Isabel Samaras on ArtMRKT: “More Art Than You Can Shake A Stick At!”
ArtMRKT moved to Fort Mason this year, into a vast space filled with 70 booths representing everything from blue chip to alternative and non-profit arts organizations. Because they feature galleries from far and wide, once you’re inside the windowless, anonymous white enormity of the Festival Pavillion you could be anywhere in the world (it was certainly similar to Miami, except the people were wearing a lot more clothing and there was a noticeable lack of insane footwear). After a while it can start feeling like the visual equivalent of being a foie gras duck — except instead of being fed bird mash through a tube you’re taking in an endless amount of art until your head feels fit to burst. (But in a really, really pretty way.)
From the crush inside on opening night we heard that they were at capacity and turning people away. As an artist this is particularly heartening — we’re all looking to the art fairs for some indication of the health of the art market; we want to peep at those canaries in the coal mine cubicles and see how it’s going. (Is the canary happy or is it coughing up a black cloud of coal dust?) There was a lot of chat over the weekend about whether the art markets are actually a bubble — and was that bubble bursting?
Ken Harmon at Spoke Art (who had booths at both ArtMRKT and ArtPadSF) had plenty of red dots flashing and said he felt that sales were even better this year than last. While this wasn’t true for everyone, it was great to see. It’s a very casual observation but it did seem like a lot of the work that was selling at various galleries was humorous in some way, darkly playful or straight up going for the funny bone. Maybe this is what people want right now when most of the news isn’t so great, the same way people hoped to escape into the witty banter and beautiful dancing of Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies during the Depression. The bees are dying, the partisan gridlock is bitterly hopeless, our planetary climate is totally out of whack, but looking at Scott Hove‘s delicious sugary pistols could be the antidote to Current Events Malaise.
Ceramic artist Christa Assad and painter Jessica Hess have been collaborating for a while now — Assad hand throws porcelain forms that mimic every day objects like spray cans to a startling degree (most people assume they’re cast), and Hess brings her trademark urban landscapes to them. In this case these traffic cones were painted with a patchwork of eye-catching faux bois wood grain.
Everyone who walks walks into Red Truck Gallery‘s space, no matter what fair they’re at, seems to want to stay a spell — they’re like the local speakeasy (no password necessary) tucked into the fair, with an ever-rotating cluster of extended friends and family.
One of the first pieces you see when you walk into ArtMRKT is John Waters‘ (yes, that John Waters–the mind behind the films Pink Flamingos , Hairspray, and more pop culture zeitgeist than you can list!) life-sized sculpture Control in which a 1965-era Ike Turner plays puppet master with a tiny Tina Turner marionette.
Anthony Discenza, who is probably best known for his video work, had this sign up at Catharine Clark, a nice payoff if you took the time to read it.
Paper artist Anandamayi Arnold (who has paper flower tutorials on the mother of all craft sites, MarthaStewart.com), made a beautiful paper gown embellished with a flaming Phoenix.
Conceptual artist Richard Bassett has used just about every material imaginable in his work (cement, steel, tar paper, muslin, sheet rock) but I loved these embroidered cats-on-lockdown pillows.
Gabriel Barcia-Columbo had video loops of people projected into glass bottles of various sizes like human fireflies, which he said to represented leaving imprints and memories for the next generation.
One of my favorite artists from Miami, Italian artist Laurina Paperina, was there with another wall full of colorful cartoon paintings that take pot-shots at pretty much everyone and everything with equal delight.
And the eye candy just kept rolling on…