The Downward Spiral: Condo New York
This month Dean Kissick visits 19 galleries on a summer’s day.
“Oh no,” my friend wrote to me in the spring. “No more gallery choreography. I can’t take it. I like paintings Dean.” Well my friend and I are in luck because this second edition of Condo New York, an alternative art fair model bringing 26 international galleries into 21 New York spaces, features almost exclusively paintings and sculptures. So, on the Friday following the 4th of July, I resolve to go to every show and see all the world’s young art in a day and find out, at last, what’s going on out there.
Petzel Gallery hosting Nanzuka, Tokyo
10:36am, 35 East 67th Street
Morning begins uptown at Nanzuka’s exhibition at Petzel Gallery. Makoto Taniguchi paints manga girls. Masato Mori makes expressionist street art. Haroshi takes the broken toy monsters of his childhood and sculpts new heads for them out of skateboard decks; I mean, come on. As somebody whose family comes from Tokyo, this really infuriates me. Japanese art has to grow up! Takashi Murakami published his brilliant, manifesto-like Superflat catalogue in the spring of 2000, yet here we are, nearly two decades later, with the same doe-eyed anime girls and cloying kawaii banality. Nothing ever changes!
Franklin Parrasch Gallery hosting Gypsum Gallery, Cairo, and Misako & Rosen, Tokyo
10:48am, 53 East 64th Street
A sign outside explains that the gallery’s open and to call this number. I let myself into a smart apartment building, call the number, and stand outside Franklin Parrasch’s opaque glass door listening to the phone ring and ring from both sides. Then I leave.
I go on a long, drizzly walk down to Chelsea, skipping Metro Pictures, which is hosting Lambdalambdalambda from Pristina, because it’s closed for the holidays. I’m not sure what holiday, because the 4th of July was a while ago. Maybe they’re just tired of art.
White Columns hosting First Street Gallery, Los Angeles
12:03pm, 91 Horatio Street
A painting of a forest by Paul Bloodgood. This is so boring, I think. Besides the painting is a collaged together page of text that reads, “We have developed a curious habit of supposing that any artist who fails to begin by shocking, by being sufficiently laughed at and insulted, must be third-rate. If he fails to stagger us, or raise our eyebrows, he is non-existent.”
He’s got me there. On the wall adjacent is another tiresome landscape and another collage: “People do not want to take cognizance of the futility of the false life; they do not want to endure the fact that something lowly and vile is revealed in death, that death is an insult to the human being and ought to be abolished rather than celebrated in the name of the tragic.”
I glance over the first sentence of the exhibition text; Bloodgood died in May. Now I feel bad. So this is a tragic retrospective of his work, including more paintings, an elegaic pair of vitrines of ephemera from the AC Project Room he ran nearby from 1989 to 2001, and a very moving exhibition text.
I visit the White Columns bathroom. There’s a framed Rikrit Tiranvanija print on the wall saying, “USA: FEAR EATS THE SOUL”. Okay then.
Alexander And Bonin hosting Madragoa, Lisbon
12:51pm, 47 Walker Street
Madragoa presents some bland exercises in formalism connected, an accompanying text explains, “by the use of an essential mark-making sign—the line”. Christ! Some say that Lisbon is blossoming into a new European capital of art. Going by this show; nope
Farther along Walker Street, Bortolami, hosting Corbett Vs Dempsey from Chicago, is also closed for the “holidays”.
Queer Thoughts hosting Park View/Paul Soto, Los Angeles and Brussels
1:02pm, 373 Broadway
Downtown brings a weird show at last. I slip a pair of soft polypropylene covers over my shoes and skate across a white Puppies Puppies floor vinyl, The Difference Between Sex And Gender (2018), which is like a board game with pink and blue bonus squares reading “Chromosomes do not determine gender” and “Genitals do not determine gender” respectively. There’s also, among other good things, a short Diamond Stingily film about her mother, Sandra’s Walk (2016). Following an illuminating conversation with gallery director Luis Miguel Bendaña about the geography of “Fire Island”, a place that keeps a mythical hold over many of my acquaintances, inspiring both resentment and yearning in their hearts, my journey continues.
