Opening just days after a leak of the Supreme Court majority opinion draft to overturn Roe v. Wade, and in the midst of an unjustified Russia-led war in Ukraine, New Art Dealers Alliance, a not-for-profit that operates year-round to support its gallery members and the arts community at large, returns for the 8th edition of its New York fair. The event presents a poignant tableau of art and design works that evoke a particularly honed resilience within these current contexts.
In I Speak of Everything, a standout work from Sri Lankan-Canadian artist Rajni Perera’s series on view with Toronto gallery Patel Brown, a squatting woman figure faces away from the viewer. Presented on hand-marbled and -dyed textile, which is decorated with stone and hand-beaded ornaments, a leopard is depicted in repose above the woman. With reference to diasporic narratives throughout her artwork, Perera also elicits protection over the universal and primordial female body.
Odessa Straub’s sculptural installation at September Gallery offers a similarly powerful commentary: alluding to bodily autonomy, each assemblage on view is made from reused pieces of her own clothing or other recycled ephemera and holds a self-sustaining plant within its form. In their grotesqueness and their beauty, Straub’s works parallel the life-holding nature of the body, while reaffirming the vigorous, autonomous agency of the form.
Lazy Mike, a Moscow-based gallery, features a wall of artwork printouts on utilitarian paper—facsimiles of the works by Russian and Ukrainian artists whose delivery schedules were prohibitively delayed because of the impacts of the war. Otherwise mostly spartan, the exhibit’s strongest presence is through its absences.
The presentation at Voloshyn, a Kyiv-based gallery, is also inevitably couched in the context of wartime. It presents works from Ukrainian artists, including experimental paintings by Lesia Khomenko (who is also showing at the Venice Biennale). Depicting ordinary, local Ukrainian citizens, Khomenko’s paintings are life-sized portraits on bi-flex, a synthetic material whose elasticity she sometimes uses to her advantage to stretch and distort the subject, their humanity nonetheless intact through the resounding intimacy of the portraiture form.
Other highlights throughout the fair include Swivel Gallery’s presentation of artist Walter Cruz, exhibiting a multimedia series of painted wall sculptures wrapped in knotted rope, suggesting both physical captivity and the freedoms of expression; paintings by Adrienne Elise Tarver at Dinner Gallery, in particular Eclipse, which grants visibility to the often-untold labor narratives of enslaved women on plantations in interior, domestic settings; a presentation of wild, frenetic, color-saturated paintings by Julia Jo at Charles Moffet (the full series of which sold out within the first hour of the fair); Proyecto N.A.S.A.L.’s exhibit of Ecuadorian artist Pablo Andino’s funky, tempura-fried wood chips, which are treated as canvases and painted with body-part motifs that beckon touch against the curious texture of the “tempura;” and La Mama Galleria’s presentation of prolific textile artist-designer Liz Collins, whose uncharacteristically monotone series of hand-woven works reflect their inspiration—a fierce, albeit meditative blizzard that persisted throughout the duration of the series’ completion.
Along with an engaging series of programs throughout the weekend, NADA’s 120 galleries, art spaces and nonprofit organizations on view represent not only the 18 countries they geographically span but also a punch-to-the-gut of some of our most topical political plagues, delivering a collective sense of hope in the same blow.