In the middle of its second year exhibition, the Seattle Art Fair has grown in size, style, and is undoubtedly going to make a serious impression on the North American art world. Up to 80-some exhibiting galleries, from 60 in its inaugural year, the fair boasts a refreshing and enriching array of exhibitors and artists: from up-and-comers to, as one exhibitor put it, the “big dogs”.
The amount of sheer wit present in works from artists like Phil Shaw at Rebecca Hossack’s booth, or Damon Davis’ incredible photographs exhibited by the Wildwood Press makes this fair one to fear missing out on. The Warhols, the Hirsts (not the formaldehyde tanks, unfortunately), and the Picassos are standouts, certainly, but to overlook the incredible technique utilized in paintings by Tom Birkner, or the immaculate fall-off of light in Linden Frederick’s Redemption (2011) from Forum Gallery, would be a travesty.
Phil Shaw’s sharp and poignant Frequently Asked Questions (2015) from Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery is a time consumer. Shaw’s digital prints at first appear to be nothing more than the spines of books, nestled carefully into a dark wood bookcase. Upon closer inspection, beginning from left to right, the viewer finds questions on one spine, followed by answers on the next. This photo is the cause of hours of enjoyment and loitering from fair-goers, often shrieking as they read the spines aloud (“Why is my child obese? Because men went hungry!” they holler, or “To be, or not to be? That is the question!” The true lovers of well known theatre get into that one). The Special Relationship (2015), hung next to the FAQ, is a print of the same nature, detailing graphically in colour, Britain and the EU.
Upfor Gallery modestly hung potentially the most jarring work of the fair: a video looped and reversed by Heidi Schwegler called Grayout (2013) which depicts a furious seeming dog–pulling on its leash, seeming to gnash at the air–that has been mirrored horizontally around the temple of the dog’s head. What’s created is a viscerally surreal and alien form that is absolutely mesmerizing–making something fearsome and unfamiliar out of something we see regularly.
Wildwood Press, in its first year at the show (after having been waitlisted) features All Hands On Deck (2015) large prints from a non-artist artist named Damon Davis. They are enlargements of iPhone photos that Davis, who lives in Ferguson, MO, has taken of the hands of people he knows, raised in surrender. Davis initially had taken these photos and plastered the hands on walls of boarded up buildings in his neighbourhood. Maryanne Ellison Simmons of Wildwood Press, also based in Missouri, convinced Davis to show the works, promising to leave them unaltered. What’s created is a collection of portraits potentially more intimate and telling than those of a face, snapped on the most ubiquitous camera available to the public, detailing the struggle that is also easily knowable by communities throughout North America. The images are incredibly poignant and are a definite must-see at this year’s fair.
The fair, sprawling, is full from edge to edge with high quality works from artists of all associations–that's the sweet thing about smaller fairs: there's a celebration of smaller and local talent. Opening last night to almost 4,000, it’s clear that the Fair will not only be back next year, but has successfully cemented Seattle on the art map.
Photography by George Reagh. The Seattle Art Fair runs through Sunday.