The Flux Art Fair –Harlem’s Second Renaissance

Sandra Bertrand

 

If you think of juke joints and grits, Billie Holiday blues, or even that certain world-famous basketball team globetrotting their way around the world when you hear the word “Harlem,” you’d be only half right.  The other part is about art—most recently the Flux Art Fair.  The first contemporary art fair mounted in the beautifully renovated Corn Exchange Building, it’s putting culture on the map of the ‘hood’ with a capital “C.”

 

Fair founder Leanne Stella sees the Fair’s mission as “a way to showcase artists that underscore the cultural zeitgeist that is Harlem.”  Launched in May to coincide with the internationally recognized Frieze art fair, it embraces a unique criteria—the 21st century artist as a nomad, a creator whose nationality, ethnicity, gender or religion is combined with a global consciousness.

 

That might sound like a lofty undertaking, but Ms. Stella and her curatorial team have come up with a stimulating smorgasbord for the curious palate.  On the opening morning, Jeffrey Allen Price was putting the final touches on his trademark “brickolages,” compressed columns utilizing layers of faux-bricks interspersed with what he calls “the “byproducts of the life process.” Toothpaste tubes and every other imaginable item exemplify daily existence. A personal favorite was his Diptych: Cornerstones of Artistic Process, representing 20-plus years of used paintbrushes and other studio paraphernalia.  Price may be a packrat, but he personifies “upcycling.”

 

Pryce isn’t the only one who finds inspiration in the universe of waste transformed.  Margaret Roleke  utilizes brass casings and spent shells for her imagery.  The blight of overpopulated cities abound in Alexis Duque’s paintings with the commercialism that entails—Nestle candy bars and Gucci are all fair game.

 

If urban sprawl is worthy subject matter, the seeding of other planets is Musa Hixson’s answer.  Following a residency at Wave Hill—a botanical wonderland in the Bronx that nurtures ecologically-minded artists, Hixson created his Boat Garden Launch Pad.  Comprising a vertical canoe festooned with air plants and sporting an adjacent scaffolding, he harbors hopes of sending his green message into space.  A purely aesthetic delight with organic underpinnings is Sui Park’s suspended amoeba shapes.  White cable ties in the artist’s hands create an almost mystical magic.

 

Perhaps the most international in scope is Danielle Siegelbaum’s series of nine acrylic panels depicting a potpourri of cultures in bold, almost childlike renditions.  And Ivan Forde’s surrealistic digital and screen prints, one with disparate eyes and ears falling from the clouds, evoke the early work of Man Ray.  

 

But it is Uday Dhar’s The New Americans, Adam and Eve that gets my vote for the most majestic mixed media painting in the show.  Its gigantic masked couple are a worthy pair that could share the stage with some of the artists’ favorite predecesssors—Durer, de Kooning and Picasso among them. 

 

There’s nothing in flux here about this wonderful fair—we can only hope it has found a permanent home in Harlem.  

 

 

 

 

Author Bio:

Sandra Bertrand is Highbrow Magazine’s chief art critic.

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Ivan Forde, Margaret Roleke, Musa Hixson, JeffreyAllen Pryce, Danielle Siegelbaum
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