transfixed by the thousands of wooden shafts that comprise the work. The pixelated outlines mimic our complex neural pathways, while his use of gradient color reinforces our minds’ interconnectedness. The wood is charred to show the impact of natural phenomena on the physical form and its inherently transient nature, which is transformed by the passage of time, revealing further patterns and detail."
Bruvel has made hundreds of masks in this series, and almost magically each one feels truly individual; like they each have their own soul. They vary in size from only 10" square up to 40". Some remain strictly confined by their boundaries, while others yearn to break free. Some masks wear crowns, while other heads remain bare. All evoke an almost Buddha-like serenity.
Entropy: Macrostates & Microstates
This was the most spectacular installation piece in the show, comprised exclusively of white paper, monofilament (fishing line) and clear acetate. Each element was created through the brilliant use of the humble hole punch.
"Entropy: Macrostates & Microstates is a site-specific installation entirely out of paper that explores the play of light and shadow, creating shapes that change as the viewer moves. The lace-like effect formed by the overlapping of the hole-punched paper leads to complex images, questioning reality and our perception of it, and visualizing the meaning of entropy and the emergence of complexity from simplicity. In this installation, Shanthi Chandrasekar attempts to capture the meaning of entropy with changing macrostates and microstates depicted by the series of hole-punched circles hung from the ceiling. Each of the thirty-six systems of circles is made from the holes punched by hand, one at a time, out of its largest circle and has its own unique patterns of holes with the randomness reducing with size. The patterns in the circles describe the number of possible configurations of the component microstates that are defined by macroscopic variables. Though entropy is often interpreted as as the degree of randomness or disorder in a closed system, it is a concept that plays a significant role in the workings of the cosmos and also in our lives."
Chandrasekar also showed several works on paper at the LAMINAproject booth, which also explored these themes of macro/micro, entropy, and variability. While her work is certainly informed by scientific exploration, as is all the work at LAMINAproject, it is also infused with a spirituality likely drawn from her training in the traditional art forms of Kolam and Tanjore-style painting.
Yet again, I didn’t think there was any particular theme to the show as I was walking around (apart from paper, obviously), but going through my favorite pieces it become clear - deeply detailed work infused with meditative spirituality. In every case I was drawn to pieces that evoked contemplation bordering on reverence. Pieces that offered so much visual richness, they begged for more time and attention than could be paid during a fair. Of course there were more terrific pieces and booths at the show, but here you have my top 5 and my top trend. Hope you enjoyed!
Till next time…