Dreams and nightmares abound at New York’s Independent art fair
The latest spring edition of the fair places an emphasis on phantasmagorical figuration
12 May 2023
Some may be anticipating a shift toward abstraction in the contemporary art market at large, but figuration is still front and centre at the Independent art fair this year. Featuring 69 gallery exhibitors from around the world across several floors of Tribeca’s Spring Studios, the fair held its VIP preview on Thursday (11 May), and by day’s end 15 galleries had sold every work on their stands, a sign that buyer interest in identity-forward, chimerical paintings and sculptures isn’t waning yet.
The grotesque, moribund aspects of mid-2000s surrealist imagery are largely absent at the fair, replaced by gentler explorations of the psychic weight of embodiment, like Jessica Stoller’s arresting, small-scale sculptures of eerie feminine figures on view with New York’s PPOW Gallery.
“With this body of work, she was thinking about the history of knowledge as it relates to the female body”, says Ella Blanchon, an associate director at PPOW. “She’s considering how this knowledge was lost, or controlled, or inhibited, and women haven’t been able to take care of themselves as a result.”
Stoller’s delightfully odd tabletop porcelain, Untitled (Eve’s herbs) (2022), which depicts an old woman attending to a pile of abortificient herbs, was sold by the end of the VIP day—as was everything else in PPOW’s two-artist stand, including a collection of warm, corporeal paintings by Grace Carney.
This emphasis on depicting inner life or hypnagogic alternate worlds abounds throughout the fair, which, now in its 14th year, maintains a cool, boutique atmosphere and historically informed bent (Independent 20th Century, the fair’s September edition, focuses specifically on re-contextualising 20th century art).
That abiding interest in women’s narratives across time is especially clear in the inclusion of Gina Litherland, a 68-year old Wisconsinite whose detailed, psychologically charged oil paintings of wanton witches and glowing wolves are on view at Chicago gallery Corbett vs. Dempsey’s stand.
“Gina has quietly, and without any interest in the movement of art fashion, been doing what she’s been doing for forty years,” says John Corbett, one of the gallery’s co-founders. “We absolutely love her for it.” Litherland’s available works are priced between $16,000 and $35,000.
This edition of Independent boasts 20 solo or two-artist stands featuring Bipoc (Black, Indigenous and people of colour artists), including the show-stopping D’angelo Lovell Williams presentation from New York gallery Higher Pictures. Williams’s poignant, haunting photographs and weavings use dynamic, performative compositions to track the arc of Black queer intimacy—the artist’s sold-out stand featured pieces ranging from $2,500 to $3,500.