The Affordable Art Fair (AAF) opened for preview last night at 7 West 34th Street, right in the shadow of the Empire State Building. In terms of sheer number of attendees the evening was a marked success, with first-nighters shouldering one-another to grab champagne, meet artists, and look at pictures. Buying was brisk and the fact that New Yorkers have so taken to this show indicates that it will remain a vibrant part of the City’s cultural landscape.
As is always the case with the AAF, there was some junk, some that was negligible, and scattered throughout works of great accomplishment. Let’s address some of the lesser work first.
The contributions of Christian Dorey, represented by the Artêria of Bromont, Canada, consist mostly of post modernist gewgaws. With titles such as Orange Gun, Who Wants Fish and Pink Target, Dorey chucks dabs of color at the canvas, leaving the viewer to wonder if this is the finished work, or merely the artist’s drop cloth.
Cibyl Delaire, represented by Concrete Utopia of Brooklyn, NY, presents work more suitably assigned to a dexterous child. These consist of portraits of President Obama as seen on the covers of such magazines as People, Time and New York, done in bits of plastic detritus designed to look like quilt-work. The description is more interesting than the finished product.
Nick Morris, represented by Hang Art of San Francisco, CA, regurgitates the tired Warhol trope of expanded comic book panels. With pictures of Batman, Cindy Brady and women from various comic books, he works the same tired nonsense that was trite when Warhol first attempted it. (There were one or two others who attempted more of the same tired nonsense, but by the time I approached their work, it was no longer worth taking down their names.)
Moving onto pictures of genuine quality, Julio Valdez of the Julio Valdez Studio in New York, NY, creates subtle work in oil of limpid coloration, delicacy of line and deep philosophical content. Valdez is an artist to watch.
Mary Jane Ansell, of the Fairfax Gallery, Royal Tunbridge Wells, UK, is a modern master. Working mostly in portraits, Ansell creates luminescent work in oil of deeply felt humanism. The Girl with the White Shirt is an enchanting portrait delineated with surety and finesse. Her Study for the Beauty of the Hours, another female portrait, seems to glow from within. Also on hand were her portraits Illumine I and Illumine II, which rank to my mind as the finest portraits at the AAF.
Shaun Fergusen, represented by the same gallery, also makes a splendid showing with Flame, a portrait of a woman lighting her cigarette, done in acrylics.
However, the highlight for this viewer was the work of Mirelle Duchesne, represented by Windham Fine Arts, in Windham NY. Most of her works are small, subtle still lifes of penetrating beauty. Small enough to fit in a lady’s handbag, these gems depict vibrant floral arrangements beside everyday objects. I thought her White Mum to be a tiny marvel, but equally captivating were Yellow Mum, Copper Pot and Ginger Jar. These are pocket masterpieces, and are among the most affordable pieces at the Fair (most selling for only $600). Duchesne is largely an unknown quantity in the United States, but I hope her reputation increases as her work is both beautiful and collectible.
For all the carping it is possible to do about some of the work displayed, the AAF is always a worthwhile experience. It demonstrates that there is beauty in today’s art world.