Marinaro hosting The Approach, London
1:35pm, 1 Oliver Street
I sure as hell did not move away from East London so I could visit more painting shows by The Approach, but here I am, at a solo show of abstract paintings by Sam Windett, and it’s so boring, so tired, so tastefully meaningless. This makes me so angry! I came here looking for excitement. I cross the road swilling in despair; aren’t there any new ideas in painting?
Foxy Production hosting Christian Andersen, Copenhagen, and Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong
1:41pm, 2 East Broadway
I’d never heard of Sven Loven, presented here by Christian Andersen, until today but his painting Thoughts Are Cosmetic appears in front of me like a shimmering vision of the future! Hung alongside this lurid representation of a figure trapped in the hell of his own mind is Trip To Mars (both works 2018), Loven’s reinterpretation of Concert in the Egg (ca. 1561): an unattributed painting based on a drawing by, probably, Hieronymus Bosch. Here the old musicians are replaced with a crew of disgruntled and melancholy astronauts examining a mysterious diagram while all around them churn the psychedelic slogans, “Become Beautiful Trash … Heaven is where you are … IF IT EXISTS IT’S PERFECT … POISON IS AN ANTIDOTE.”
Tom Humphreys’ painting Black Sun (2018) glimmers over from the next wall. I like how Christian Andersen was invited to curate a show at Foxy Production and chose a fairytale painting of a massive, cruel-eyed fox devouring a man under a black looming sun. Humphreys and Loven’s works have a mystical bent; from here on in Condo will become more mystical and visionary, and the Neo-Carolingian Folkloric Reaction sweeping through society will, perhaps, begin to make its presence felt in art. I leave and buy a ham and corn bun from the Chinese bakery. The rain stops, I feel a warm breeze on my face, the world brushes softly against me.
Mitchell Algus Gallery hosting Mary Mary, Glasgow
2:25pm, 132 Delancey Street
The most intriguing things here are the very strange works in Mitchell Algus’s office: some E’wao Kagoshima drawings, a cosmic Dan Burkhart oil painting, and a little Hans Bellmer sketch of a dog that hangs above his desk in an ornate golden frame.
Bodega hosting Galerie Crèvecœur, Paris
2:39pm, 167 Rivington Street
A fantastic collaborative effort from both galleries. I particularly like Naoki Sutter Shudo’s C’est la guerre! (2018), a dark, smoky, enamelled C-print that brings to mind 17th-century Dutch still lives while also suggesting a much larger landscape through the play of light across its teapots and ceramics; Than Hussein Clark’s Julian Dreams of the Hudson (Tissot: I do do don’t want to be a doll) (2016), which is a folding transparent Perspex screen printed with patterns and slogans and smeared with a scene of naked figures in the river; and Jason Benson’s Noontide Demon (2018), a painted mosaic of medieval spectres and dragons, one of whom blows the words “Cold Drynks” from a horn. Some say that Paris is flowering into a new European capital of art. Going by this show; let’s move to Belleville.
Rachel Uffner Gallery hosting Cooper Cole, Toronto, and Night Gallery, Los Angeles
2:54pm, 170 Suffolk Street
Night Gallery does too many fairs. This year in New York they’ve already done Condo, Frieze, The Armory and Independent, and the latter two were on at the same time!
Bureau hosting Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland, and Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles
3:05pm, 178 Norfolk Street
Lots of mixed-media work here. The back room has a culinary theme and includes an Oscar Enberg sculpture featuring a Japanese knife and titled When the cream cannot be churned into butter, and is bewitched, one should take it from the churn, boil it and chop it with knives and swords. The witch will then come to borrow something. If you don’t lend, the spell is broken (2018).
I go and ask if I can use the restroom and they say yes.
Chapter NY hosting Adams And Ollman, Portland
3:20pm, 249 East Houston Street
Julie Béna, who’s included in this show, had the best solo presentation at Frieze New York in the spring. But this is not her best work.
Van Doren Waxter hosting Greynoise, Dubai, and Maisterravalbuena, Madrid and Lisbon
4:04pm, 195 Chrystie Street
I walk past this door every day but always assumed it was just a place that sold water. Turns out there’s a whole underworld of galleries hidden behind. Why are there so many galleries in New York? What’s it like to exhibit in these places? What’s it like to work in these windowless rooms?! The show is … pretty. Néstor Sanmiguel Diest’s colourful gouaches on paper are nice.
