For 35 years ArtExpo’s juried NYC exposition has brought together publishers, galleries and art collectors with established and emerging artists. This year, over 400 far-flung artists, galleries and publishers are showing original artwork, prints, paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, ceramics, giclee, lithographs, glass and fabric works at Pier 94 from April 4 to 6. This is purportedly the largest international gathering of trade buyers, art dealers, designers, architects, corporate art buyers and art and framing retailers. Discussion panels were carried on throughout the day. I walked through the show stopping to talk to artists whose work was most intriguing to me.
I was frequently impressed with the sincerity, creativity and passion of the artists – of all ages, and as much with the resilience of the many whose work attracted little attention. Most artists need to find the strength to define success in their own terms and not in dollars since so few will rise to the point of commercial viability. I spoke with artists from Africa, Europe, Canada, Asia and the Americas – and I talked only to a small minority of those represented.
I spoke first with Nelly Lim, a young woman working in Quebec some of whose work addressed her Chinese heritage and the remarkable transition from its tradition-bound to contemporaneously oriented culture. Another of her series addressed current society’s tendency to discard the imperfect – both artifacts and persons. Although young, she was deeply philosophical and mature in the conception and execution of her work.
I spoke briefly with Azamat Kuliev, a 50 year old Russian painter trained in St. Petersburg but living, painting and teaching in Istanbul, Turkey. He paints, in a Renaissance style of light and shadow, figures which grab you emotionally. His work is mesmerizing if a little gothic in its darkness. He struggled with his English but his paint brush was always eloquent.
Lisa Cueman, a 16th generation Bermudian now living in Vermont, having grown up with horses, has been making beautiful equine photography since 2009. She shot her current series in the outer banks. Her prints are tonally rich and visceral. If you are passionate about horses, her images must charm you.
Oronde Kairi is an enthusiastic man, personally warm and with a talent for affectionate caricature. His major piece at the show (see photo) was painted from a family photograph. It made me smile, and he made me smile.
Šlipas (Arturas Šlipavicius) is a flamboyant and puckish Lithuanian whose paintings combine the aesthetics of klimt and Hundertwasser. He is also known for his music. Šlipas created a number of music/painting fusion projects with jazz musician and composer V. Labutis and in 1987, together with film director A. Barysas, he founded the avant-garde music group “Ir visa tai, kas yra gražu, yra gražu” (“And all that is beautiful is beautiful”). When I encountered him, Šlipas (above with his wife) was taking obvious and active joy in interacting with the public.
I was engaged by Michael Cuomo whose mostly anthropomorphic assemblages from found objects were playful and often charming. He is an ebullient man who was trained, in part, at Bronx Community College; his work reflects a kind of visual jazz and a somewhat unexpected sophistication.
Hernan Garcia is a compact Colombian painter who studied in Italy and now paints in Stamford. His work is abstract but has weight. I was hooked by the contrast between the gravitas of his work on the one hand and his ready smile and lack of pretense on the other.
It is readily apparent that artists love to explain their work if you will venture to invite the exchange; that conversation enriches the viewing experience, and the human experience, on both sides.