A Painting-Centric Fair Marks 10 Years of NADA in New York

The New Art Dealer’s Alliance (NADA) fair is known as an art world stage for up-and-comers and a beacon of emerging trends. Spread across four floors in a loft-style building in Chelsea — linked by a perilously steep concrete staircase — the 10th edition of NADA presents a mixed roster of newbies and success stories who deliver a painting-centric show where sci-fi, absurdism, and surrealism shine.

Perhaps due in part to their proximity to the bottleneck staircase, two works at Thursday’s opening attracted a constant crowd. Near the entrance to the third floor, Fabian Treiber’s “I Was Up Before Dawn” (2024) consumes an oversized portion of New York-based Ruttkowski;68 Gallery’s booth. Three canvases appear to delineate the walls of a home where the domestic interior melds with the outside world. A fawn swims near the sink of a flooded room. Human hands enter the corners of the mammoth painting. The work is dreamy and at times gory, the exact characteristics that dominate some of the best canvases at this year’s fair. 

A floor below, Rachel Uffner Gallery presents Arghavan Khosravi’s “True to Self” (2023), an almost interactive work featuring a mirror and a 360-degree view of the central subject. A freestanding pillar displays a woman’s face with red earbuds, their cords draping down her lush head of hair like streaks of blood. Her painted face is as smooth as an airbrushed photograph, and the entire work is detailed with Khosravi’s careful renditions of traditional Persian manuscript illuminations. The push and pull of modernity and tradition is on full display, as it is in all of Khosravi’s work, which comments on the assigned societal roles of Iranian women like herself.

The booth also features work by Sacha Ingber, who creates absurdist sculptures peppered with nods toward her Brazilian heritage. Bikinis and rattan are fused with glazed earthenware, and in one large-scale work displayed on the floor, a binder adorned with tassels and rings that Ingber welded contains blown-up images of the artist’s tax forms.

“Does it have some kind of deeper meaning?” I asked the gallerist. “Not really,” she responded. “It’s pretty much just that she thinks it’s kind of comic to have something that’s really serious and mundane.”

More nonsensical but nonetheless engaging and personal work is on view at the booth of Australian-based gallery Diane Singer. Kirsty Budge’s stunning earth-toned canvases are filled with recognizable forms (a hippo, plenty of faces, and a few phallic objects) arranged into perfectly balanced abstractions. Budge, who was at the fair’s opening, told me that many visitors had commented on the hippo, a form that had emerged in her underpainting.

“They’re actually incredibly violent, but to me, they’re kind of cheeky and childlike,” she said. Other figures look like they’re straight out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Upon closer inspection, a figure holding flowers in “Arch Mimesis” (2024) is actually carrying a head of broccoli.

“I wanted to sublimate fear and horror in some way and be able to create spaces that you can’t be in,” Budge continued. “I’m trying to convey things that we might not have words for — like complicated feelings of claustrophobia and agoraphobia at the same time.” 

The gallerist described the artist’s paintings as a sort of window into Budge’s television-like mind. “They go into other realms, all of these little works and little portals,” Budge said. “You can follow subconscious thoughts, and I like having lots of little stories within one work.”

Other offerings are more explicitly narrative-based. Korea-based gallery Foundry Seoul presents the creepy, sci-fi-inspired paintings of Jang Jongwan, in which pastel pink mushrooms cap trees and a mountain. Below, animals in hazmat suits engage in tasks ranging from cute to sinister, including tending to a tiny home inside a tree trunk, shoveling, and hoisting a goose that appears destined for slaughter. Marigold Santos’s paintings at Toronto-based gallery Patel Brown reimagine the shapeshifting aswang figure from Filipino folklore.

At the both of Jack Barrett, Anna Plesset’s “Value Study 5: Kaaterskill Clove / Copied from a picture by Harriet C. Peale / 1858” (2024) is a shimmering example of the artist’s painstakingly reproduced paintings of centuries-old work by overlooked women of the Hudson River School. The artist has so carefully mimicked the Google image result for Peale’s 1858 landscape that it looks like a printout. The gallerist assured me, however, that even the perfectly painted font was done freehand.

Like many of the paintings upstairs, a few highlights on the ground floor also rely on exceedingly familiar imagery. Salvador Dominguez’s encaustic-on-board works look like needlework. The women on Gabriela Vainsencher’s porcelain wall hangings share an uncanny resemblance to Strega Nona. Nikki Maloof’s remarkable print “Dinner Is Served” (2021) features the blue and white plates that populate grandmothers’ homes and the shelves of Goodwill.    

They’re a pleasant diversion from the absurdist artworks at this year’s NADA, but those, too, rely less on heady artworld tropes and more on pure imagination.

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