Somehow, it feels that the precarious political climate in this country (and globally) energizes the art world. This year’s edition feels very upbeat and socially and politically very engaged – as it’s been the trend recently. For one, women are very much showcased and as one neon work spells: EMPOWER(ED). Alongside the women, artists from outside standard narratives, are not anecdotes but the norm this year. It’s very refreshing.

Just at the entrance a big installation in duo, of Yayoi Kusama and Chris Ofili is setting the tone. Kusama’s “Narcissus Garden” and Ofili’s “To take and to give” presented by Victoria Miro Gallery, is no doubt a thoughtful and powerful statement.

Yayoi Kusama “Narcissus Garden” and Chris Ofili “To Take and To Give” presented by Victoria Miro Gallery © Cristina Guadalupe Galván
As the press review reads, “Frieze New York Seeks to Expand the Conversation about Art in its 2019 Edition, showcasing new and under-represented art forms alongside the most significant names in modern and contemporary art.” As they say it’s about an “Exceptional Diversity.”

As I’ve been speaking and writing about lately, we are in a period of revisiting or reassessing post-modernism, although some are forgetting to mention it. Even the Warhol retrospective at the Whitney, curated by Donna de Salvo, wanted to make a statement of the artist production of the 1970s and 1980s – which according to historian Irving Sandler in his book “Art of the Postmodern Era” it spans from the late 1960s to the early 1990s and, among other things, it’s about pluralism; rejecting as Sandler says “any deterministic and exclusivist notion” (as modernist did in its search for what they said was purism).

Offer Waterman gallery (London) © Cristina Guadalupe Galván

As an example, a very special section of the fair is the space paying homage to pioneering non-profit New York arts organization, which ran from 1974 to 1986, called Just Above Midtown (JAM) and its founder Linda Goode Bryant. Curated by Franklin Sirmans (Director, Pérez Art Museum Miami), this section follows the success of Matthew Higgs’s (White Columns) celebrated tribute to Hudson in last year’s edition. And for those who didn’t knew (I didn’t) JAM, located initially on West 57th Street, was the first gallery space to exhibit the work of Africa-American artists and other artists of color in a major gallery district.

JAM emerged during the recession and was created with the purpose to initiate social change. During this time there was a distinct difference in the value of white artists compared to non-white artists within the art industry. Bryant intended JAM to be a place where black artists could go to be free from the oppressive views of the commercial industry.

Sirmans said: “Linda Goode Bryant’s gallery and its experiments with art and artists is the stuff of legends. What she did for the discussion on art and conceptualism in particular is remarkable, but it’s her acknowledgment of genius in the work of the artists she worked with that has paved the way for so many artists today.

Linda Goode Bryant, image courtesy of the gallery

She gave a home to artists now considered to be part of the canon when they had nowhere else to present their work. If she only showed and worked with Hammons, Piper (who had last year a MoMA retrospective) and O’Grady it would be a remarkable existence to celebrate but as it is we add so many more names to that list – testament to the great history she created.

Franklin Sirmans is Channeling Just Above Midtown Gallery and the Pioneering Vision of Linda Goode Bryant, image courtesy of the gallery

David Hammons, Bill T Jones, Philip Mallory Jones at Just Above Midtown/Downtown, image courtesy of the gallery

In another section of the fair – in celebration of El Museo del Barrio’s 50th anniversary -- Patrick Charpenel (Executive Director, El Museo del Barrio) and Susanna V. Temkin (Curator, El Museo del Barrio) present a themed section focusing on art by contemporary Latinx and Latin American artists called DIALOGOS.

Also, artist Javier Téllez, in a project in collaboration between Frieze and the Outsider Art Fair, curates The Doors Of Perception, a large constellation of works made by exceptionally gifted artists from five continents, offering a panorama of art created on the margins of society. Whether psychiatric patients, self-taught visionaries, or mediums, each of the artists in the exhibition felt at some point in their life the need to create an artistic language of their own in order to reveal what they understood to be the true nature of things.

In the big galleries section, Gagosian presented itself most interestingly. Very Modern/Postmodern conversation between John Chamberlain (1927-2011) with a group of truly incredible and monumental sculptures and Steven Parrino (1958 – 2005), postmodern artist who came to prominence with the neo-conceptualist movement (or “neo-geo” as some call it). That Parrino died so young, at only forty six from a motorcycle accident, makes the curatorial paring a bit macabre – black deconstructed canvases with smashed car parts – but quite powerful.

Alongside Gagosian in the big leagues, Waddington Custot has another great pair, Robert Indiana’s (1928-2018) big numbers sculptures with XXIth century Robert Rauschenberg’s (1925-2008) photographic transfers, which are quite phenomenal and hilarious, a bit like an architectural prankster.

Casey Kaplan (NY) has a very intriguing presentation of the work of artist Matthew Ronay (1976), whose melding vocabularies of modernist abstraction and ritualistic objects, create an enigmatic and dreamlike landscape of sculptures, expressing the primacy of the handmade object.

Matthew Ronay at Casey Caplan (NY) © Cristina Guadalupe Galván

Matthew Ronay at Casey Caplan (NY) © Cristina Guadalupe Galván

Much loved is the work of Tammi Campbell at Anat Ebgi Gallery in LA. She reproduces Joseph Albers pieces and bubble-wraps them, but she actually molds the bubble wrap, so it is actually a hyper realist sculpture of a modernist painting bubble wrapped. It strikes with humour, wit and a postmodern understanding.

Tammi Campbell at Anat Ebgi gallery (Los Angeles) © Cristina Guadalupe Galván

The gallery Kaikai Kiki (Tokyo) of artist Takashi Murakami is worth noting as well. Another trompe l’oeuil in it, of artist TENGAone, who creates cardboard-looking pieces made out of medium density boards, with Disney cartoons painted on them. They display of two of them on corrugated and rusty metal, very favela like, is very evocative.

“Fabrication/Chicken” 2019 by TENGAone at Kaikai Kiki gallery (Tokio) © Cristina Guadalupe Galván

Lastly, it was great to see Sturtevant’s Frank Stella next to yet another Rauschenberg at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Haim Steinbach’s pantone painting at Tanya Bonakdar gallery, Jenny Holzer’s gold leaf text-based paintings and benches or the suburban paintings with its fast food neon boxes of Sayre Gomez at François Ghebaly gallery. And there are many more.

“Stella Luis Miguel Dominguin" (second version) 1989 by Sturtevant at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac © Cristina Guadalupe Galván

It is so very difficult to absorb so much art in the cacophonous, commercial environment that is the art fair, which makes it a thoughtful choice when galleries decide just to bring one or two artists, or make a curatorial statement, and look more like a gallery show than a booth. If Museums today increasingly resemble shopping malls and art galleries resemble Museums, maybe art fairs will end up looking like pop up art gallery districts.