Art on Paper Folds Together Elegance and Unruliness

With 85 galleries this year, the New York art fair devoted to works on paper explores the large and small, the personal and political.

by Daniel A. Gross

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 Timothy Paul Myers and Andrew Barnes, “Understory” (all images by the author for Hyperallergic)


If you walk to the southernmost part of the Lower East Side, past a waterfront construction site, a fire station, and a row of graffiti-covered trucks, you’ll find — or, depending on your sense of direction, possibly not find — Art on Paper 2018 inside the giant Pier 36 warehouse. This year, the event is larger than ever before, with 85 galleries bringing together drawings, paintings, photography, sculpture, and a range of other objects and oddities. On opening night, March 8, a drummer and electric cello player performed live near the entrance, making the fair sound like a podcast in which hundreds of people have gathered to murmur about art and sip bubbly from plastic cups.

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 Installation view of Art on Paper 2018

Last year, visitors were met at the entrance with giant towers of hand-cut paper, and the 2018 fair plays with scale in a similar way. Just past the ticket booth, a shipping container-sized room contains everything you’d expect to see in a live-in basement — a couch, a television, harsh lightbulbs, stairs — but all of it is wrapped in orange felt. The installation is “Understory,” by Timothy Paul Myers and Andrew Barnes (whose work also became a favorite last year), and it earns the attention it attracts. Delightful details crowd the room: clothes strewn about, boxes shoved part of the way into corners. One almost expects an orange-colored college dropout to come walking down the stairs. It has the opposite effect of a cloth-wrapped Christo building: instead of elevating architecture with an artistic intervention, Myers and Barnes soften and electrify an almost claustrophobic domestic space.

As visitors move past the entrance, into the dozens of booths that line the room, the work quickly shrinks in size. One tiny work — smaller than a sheet of printer paper — manages to catch the eye by imitating insect displays in natural history museums. “Afterlife,” by Rachel Grobstein, appears to capture and categorize all sorts of biological and pop cultural matter: a football helmet, a lightning bolt, earthworms, an hourglass. Amidst the brightly-colored clutter, the tiny eyes of paper birds stare out at you.


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 Rachel Grobstein, “Afterlife,” gouache, paper, pins




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Vincent Arcilesi, Summer Night in Rome.
Vincent Arcilesi, Summer Night in Rome. On View at Arcilesi Retrospective.

A fully-formed surrealism permeates the figurative works of Vincent Arcilesi in his retrospective, on view from October 26-29 at the High Line Loft in Chelsea. The human figure reigns supreme in Arcilesi’s masterworks, in which various stages of life from birth to death, and various actions over the course of that life, are documented with a fine-tuned stylistic quality. Arcilesi treats his figures according to their surroundings: a warm light permeates outdoor figures while his indoor scenes display a more muted treatment of light. The flesh tones exhibit a plaintive quality: beckoning the viewer in to discover more while holding true to a sumptuous treatment of form. Throughout his works, Arcilesi demonstrates a strong knowledge of color, infusing his works with strong hues that delicately balance the composition of his works.

Detail from ”Dreamers in a Palace Square”, Vincent Arcilesi
Detail from ”Dreamers in a Palace Square”, Vincent Arcilesi, On View in Retrospective

Arcilesi’s storied career takes center stage on this exhibition, with figure studies, sketches and landscapes supplementing these rich, large-scale figurative paintings. The range of human emotions are placed in the framework, in many cases, of the classical world. Allegories and mythological references abound, as do art historical references. The multiple layers of meaning embedded in the works only serve to elevate the high quality of the artworks themselves. A pleasant marriage of form and content results.

Duane Street Loft by Vincent Arcilesi
Duane Street Loft by Vincent Arcilesi, On View at Retrospective

A visit to the Arcilesi retrospective is crucial visit for any art lover passing through New York City who admires the classical stylings which Arcilesi masterful wields. The show is on view from 12-6 pm on Saturday, Oct 28 and Sunday, Oct 29 at the High Line Loft, 508 W 26th Street #5G.

by Audra Lambert
Art Critic, Curator, Cultural Producer