PULSE New York is as ambitious as ever, exploring the contemporary art world in the unique way that only PULSE knows how. Upon entering the fair, in need of morning coffee, one is greeted by Macon Reed’s Eulogy For The Dyke Bar. The fully functional bar installation—complete with jukebox, pool table and a live DJ—presented by Mackin Projects, serves as a welcome tool in creating excitement for what’s to come in the main arena. The delicious use of vibrantly saturated colors entice you in. I can’t say I’ve ever been to a dyke bar, but if Reed’s installation is anything to go by, I want in. The coffee was soon forgotten—champagne seemed more fitting in celebration of such an immersive space, which encourages one to reflect on the legacy of dyke bars. Reed explained that this project came to light whilst living in Chicago, where she questioned why one particular area was named “Boy Town”; the support for women wasn’t there. The flirty color palette plays tribute to the physical spaces that are now closing down, acknowledging the socio-economic factors and lack of questions being asked, “Why are these spaces closing?”
Conversations, a stage for galleries to explore new visual and conceptual ideas, is intriguing. mc2gallery from Milan, Italy was particularly fun. The booth, filled with what seemed to be piles upon piles of black confetti, was beautifully curated and a stark contrast from the bold colors just experienced. “Can I walk on it?” I asked sheepishly. One nod from the director later, and you’re completely immersed in it, playing with the paper cut-outs as you would fallen leaves, only you don’t hear that satisfying ‘crunch’ sound beneath your feet. Artist Gianluca Quaglia explained that he wants viewers to experience the space and freely express themselves. Renato D’Agostin’s black and white photography complements Quaglia’s work, the tonal gestures in both artists’ works share this sense of movement and travel.
Weaving through the ever expanding maze of booths, Miami-based gallery Emerson Dorsch stops you in your stride. Brookhart Jonquil‘s In a Perfect World I, comprised of angled mirrors and fiberglass rods, not only serves as an opportune moment to perfect that “art-selfie,” but the colossal structure renders you calm amidst the craziness. It is totally unique, as is the reflection captured. Echoing Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Jonquil’s work transports you to another realm, creating existence outside of the world we know.
Uprise Art Gallery serves as a tranquil haven of pastel hues and linear expression. American artist Ky Anderson’s work depicts personal narratives through the use of overlapping shapes and washed-out color to aid us in visualizing the connections between the environment around us. Everything is interconnected. In light of this theory, Vicki Sher delves deeper into the link between color, line and form—drawing upon nature, human demeanor and physical relationships. Anderson and Sher’s friendship is apparent in their work displayed beside each other. Below is a dialogue, courtesy of Uprise Art Gallery, between both artists exploring their artistic process:
Ky Anderson: One of my favorite aspects of your work is the freedom and looseness of your line work. As I work, your work often flows through my thoughts. If I feel my line work is getting tight or I wonder if it’s okay to leave a large swath of blank space, I think what would Vicki do? Can you talk about your process, how you keep your hand loose and how you decide when a piece is done?
Vicki Sher: It’s funny because remembering that day I first visited your studio reminds me that I also think of you as having a looseness that I appreciate. Your work pours out of you in a way that always seems very natural. I strive for that but my studio days can be more tortured. My most recent work comes out of a lot of advance planning actually, I read poetry, whisper it into my phone and play it back into my ear while drawing, I mix colors in advance and prepare painted paper for collage. But then, all the best work really happens very quickly and when I least expect it. It’s as if I have to be outside myself to make it. This can be hard to do on purpose.
KA: I think there’s a lovely link between poets and abstract or semi-abstract painters. Both seem to have an understanding of the space between the words, colors or shapes. It’s almost as if you’re using poetry as a trigger, to help you get into the right headspace. I would imagine this helps you clear your thoughts as well. It’s a great idea. There should be more collaborations between poets and painters.
VS: Yes, a lot of painters seem to be tuned into poetry these days. It’s great! It makes sense to me in that poets are navigating the same terrain of inventing a personal language out of conventional language, in the same way that visual artists reinvigorate and re-compose visual language. So, I have a lot of questions I’d like to ask you but I’ll start with this: – Your work seems really fearless to me, like you know when to take yourself seriously and when to lighten up and embrace whatever comes. Is this something you think about?
KA: It’s hard for to think of myself as fearless because when I look at my paintings mostly I just think about what I should have done differently, but it’s something that I’m always working towards. I do have an ongoing chuckle as I work and my paintings can make me laugh. This internal chuckle helps me from taking things too seriously. I like the mix of serious work and funny work. They need one another to make a whole. While I’m working I don’t think about serious verses funny, but I do know that the more playful work can often be the spark that starts a whole new idea or series. When I’m in that headspace is when new ideas are formed and I let myself take the most risks. Similar to what you mentioned earlier, you almost have to be outside yourself.
VS: One of my favorite things about your work is the way you layer your paint. I love going up close to your work and seeing that a grey-ish green actually has a pale pink color underneath and a drip of black. How much of that is intentional and how much is accident?
KA: I find that I can be in a constant state of painting out, I paint something, don’t like it and paint it out. The history of what I’ve painted feeds what I paint next, so I prefer my paint to be somewhat transparent. The drips are just part of painting on the wall with thin paint. It’s like cooking; sometimes the food splashes out of the pan.
Over the past year you’ve started making videos, which was such an unexpected surprise to me. I love that transition in your work. You’re videos are animated versions of your drawings. I’m curious, did you have a moment when you were looking at your work and it suddenly became alive and the images started moving? Can you talk about this transition and how you first felt it coming on?
VS: Yes – I’m really excited by the video work, but it came about in a sort of accidental way. I wasn’t attracted to looking at video much, or making it, until I was painting on translucent cotton scrim which can be layered with lights, video, multiple drawings…etc. At first I thought I might collaborate with an animator to make the video part but it became clear pretty quickly that it would work better if I learned to make my own. So I started to think about multiplicities in my work, more than one thing going on at a time, and how to manage that. I have always worked in a few different ways at once- naturalistic drawing, goofy gestural line/shapes, work that was conceptual or thematic or dark and work that was more decorative. With video I can weave all these tendencies into one piece and draw the connections.
KA: When I look at some of your new work it seems to me you’re paring down your imagery. A couple years ago each piece had several ideas/thoughts going on. But now each piece seems to be one clear thought. Is this something you’re thinking about?
VS: Funny- I don’t even know if I’d noticed – but you are right! I think this may connect to the new work in video. I can act out my need for more activity in the video and allow the drawings to be more pared-down. I have always liked very minimalistic drawing, at art shows or museums I always feel most drawing to the quietest work in the room. So while my larger-scale work and video gets more animated, the drawings can get more still and focused.
PULSE New York succeeded in creating a temple full of wonder and discovery. A common thread throughout the show was the work of influential female artists.