2015 ArtExpo at Pier 94

ArtExpo returned to New York at Pier 94 at the foot of 54th Street on Manhattan’s West Side continuing through April 26. This is a massive and commercially important gathering of artists, both established and aspiring – along with galleries, framers and decorators – with a remarkably international draw. Many hundreds of artists are present or represented. I have no basis to think that those with whom I spoke reflect a meaningful cross section – but I like to think they do; they were gracious, open, curious and thoughtful. The variety of works included glass, paint, photography, metal and wood sculpture, multimedia and more. The quality ran the gamut – but there is enough here to think that everyone can find works of interest, and many interesting stories. I love the diversity of people I meet walking through this show. Some cursory reviews follow but none can do justice to the works shown or the personalities behind them. (Top photo: Jordan Matter shooting iconic promo piece.)

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Mark Vassallo

Mark Vassallo, a British-born artist, trained in London including a stint at Central Saint Martin’s – University of the Arts for his photographic work. Shortly out of school, Vassallo moved to Japan to pursue an interest in the art and culture. He made a home there and now lives in Tokyo with his Japanese wife and speaks the language (almost certainly with a British accent). Although Vassallo has done commercial photography, he has been working for some years on capturing single blossoms with subtle colorations. He will find a candidate blossom and shoot in his studio thousands of exposures over a course of days seeking the perfect light and angle. Some of the images displayed are straight prints; some are accented with gold leaf. There is a strong Japanese influence in his aesthetic – in its sparseness and elegance. He is also selling a book of his flower portfolio, beautifully reproduced and discounted for the show.

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Nick Paciorek

Nick Paciorek, originally from Chicago, now works out of Providence. He got the art bug at his uncle’s knee at the age of five and took up a brush himself at the age of 11. He trained at the Art Institute of Chicago and then the Maryland Institute College of Art. He paints a variety of city-scapes (New York, Chicago, and Paris were represented at the ArtExpo) and Martha’s Vineyard perspectives working from photographs and collages. His colors are radiant and cheering. Paciorek remarked that a friend had suggested that he mixed the colors that he liked and then found places for them in his work. Whatever the process, the result is ebullient.

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Ed Kuyper Rainforest Baskets

Ed Kuyper is not an artist. Rather, he imports and sells fine, tightly woven baskets made by a group of families living in the Dorian Gap area of Panama. (He also continues to work for Intel in Portland, Oregon, but that’s another tale.) Twice each year he travels to Panama to maintain relation­ships with his producers/artists. Like Chinese export porcelain, some of these baskets are made expressly for export with motifs intended to appeal overseas. Some have local flora or fauna woven into the designs – which are made with richly colored reed prepared with natural, mostly vegetal dyes. Some are bedecked with octopi, some with paw prints (conjectured by some to be jaguar prints but explained to me as derived from the muddy prints of Skipper, a local dog.) The baskets are, without rationalization, works of art.

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Peter Maier

Peter Maier is a big, bluff personality now working out of the rural Poconos. His early career was as a renowned auto designer, the youngest employed by GM; he has designed for Cadillac, Pontiac and Chevy (among others). His design career was interrupted by a 60’s stint in Vietnam care of Uncle Sam but he returned to the trade when state-side. Around 1980 he took his leave and has been painting since – in a rather unique manner. He typically paints with “experimental” auto paints, on aluminum. He claims to use only eight colors of paint, building up other hues by layering. The works have the sheen of a new automobile, and some, a similar scale. I was particularly drawn to his animal images (but that is my bias). He also paints auto and motorcycle subjects where the metallic finish of his art does double duty in representing the reflective and chromed surfaces of his subjects. It is curious that his technique works so well on models of such diametrically opposite character; that is a testimony to his eye and touch with a brush.

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Matthew Denton Burrows

Matthew Denton (for his great grandpa) Burrows, is a young man seemingly with a touch of R. Crumb and perhaps a scunch of Keith Haring (and one commentator says Hieronymus Bosch) in his work, but with his own intellectual focus and artistic technique. His pieces are highly detailed but evolve organically – taking philosophical turns in the process of creation that depend upon the news of the day and, consequently, the duration of the project. He starts (usually) in the lower left corner, or a more central focal point, without a cartoon or detail schema, and lets things develop as his muse directs. His underlying research encompasses current events and documentaries and his work consequently addresses larger, ultimately political themes having personal relevance for him. He connects ideas intellectually and visually. Burrow’s works may include recognizable figures with a role in his thesis. Each piece has an evolution, a story and a significance which comes to light with a bit of study or the artist’s exegesis. He has been identified as a young artist to watch by a number of art publications. (Read Alix Cohen’s interview with Burrows.)

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Tatiana Agapova, Anna Voloshko, and Nathalie Mendez (L to R)

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Works by Anna Voloshko

The sculptor Anna Voloshko is a smallish Ukrainian woman of modest mien and of some renown in the Ukraine. We spoke through her translator Nathalie Mendez and Art Manager Tatiana Agapova.. Voloshko attended the Republican Art School from the age of five through her adolescence and then attended the Ukrainian National Academy of Art and Architecture. Voloshko was showing bronze sculptures inspired by people she knows. Her brother appears as a cat with small wings, the family pet and angel; her art manager was a large rat (as I understood the explanation) with a tail coat, a bowler, a carpet bag, a cane and a dog. A rather erudite avian figure with walking stick and top hat was described as a self important character idiomatically described in Ukrainian as “an important bird.” The figures are simultaneously engaging and whimsical but sophisticated and portentous. Interesting (to me) Voloshko does her own molding and casting, except for the actual pouring which requires significant physical strength.

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Tom Venning

Tom Venning is a young man from Perth living and working in Vienna; he is simultaneously a business-to-business sales specialist. He works in ink on artisanal papers. with his themes drawing on mythology and nature. He professed significant knowledge of alligators, relevant to his work-in-process. There is no subject known to man irrelevant to art and that makes the artists and the art more interesting in every case. If you are interested in art and the artistic process, walking and talking through this show can be a wonderful experience.

Photos by Fred Cohen. For more information go to his website.

For more about these artists visit their websites: Mark Vassallo; Nick Paciorek; Ed Kuyper/Rainforest baskets;  Matthew Denton Burrows;  Peter Maier; Anna Voloshko;  Tom Venning.

About Fred R. Cohen (40 Articles)
Fred Cohen, a NYC-based photographer, has been taking pictures for over four decades. Locally he does pro bono work for the Wild Bird Fund, an animal rescue and rehab facility in NYC. His work has been published by Harry N. Abrams, Time Magazine and The New York Times. He does commissioned work and sells images from his extensive library. You can see his more casual work on face book and are welcome to visit his website at fredcohenphotography. weebly.com.