Walking on Sunshine

Kate Sutton at the 3rd edition of Independent

Left: Dealer Stefania Bortolami at Independent. Right: Dealer Philomene Magers at Independent. (Photos: Irina Rozovsky)

WHILE THE OVERLAP between the Armory Show and the ADAA Art Show has always caused a bit of confusion as to whose week it really is, the rise of the Independent art fair has complicated what counts as a “satellite.” Last Thursday, the third incarnation of Independent, which again took over the three upper floors of the former Dia Center in Chelsea, lived up to the promise of its name with a showing too strong to be tagged with the term “parallel project.”

Most everyone at the opening that afternoon was in an unseasonably good mood, especially on the roof terrace, where visitors were too busy basking in the sun to take particular notice of fairer fairgoers like James Franco or Chelsea Clinton. Was the outbreak of solar flares to blame? “I’ve been nervous about the extra radiation,” Michael Stipe confessed, with a wary glance at his cell phone. “But what if it’s a good thing? I mean, look around: Everyone you see is smiling.”

This edition, the Independent may have lost some of the nonprofit presence that once gave it its edgier energy, but it’s at least managed to maintain its sunny feel. This is partially due to the redesigned layout by Christian Wassmann, which let daylight stream into the wide-open spaces, for a cleaner, more navigable format. Alas, the architectural adjustments could do little to save the building from its slender stairwells or tiny unisex bathrooms. “I have to sit across from the same people all day long,” a dealer moaned over a bottle of wine at her booth. “There are just certain things I would rather not know about them.”

Left: Dealer Jack Hanley at Independent. (Photo: Irina Rozovsky) Right: Artist Ann Hirsch in Just some girl crying in a corner. (Photo courtesy Ann Hirsch)

gb agency used one part of its sizable nook to restage Mac Adams’s 1976 murder mystery–as-installation, Black Mail. Gallery director Solène Guillier guided Aspen Art Museum curator Jacob Proctor and me through the work. “You have to really spend some time snooping to catch all the clues,” she explained, then proceeded to systematically point them all out to us. Maureen Paley had a captivating early film by Daria Martin, while at Sprüth Magers, Robert Elfgen’s automatically collapsing sculpture sent hearts racing (particular among those who had their backs turned to admire the sweeping cerulean carpet piece by Thea Djordjzadze). Tucked away in a fourth-floor corner, 47 Canal offered a dark combination: Anicka Yi’s “hyperemotional feminist tableau” (an installation devolving on the Girl Scouts’ recent declaration that 2012 is the “year of the girl”) and a meringue-y, erotic painting by Trevor Shimizu.

As the crowds thickened and the sun began to set, we had the option of two performances: Mary Ellen Carroll at Soho’s Third Streaming and a mysterious collaboration between Wade Guyton and Stephen Prina at Friedrich Petzel Gallery. I settled for the latter, which was more geographically accommodating (read: directly across the street). Curator Pati Hertling, Djordjadze, and I arrived with twenty minutes to spare but were turned away at the door. “All of the gas masks have already been handed out,” we were briskly informed. That sentence alone was enough of a happening for us.

Friday afternoon I reveled in “Spring/Break” at Soho’s Old School, a project that invited curators, not galleries, to present art. (The map featured a subtle disclaimer: THIS CAN BE AN ART FAIR.) I had come to see specific shows by curators Cecelia Stucker, Alex Freedman, and Maureen Sullivan, the last of whom knocked me over with a stunning video installation by Simon Lee. Also threatening my sense of gravity were the Sp33dGuided Segway tours offered by artists Dora Budor and Maja Cule, who zipped guests through an improvised obstacle course in the courtyard before exiting down a long, fluorescent-lit hallway and onto Mott Street. On my way out (on foot, thankfully), the guards handed me a souvenir Perrier and then asked to check my bag “for art.” I couldn’t resist: “How do you know what’s art?” The guards traded glances. “Well, you know, we’re just supposed to look for things we can’t understand.” Touché.

