Friday, March 5, 2010

VOLTA NY: A Take on the Figure

The notion of the figure and representational works is a theory worth further exploration at VOLTA NY. There is, of course, the literal self-portrait (seen in performance artists Maria José Arjona of Galerie Anita Beckers, Booth G3, and Andrea Bianconi, of Furini Arte Contemporanea, Booth E7 — and Nicholas Buffon, of Callicoon Fine Arts, Booth A1, who marries performance w/ his abstract paintings — and if I may, Buffon creates an interesting dialogue w/ the figure in his performances as, in drawing out a series of semi-awkward poses and extended gestures, he makes us aware of OUR OWN bodies and OUR OWN mild discomfort). Then there are Alison Erika Forde's dreamlike paintings, show at The International 3's booth (based in Manchester, Booth E3). None of these are explicitly self-portrait, but Forde so deftly infuses the lot w/ childhood memories, daydreams and the like that we can be forgiven for wondering — esp. in a three-panel work of a girl sprawled across various easychairs — how much of this IS the artist.
Valérie Blass, of the Montreal-based Parisian Laundry (Booth G10), has an interesting commentary on the body in her sculpture, where an essence of the human figure is all that remains. However, you stare at these mostly vertical pieces long enough, like the knockout newish 'Untitled', whose dermis resembles green moss covering an askew ladder (replete, however, with a gray running shoe), and it's got so much swagger and attitude that the human within it is practically THERE.
Ben Turnbull, showing with the London gallery Eleven (Booth F6), manages two immediately recognizable images in each of his collaged works, simultaneously culling from and representing heroism. He cut up his own collection of vintage Marvel and DC comics and collaged the heroes (Spiderman, Batman, what have you) into graphic representations of a NY firefighter and the logos FDNY and NYPD. And while VOLTA NY's theme this year is 'No Guts, No Glory', Turnbull had been working on this NY-themed series independently, so it is a brilliantly auspicious fit. To further this, permitting the heroes to emerge off the 'page', the backgrounds are slews of speech-balloons from the comics, each containing only the heros' dialogues.
Alexander Tinei's stirring oil paintings — mostly featuring one central figure against an inky black backdrop — captivated me each time I got off the lifts, but I couldn't help myself b/c they were w/in my line of sight each time. They pull you in magnetically. I am pleased w/ his dual-gallery showing here (VOGES of Frankfurt and Ana Cristea in NYC, both Booth D2) and that he just had a proper solo show in NY at Cristea's gallery a few months ago. There is a certain drama to Tinei's characters, in their intense fixed gazes, their relative gender ambiguit, and the bluish markings covering their arms or winding up their otherwise rather lifelike bodies. We wonder, what's the story with this person, is that guy in a rock-band, did I just see that girl at a party the other weekend? OK, so the feeling, our interpretation, is subjective, and this dialogue is an essential part of the viewing experience.