TRENDS IN CONTEMPORARY ART AT THE AFFORDABLE ART FAIR
Last weekend, I had the great opportunity to travel to New York City and attend the Affordable Art Fair for the first time. The fair opened on September 26th and ran through September 29th, featuring over 400 artists and 74 local, national and international galleries exhibiting affordable original art priced from $100 to $10,000. I left NYC feeling very energized about the possibilities in contemporary art today, so I wanted to share with you the artists that left such a strong impression.
Upon entering the fair, I was immediately struck by how amazing it is to browse hundreds of artists and galleries from so many different countries, all under one roof. Within just one day, I was exposed to art not only from New York but also Canada, Argentina, Columbia, Spain, Italy, England, Israel, Singapore, South Korea, France and of course India.
The style and subject matter of the artworks on view varied from booth to booth, but cutting-edge abstraction was one prominent trend that stood out to me. These contemporary abstract works went beyond simple acrylic-on-canvas paintings, often experimenting with unusual materials like aluminum or resin. Speaking with the gallerists confirmed that these works had proved to be popular with collectors over the weekend.
One abstract artist that stopped me in my tracks was Jarrad Tacon-Heaslip. Originally from New Zealand and now based in the US, his paintings are influenced by his background in architecture and its emphasis on clean geometric designs. He uses tape to paint crisp, straight lines of color onto wooden panels, selecting one or two colors to start in the center and then gradually selecting complementary colors for the other strips. Once the painting is finalized, he treats the panel with resin to produce his signature slick surfaces.
I also really enjoyed paintings by Brazilian artist Hamilton Aguiar. In a bold palette of black, red and white, he simplifies the shape of flowers into abstracted but recognizable outlines. Combining acrylic paint with resin on panel, the result is a very striking and modern take on the still life.
There were a few landscape scenes that caught my attention too. Je Shen, an artist from China, presented several paintings of cities and nature with a calm, meditative effect. His method was very interesting––the majority of the painting is done in acrylic, a thin and flat material, but the flowers are thickly painted with oil, giving them an elevated appearance. I was truly mesmerized by the depth in these paintings, not only in the surface of the canvas but in the landscape itself. It feels like you could step into them.
I was similarly drawn to the texture of mixed media collages by another artist I met, P.T. Tiersky from Ojai, California. She arranges handmade paper on wood panels, then adds acrylic paint followed by several layers of resin. The result is a colorful, patterned artwork with a smooth surface.
I could go on, but it is clear that the most rewarding aspect of the fair was the presence of artists and listening to their firsthand explanations of their process and inspiration. It was extremely educative to hear about the processes from the artists themselves––why they selected these particular colors, why they began working with ceramics. For example, I met Ellie Winberg, an artist from Brooklyn who was showing very distinctive, textured paper-based works. She explained to me that she mashes cotton fiber into strips, layers these strips together, treats them with paint and beads and then secures the work to plexiglass. What a fascinating technique I would have guessed myself!
Overall, I discovered many incredible artists and learned a lot about innovative approaches to art-making. I would strongly recommend the fair to anyone interested in buying art and hope to attend again myself. While there are no editions of the Affordable Art Fair planned for the West Coast soon, there are several opportunities year-round to attend art fairs in the San Francisco Bay Area. A few upcoming fairs include FOG Design+Art Fair (January 16-19, 2020), UNTITLED (January 17 – 19, 2020) and Art Market San Francisco (April 23-26, 2020). And as always, if you are looking for more contemporary art in Palo Alto or the greater Bay Area, please check out our Resources page for more suggestions.
— Sonia Nayyar Patwardhan