Left: Dealers Jochen Meyer, Thomas Riegger, and Jocelyn Wolff. Right: White Columns director and Independent creative adviser Matthew Higgs. (Photos: Irina Rozovksy)

Next I checked out the debut of the new Canal Street gallery Jason Alexander before heading up to Stadium, where curators Karen Archey and David Harper were hosting the latest from “BCC,” an ingenious series of exhibitions for which all of the materials must be digitally transferred to the space. For this iteration, a set of instructions was passed from one artist to another (Sol LeWitt meets social networking). For one piece, Brussels-based Bitsy Knox had been paired with performance artist Ann Hirsch, whose critique of media representations of women includes a stint on the VH1 “reality” show Frank the Entertainer. “Ann was supposed to respond to a blog Bitsy created about things she has lost.” Harper explained, stepping over a pile of crumpled Kleenex. “She basically just sat on the floor and cried for an hour. It was actually pretty intense.”

Sunday looked like another full day, but at least Saturday offered some reprieve. The main stop on my list was the second edition of the Dependent Art Fair, which had relocated from the Sheraton Hotel in Chelsea to a cozy Comfort Inn on Ludlow Street. While there was none of last year’s elevator-melee, the tiny rooms required some shameless elbowing to enter into the temporary spaces for Ramiken Crucible, Foxy Production, and a joint venture from Cleopatra’s and the Shandanken Project. To actually see the installed work, one often had to get on, if not in, the bed. (“I gave up trying to resist,” Silvershed’s Patrick Meagher shrugged from underneath the mustard-colored comforter, where he lay draped in artwork.) The galleries were commanded to shut their doors at 8 PM on the dot, but judging from the sudden swell in muffled noises at 8:01 PM, the festivities only got rowdier behind closed doors. Contemplating my options, I sent a stairwell text—“still at the dependent fair”—to a dealer friend I was to meet for dinner. Her astonished reply: “U went back to the Armory?”

Left: Dealer Richard Telles at Independent. Right: Dealer Nicky Verber of Herald St. Gallery at Independent. (Photos: Irina Rozovksky)

Left: Artist Saâdane Afif. (Photo: Kate Sutton) Right: Dealer Jason Duval of Veneklasen/Werner at Independent. (Photo: Irina Rozovksky)

Left: Dealer and Independent cofounder Elizabeth Dee. Right: Melanie Scarciglia and Thea Westreich at Independent. (Photos: Irina Rozovsky)

Left: Independent codirectors Laura Mitterand and Jayne Drost Johnson. Right: Dealer Andrew Kreps (right) at the Independent. (Photos: Irina Rozovsky)

Left: Dealer Oliver Newton, artist Anicka Yi, and dealer Margaret Lee at Independent. Right: Dealers Joel Mesler and Carol Cohen at Independent. (Photos: Irina Rozovsky)

Left: Dealer Stuart Krimko of David Kordansky Gallery and artist William E. Jones at Independent. Right: Dealer Peter Currie at Independent. (Photos: Irina Rozovsky)

Left: The Modern Institute's Andrew Hamilton, Toby Webster, and Simon Gowing at Independent. Right: Dealer Anke Kempkes at Independent. (Photos: Irina Rozovsky)

Left: Dealer Gavin Brown at Independent. Right: Dealer and Independent cofounder Darren Flook and dealer Christabel Stewart at Independent. (Photos: Irina Rozovsky)

Left: Silvershed’s Patrick Meagher at Dependent. Right: Artist Oscar Murillo. (Photos: Kate Sutton)

Left: Curators David Harper and Karen Archey. (Photo: Kate Sutton) Right: Artists Stephen Prina and Wade Guyton at Friedrich Petzel. (Photo: Lauren O'Neill-Butler)

Left: Dealer Stuart Shave (center) at Modern Art at the Independent. Right: Dealer Maureen Paley at the Independent. (Photos: Irina Rozovsky)