JTT hosting Galerie Emanuel Layr, Vienna
4:10pm, 191 Chrystie Street
Galerie Emanuel Layr’s contribution is very well hidden round the back of the gallery, which feels fitting as it’s a show of small imaginary architectures by Benjamin Hirte: a Plexiglas apothecary, a factory wrapped in seagrass rope, an aluminium water tower, a styrofoam ziggurat with three entryways. Good.
Simone Subal Gallery hosting Sadie Coles HQ, London
4:24pm, 131 Bowery
Simone Subal presents Anna K.E. and Sadie Coles presents Daniel Sinsel. Nothing more to say.
Lomex hosting Arcadia Missa, London
4:31pm, 134 Bowery
So here’s a great collaborative group show of gothic darkness, magical violence, fetishism and mysticism—more mysticism!—from two very bleeding-edge galleries. Of Arcadia Missa’s contributions I particularly like Emma Talbot’s visceral spiritualist paintings on silk, and watercolours on khadi paper, which place questions like “Do You Sense Transparency? Being Without Being?” amongst depictions of various ancient, ghostly figures giving birth to one another and shifting between forms.
But my favourite work, in the whole city, is Sean Mullins’ compact neoclassical oil painting Preparation for Unity (2018), which appears to show Hermes, in his winged cap, carrying the limp body of a friend (Ares perhaps?) through a magical woodland in which they encounter the swirling, phantasmal form of a large white dove. Some kind of new Post-Raphaelite Brotherhood is bubbling up in America around the likes of Mullins, Kye Christensen-Knowles and Julien Nguyen right now. Hundreds of years of the history of painting and sculpture are making themselves apparent again in the work of young artists. I want to write about these paintings. I want to own these paintings. I’d like to step inside them and into the Great Time that exists outside of linear time. Maybe I’m like Hermes, messenger of the gods, and walking through all of Condo is my own epic poetry, I wonder.
Bridget Donahue hosts Experimenter, Kolkata
4:55pm, 99 Bowery
Experimenter crosses the seas from West Bengal with a show of polite architectural drawings, paintings and sculptures, which is a great shame, and feels like a missed opportunity, because here in the Global North we’re desperate for some new perspective, some wildness, some passion, some wonder, some empathy, some meaning, some reason—anything!
David Lewis hosts Altman Siegel, San Francisco
5:08pm, 88 Eldridge St
Matt Keegan shows a couple works about families, including a small photo of a mother and her son. The son, hands in pockets, wears a T-shirt with the slogan, “THANKS MOM 4 MAKING ME SO ORIGINAL”; our Millennial Plight in a nutshell!
Company hosting Carlos/Ishikawa, London
5:16pm, 88 Eldridge Street
Carlos/Ishikawa has the best solo presentation in the fair; although really it’s a collaborative project between artist Rose Salane, who was born in Queens in the early 1990s, and former World Trade Center employee Deborah Rodi, who worked in the North Tower’s 107th-floor Windows on the World restaurant from 1981 until 1993, the year of the first Al-Qaeda bombing. From the latter’s memories, pictures and keepsakes, Salane composes a series of sculptures and faked news clippings with which to tell a story of New York’s late-20th century transition from failing city to capital of the world. This isn’t a show about Nine Eleven, but rather about how modern life was made and unmade through Reaganism, the rise of Wall Street, Andy Warhol, the War on Drugs and the AIDS crisis. From the gallery window, one can see the new North Tower rising out of the city, not so far away, alone in the cerulean sky.
In the next and final room, Company shows Marisa Takal’s large vivid abstracts and Diana Lozano’s gigantic waxy, resinous flowers. “Satisfaction” reads the last painting. “Love” reads the last hanging sculpture. Now it’s 5:33pm. 1% battery. I buy a large bottle of seltzer water and walk home.
Condo New York 2018
29 June – 27 July 2018
DEAN KISSICK is a writer based in New York and a contributing editor for Spike. A new installment of The Downward Spiral will be published online every second Wednesday a month. Last time he wrote about a three-quarter-scale replica of an art bar in a gallery.