The fifth edition of Independent features 50 galleries from 14 countries, which already makes for greater international diversity than The Armory Show. It’s also a more fluid and relaxed design than the Armory’s rigid booths. Independent’s exhibitors unroll themselves among angled dividing walls, so the boundaries feel arbitrary and impressionistic. There’s daylight in this former DIA home, and no hot lamps to make for the Armory’s panopticon anxiety. It’s no wonder that Creative Advisor Matthew Higgs has called the site “among the most iconic and art-friendly spaces anywhere.”
Independent is decidedly separate from the other concurrent fairs and arguably a better use of your time than The Armory Show. There’s a greater density of relevant-feeling art at Independent, but Armory includes panel discussions and lectures, along with a greater range of modern and contemporary work. So which ticket is more “worth it?” There’s a debate to be had, but for now, let’s look at some art…
As in recent versions of the Independent, there’s an interesting strain of comics-derived art. It involves either drawn or appropriated comic images, then often reapplies them with darker or ironic results. From the slightly more “outsider” end of the continuum is William Crawford, whose 900 erotic drawings, with impressive perspective and architectural drafting, and adult film narrative (such as housewife-on-plumber action) were discovered in an Oakland home and may have been created in a prison, according to Galerie Susanne Zander. More insider is Julia Wachtel, represented here by a Miley Cyrus/cartoon mash-up. Dan Graham and Antoine Catala present a CGI love triangle involving a dolphin, presumably autobiographical.
Reconstituted, recycled, and appropriated images pop up in works by Leo Gabin, Eloise Hawser, Josh Kolbo, Eva Kotatkova, John Stezaker, and Creative Growth artist John Hiltunen.
Special adventures in materials are evident in a gunpowder abstraction by Tomás Espina, oxidized abstraction by Etienne Chambaud, and resin realism by Andras Ursuta. Chambaud’s oxidized paintings are made from copper powder paint splashed with wild animal urine from jars; no paws or hooves touch the canvas. Andras Ursuta presents blocks of resin embedded with resin-cast eggs, peas, and chicken legs – entirely inedible.
Finally, there’s a semaphoric, geometric current encompassing David Diao, Paul Lee, and Richard Nonas.
Other works that stood out to me were the cheeky text paintings by Morag Keil and the Matthew Brannon book in a jaunty booth with “mise en scene” designed by his wife, Michelle Elzay, and featuring an elegantly curved table by Jacques Jarrige. I liked the surreal works by Ruth Nemet and Enrico David, an Angela Davis poster by the politically active and St. Petersburg-based collective Chto Delat?, and Mark Dion’s squirrel. Artist’s Space had tempting boxed portfolio editions available, including Carol Bove, Joan Jonas, Lawrence Weiner, Cory Arcangel, Stewart Uoo, and more.
And everything at Broadway 1602 looked great, with a special focus on 1960s and 1980s works by Evelyne Axell, Sylvia Palacios Whitman, Rosemarie Castoro, Experiments in Art and Technology Archive, along with new paintings and a sculpture by Paul P., who also appears in the Whitney Biennial.
Of course, the best photo on view is Judy Linn’s portrait of the late Hudson, founder of Feature, Inc., to whom this Independent is lovingly dedicated.