Navigating through endless booths—between pricey pit-stops for bagels and fizzing champagne—curators, collectors, dealers and audiences lapped up the best in new (and newly-appreciated) art, as part of Frieze New York. In a city teeming with art fairs, this Randall’s Island mainstay, now in its sixth iteration, remains one of the best, uniting over 200 galleries from 30 countries. Here, Museum presents a selection of the works we liked most—the ones we wrote down and underlined twice in our notepads, the ones we thought about on the ferry home, and in the fair’s aftermath.
Henry Taylor, Deana Lawson in the Lionel Hamptons, 2016
Californian-born Henry Taylor is a mainstay of LA’s art scene, and this enormous solo portrait, like so many in his catalogue, is rooted in ordinary, lived Black experience. Its intoxicating central figure, the wide-eyed Deana Lawson, stares unnervingly outward, her red lips parted, eyebrows arched in surprise or recognition, knees bent as she leans forward on a chair. Large blocks of colour function to suggest the surrounds (trees and small plants, a chair with two legs visible), and the whole palette is gentle, a little muted, as though the entire, intimate scene is viewed through light mist or gauze. Lawson, a photographer and long time friend of the artist, has been his subject on numerous occasions.
Annette Lemieux, Human Comedy, 1987
Still great. This is a wry, sly painting comprised of vertical, twisting stripes (purple, green, white and pink), like a crumpled candy wrapper that’s been flattened out. On top of the white strips, drawn in very faint pencil, are the cartoon faces of funny men—Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton—wearing hats and scarves and bawdy expressions.
Farhad Moshiri, The Painter, 2017 and Girl Tuning Violin, 2017
Dubai gallery The Third Line presented a slew of new works by Iranian pop art heavyweight Farhad Moshiri at their B9 stand. The artist deals with the same idea he’s replayed for many years, commingling iconic Western images with ancient craft traditions. But up close these cartoonish, kitschy images were so painstakingly detailed they elicited gasps: big swathes of white and yellow and orange were created using thousands of tiny beads, each one hand-embroidered onto canvas.
Jon Rafman, Dream Journal, 2017
Once they’d entered, no one wanted to leave the small cinema near the fair’s entrance playing Jon Rafman’s 2017 Dream Journal—an hour-long digitally animated video made using primitive animation software. Rows of high-backed chairs felt like they’d been covered in dripping candle wax (maybe they had), and on the rare occasion one was vacated, standing audience members clamoured to fill it. The rest crowded at the back of the pitch-black room on tiptoe, desperate to catch a glimpse. The effect—as the good people at The New York Times noted—mimicked a seedy, old-school theatre showing 24/7 porn.
This Frieze Project, which Rafman has been teasing short excerpts of via Instagram for over a year, is—in a word—brilliant. Soundtracked by Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro, its visuals take on the form of a disjointed narrative with multiple avatar-like protagonists, often oscillating between their adventures: erotic, violent, macabre. Rafman has plumbed the depths of the internet, searching obsessively through its darkest corners. The final work demands total immersion. A girl in a pink cap (emblazoned with the word XANAX) wanks off the super-long, red nose of a masked stranger. Two children suck a cow’s udder. A row of toilet bowls edge a filthy room—each bowl is filled with a single human head, divorced from its body. A woman is stripped bare at an STD clinic, and inside her underwear there’s a cluster of fruit, complete with a rotting worm. The artist has said of the work that it allows one to respond “really quickly, like the way that the internet responds to culture and politics.”
Tschabalala Self, My Black Ass (still), 2016
Tschabalala Self is plenty hyped, and for good reason. The Harlem artist—who works in various mediums, including sculpture, video, installation, painting and collage—deals with Blackness, femininity, and the narratives and realities of oppression and control. At Frieze, Naples gallery T293 dedicated their entire stand to recent works, including three enormous paintings of red-thighed women in various states of contortion and apparent self-pleasuring. The GIF animation My Black Ass was the real winner though, propped against the booth’s corner. Self’s woman, or women, twerk and thrust and slap themselves—both internalising and mocking projected fantasies of the performative female.
Dickon Drury, It’s an Absolute Mind-Field! (Cadmium Red), 2017, oil and oil pastel on linen flax, 160×120 cm and It’s an Absolute Mind-Field! (Cobalt Blue), 2017
At the stand held by Rome’s Frutta Gallery, two large, jovial Dickon Drury paintings hung across from one another, as though in a comic stand-off. In the almost-twinned works (near identical, except that one features a cadmium red backdrop, the other cobalt blue) more than 30 cartoonish teacups-come-teapots are connected by spurts of liquid rainbow, which flow in and out of cups and spouts. The result is deliciously funny and very surreal, as we observe each wide-eyed vessel attempt to keep up with their senseless assembly line.