No longer on the Pier, after last year’s loss of its space and retreat to David Zwirmer’s Gallery on West 21 Street in New York’s Chelsea district, Volta 2020, which closed on Sunday, was a pleasure to explore. Held at Metropolitan West, it was not glitzy and not crowded, the work shone in quality and patina, resulting in navigable floors of excellent and varied work from all over the world, as well as local galleries. The work was diverse, using materials I have rarely seen, like mud-like applied paint, pennies, shaped canvases and artists’ books.
Some of the best work was by Boston artist Lavaughan Jenkins (represented by Abigail Ogilvy Gallery), winner of the 2019 Foster Prize at Boston’s ICA gallery. His figures, made of oil paint applied in rough, thick impasto with a palette knife, looking claylike, stand proud and tall and green in some instances, sporting yellow and lime green gym shoes. In others, black, small and skirted mud-like people recall the Golem.
Jan Maarten Voskull’s “Flat-Out Black,” 2010, acrylic on linen stretched canvas, at NL=US Art from the Netherlands, rivaled “Round-trip Pointless Indian Red 2” in its striking appearance. Seemingly impossible, the cuts and folds in both pieces were arresting. Similarly, Korean-born Jae Ko’s rolled paper, color and pigmented ink, “Fire Rectangular #2 Ultramarine Blue in the Black,” at Galerie Roger Katwijk, Amsterdam, merges sculpted paper with paint to create a new form
Ghana’s Yaw Owusu’s “The Worlds We Made (Untitled II),” 2020, made of pennies, stainless steel sheet, gold leaf, patina mounted on a wood panel, at 1957 Ridge, Accra, Ghana, continues Owusu’s practice of using worthless materials to create objects of value. Recalling Ghana’s glittery room made of soda can tabs at the last Venice Biennale in 2019, this golden orb was beautiful.
Roman Fabiano Parisi’s photographs of lavish museum rooms in Italy, including “The Empire of Light, No. 2,” realizes, according to the artist, his specialization “in the abandoned and the marginal.” His photographs of interiors are gorgeous in their detail, including the cracked plaster in the ceiling, and marks on the pillars, showing the deterioration of these noble spaces.
Representative figuration was big at Volta, and excellent. Yigal Ozeri’s “Untitled,” a confrontational painting of a young woman at Rutger Brandt Gallery, Amsterdam, stares right out at the viewer fronting a background of strangers in a subway station who seem oblivious to her. Maria Concepcion (Conchi) Alvarez’ oil on canvas bullfighters in costumes of the Spanish matador and toreador, in blaring reds and yellows, titled “Ensonacion (Daydream),” 2016, acrylic on panel, at Spain’s STOA gallery, seems to be someone else’s daydream, but is understandable in its sincerity. Identity successfully emerges here as a motif.
Entering a colorful world, The Flat — Massimo Carasi’s gallery from Milan, Italy, shows textile work by Kurdish-Iranian artist Hiva Alizadeh. Uniting new media with traditional carpet weaving techniques, his work, made of synthetic extensions in largely primary colors, hangs on the wall reflecting light “like the stained-glass windows in Persian mosques,” according to the artist.
Dario Perez Flores’ “1-mobile vertical 54-075,” 1975, acrylic on canvas, wood and motor, at Mark Hatchem (Paris/Beirut), approaches the work of Carlos Cruz Diez’s ceramic “Couleur additive Serie 7,” 2008, which was shown alongside it. Opposing the bright, colorful work of Flores and Diez, illustrating the dark side at Mark Hachem’s offerings, Wolfgang Stiller’s black heads, sculptures of wood, polyurethane and paint, topping wooden rectangular poles look like Easter Island monuments, elevated.
Negating light and color for the power of black and white, Riga, Latvia-born Arturs Virtmanis explained that his “In the Dust of the Universe” installation was inspired by the non-objectivity of Kazimir Malevich’s icon 1915 painting, “Black Square.” The title of Virtmanis’ work refers to contemporary American philosopher Eugene Thacker’s investigations into life in a post-apocalyptic world. Using charcoal, he creates a central sphere, and uses black tape to cross it and adhere it in a linear pattern emanating from the core, to the wall.
That central core is also the focus in work by Mikhail Molochnikov, who works in acrylic ink and mixed media and creates imaginary images using hand-made graphics associated with archetypal cultural codes, enlarging and repeating a small form emanating from its center. Represented by Moscow’s KultProekt Gallery, his “Untitled,” 2014-2020, was shown at Volta.
At the booth of New York City-based Roya Khadjavi Projects, the Safarani Sisters, Farzaneh and Bahareh (who earned their MFAs at Northeastern University in Boston), have continued their practice of painting themselves and each other. Volta also featured one of their video painting installations where a dancer’s movements were projected onto a painted canvas, in, over and next to a bed. It also featured work by Aida Izadpanah, who trained as a city planner. Her solid gold and white ceramic sculptures were inscribed with lines reminiscent of grid lines in architectural sketches. Backed by alternately white, black and grey board, they twist and turn like a Frank Gehry building.
The sparse crowds at this year’s Volta, due to the circulating fear of contracting the Coronavirus, gave the work room to breathe, and viewers space and time to really see it. The work benefited. It came together as a show, dialing down the glitter, bringing the color spectrum to bright in the work displayed at Mark Hachem, while Hiva Alizadeh’s extensions at The Flat brought the contrast up in more black and white work than I have seen before. Artists’ books by Mikhail Molochnikov and the “sculptures” of Lavaughan Jenkins crossed the borders of sculpture and paint, creating new media and genre. It added up to a great Volta show, bigger than last year, in total artworks and space, better in quality, more diverse, in nations and artistic media and styles represented.