(Grant Haffner, East 27, acrylic, marker, pencil on wood panel, 2007)
I don't mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can't keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
that's all, I don't even think of you that often.
Last night this blogger decided to try something new. After given word-of-mouth of the Pool Art Fair's opening night at the storied Chelsea Hotel, I wandered from my own Chelsea digs to take a peek at what the fuss was all about. Already having fair fatigue on Day 2 of NYC's Art World Meltdown 2008, I thought to myself, "Well, it can't hurt to take a look, can it?" I was wrong. It did.
First of all, there's several things Pool needs to do immediately to not drown in stagnant water. First: promote the show. Since it is a showcasing of unrepresented talent, the fact that I only heard about it through word of mouth means much better work needs to be done on the part of the promoter, Frere Independent, which also oversees the DIVA fair. As I walked to the entrance of the hotel, there on the glass door was an 8 1/2" x 11" color flyer. Now I know this is an independent, D.I.Y., and very grassroots show, but any casual person walking by would never have known anything was going on. I do think a trip to Kinkos might have sufficed. Secondly, the opening night was less about showcasing the actual art to possible collectors and interested galleries than a casual hangout of the artists' friends. In multiple cases I couldn't even get into the cramped and crowded rooms because there were so many people loitering and blocking the works, drinks in hands, cigarettes to mouths. Yes, smoking was prevalent. To say that this was an unprofessional atmosphere is not an understatement.
Three artists' works stood out strongly from the rest-- Grant Haffner, Don Porcella and Debra Drexler. First, Grant Haffner in Room 230. A fantastic reworker of angles and planar landscapes, he juxtaposes intersections of sky with the open road. Through the use of a highly solarized color pallette, he really brings his images to life, as well as through adept canvas preparation. The surfaces really captured your eye. Add to it that the room was professionally hung, with an artist that was engaging and enthusiastic about his work while easily sharing his knowledge with the viewer gives extra brownie points. Make a note to examine the tilting power lines. At any moment you feel that they might topple. Haffner's horizons appear to extend as far as the eye can see, with no end or beginning. Very relevant work referencing our open-ended existence.
Next up, Don Porcella, also in Room 230. I couldn't help but laugh when I saw his little encaustic Frankencreatures and ghost floaters. There was something wildly fun and at the same time obnoxious, (but not overly so), about his pieces. I felt like I was back in grade school, trading sketches of the snotty nosed kid in the front row back and forth. With each layer of waxy buildup, Porcella's storytelling is whimsical and touching. At times he goes a bit too far for my own liking-- almost a kitschy Clown College-like quality-- but he steadies the course in the end, feeling much more like the "Ghostbusters" Marshmallow Man has been subdued and is now a delicious Smore.
Last, but certainly not least, Debra Drexler in Room 128. I was extremely impressed by her work. Her painterly hand is magnificent. From side to side, I traced the motions of each of her broad-brushstrokes. Her pallette is soft pastel against an underbelly of dark tonalities. There is a "damaged goods" quality to these works. I feel that she has a great mastery of self-reflection and examination in each of her pieces. References to dreams and memory abound. As a professor at the University of Hawaii, you can tell how much the tropical surroundings are beginning to become an influence in her work. In her "Pool of Reflection piece," nature is guarded, but yet the solitary figure contrasted against a dark tree root base is exposed in all its fragility. Fantastic stuff.
Pool runs through Sunday at 8pm. Bring your best Sid Vicious and check it out.
The Chelsea Hotel is located at 222 West 23rd Street in Manhattan.