Surprisingly original and interesting works are found at the Clio Art Fair, labeled as the “Anti-Fair for Independent Artists”. The event is worth knowing about since, without prominent advertising or publicity fanfare, it is devoted to works by independent artists, and mounted twice a year in Manhattan. Judging from the latest autumn edition it is something which all interested in art generated by individual passion and dedication, and separated off from the commercial engine of gallery and media-generated trends, should visit, with a good chance to notice and acquire works not yet on the publicity treadmill, which appeal to one’s personal taste and acquisitiveness.
Among many artists there doing good and interesting work without a commercial gallery boosting their appeal, though not without hope of investment as well as emotional gain for buyers if bought from the artists before they are ‘discovered’, were these:
One standout in terms of individual voice and imaginative technical flair was Polish born, Indianapolis resident Stanislaw Goc, who signs his photographs simply with his familiar name Slawek.
“Light is the master of my world” says Slawek, whose individual initiative in his work is one he announces as Reflections: one of a kind photography. The title marks a technique in which he follows his muse by seeking inspiring juxtapositions of sidewalk window displays, and sometimes windscreens, and the reflections of passers by and the architecture of the city that the glass simultaneously presents. To discover this theater of light and image he is constantly adventuring with his camera, shooting stills and short movies. “I can’t sleep at night wondering where I will go next!”
The dual compositions yield intriguing themes, uncovered by Slawek’s imagination, which are both culturally resonant and as evocative as any intentionally staged. This is true even though his open-minded search comes upon them unexpectedly, he says, in a voyage of discovery which is initially more serendipity than purposeful. Yet in being liberated from narrow expectation, in the manner of Henri Cartier-Bresson and other great photographers, he finds totally original and rather painterly compositions which he prints on aluminum plate with little cropping or alteration.
Art market conundrum
Artists who have to make their own decisions about what to present to the public far from their working studio can be forgiven if they play their hand more cautiously than they would naturally like, since they are faced with the marketing problems which agents and galleries exist to take off their hands, especially in New York which is a dynamic market unlike any other.
Slawek seemed to be an example of this overly cautious approach to marketing his work in New York for when he opened his portfolio of his past years of work it revealed many images that at first sight seemed more striking and complex than the four he brought on this trip from Indianapolis, although the Old Jew and Dilemma (the two hung on the right) were distinct, but perhaps this was because the figures and faces in his portfolio selection were inevitably more immediate in impact.
Another artist who seemed to have held back her most powerful work was Catherine Lee, a painter with studios in Sydney and London, whose printed resume stated her aim was to produce “engaging and thoughtful provoking work … to amplify socially controversial and provocative topics that are often considered taboo”.
Yet her paintings at Clio were far from provocative. The problem may have been Catherine Lee’s experience in running into a provincial mindset at her art school in Sydney before she graduated. A bluenose administrator literally imposed a censoring curtain on her sexually explicit images in the school’s annual show, and this absurd event seems to have had the unfortunate effect of curbing her unrestrained exploration of feelings aroused by the electricity of sexual contact. Instead of more works in that line, her choice of paintings to display in New York leaned far into the abstract compared with her powerful earlier work, which was nevertheless readily available in her portfolio as above and below. Many more examples at at Rosestorm in the UK show that she has not been inhibited in the slightest in the years since graduation on any other continent than here.
She was also able to show us on her phone an image of herself standing outside her exhibit in Sydney carrying a notice which expressed the strong exception she took to the untoward repression of her artistic instincts.
There were other artists of note who did seem to have brought their most dynamic work, however. Among them were two whose methods involved a novel way to use materials. Bryant Small from New Jersey brought stained glass into the 21st Century by dissolving high pigmented dye in alcohol and spraying or using gravity by tilting his canvas of acid free paper made from plastic pellets, as he drops the transparent paint onto the surface in what he describes as a “dance” in which he channels the flow and “sometimes I win, sometimes it does!”
The resultant multi colored works have “the stability of a rock” he says once they dry. “I paint from a happy place, ” he says. “I am not one of those tortured artists. I listen to music when I create – dance, party music, or even slow in a good place. Art gave me the freedom of liberation, ” he added. “I am a cancer survivor from Hodgkin’s and non Hodgkins disease, and chemo, ten years ago, it was a disaster, a horrific year and a half. I was at stage three when I started, even though I was not a smoker or a drinker. But I was in fight mode.”
Perhaps the most remarkable result at the fair was which artworks sold out completely. The whole group of photographs hung on the wall by Denver’s Amanda J. Armstrong emded up with red dot stickers, even though the nature of the images might have led some viewers to feel they were the least likely to find buyers of all the art in the Fair.