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This year's Affordable Art Fair offers exactly what we've come to expect from middle-weight art bazaars--a carnivalesque, something-for-everyone array that delights, frustrates, and makes you check your wallet at least a few times.
There are the requisite Obama portraits (I counted at least two); sexy cheesecake paintings galore; shock-art works running with blood or spewing smoke; and dozens of competent pieces that let you take home something that looks like, say, a Warhol or Robert Longo for a hundredth of the price. (The fair's price cap is $10,000, and most works are a fraction of that.)
But tucked away among the booths are also a few quieter works that offer solid value to the modest collector. Here are a few pieces I especially enjoyed.
At the School of Visual Arts' booth there were a number of impressive works, including the drawings and sculpture of the versatile Brandon Davey, but Greg Krauss' The News made me smile.
At New Orleans' Red Truck Gallery, Chris Roberts-Antieau's whimsical, cartoonlike paintings display real craft and subtlety. (She also happens to be the gallerist's mother, which is sweet.) This particular one stuck with me partly because my girlfriend claimed to sympathize with the monkey owner, which may or may not have had something to do with me.
AAF's tradition is to provide one booth for work by MFA students, and this year artist/curator John Monteith organized "Closer to God," an absorbing survey of nine artists from NYU, Parsons, the School of Visual Arts, Columbia, Pratt, and Hunter College. This photo collage by Nick Typaldos, (Untitled) American Spirit, shows tattoos people have gotten of their loved ones (and, in one case, themselves). Untidy and a little unnerving, it's a meditation on love, memory, and art.
Finally, at the booth of Brooklyn-based Shop Art, rising art-fair staple Patrick Jacobs has one of his signature mini-dioramas on view. With a price tag of $10,000, the easily overlooked work is at the ceiling of the fair's budgetary range, but the artist's laborious process may justify it. Designed to be embedded in the buyer's wall, the jewel-like three-dimensional piece is meticulously assembled from the tiniest of materials--providing a window on an everyday scene that somehow appears more real than reality.