Last weekend New York City has got quite an art treat – both the Pulse Contemporary Art Fair and The Armory Show took place in the city, introducing, once again, the public to the modern and contemporary artists from around the world. Each year these shows bring the art galleries that represent very diverse artists – from such local favorites as Marina Abramovic to such beloved artists of the 19th Century as Salvador Dali and Joan Miro. Thousands of people from New York City, tourists in town and American people from other parts of USA rush to these art fairs each year in search for a new artist (art work) and/or to see the new works of their favorites. Of course, there’s another big reason behind these art shows - to sell art and, according to the show organizers, they’ve been doing pretty well. So, let’s talk about the art shows.

This year the Pulse Contemporary Art Fair celebrated its 10th edition of PULSE New York that took over the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea for four days, March 5-8, 2015, offering a focused collection of 14 single-artist solo booth exhibitions, The PROJECTS segment showcasing the work of 6 artists, PLAY screening of 4 videos and new media works which have been curated by Billy Zhao of the Marina Abramovic Institute. The PERSPECTIVES consisted of a roundtable on Miami’s art programs moderated by Claire Breukel, and a special curator focused featuring 10 curators from the New York area.

Personally I was very pleasantly surprised of this year’s representation of the Brooklyn artists, whose number even overshadowed the New York City galleries and, frankly speaking, were more impressive than their city counterparts. It seems that the Brooklyn community has been rapidly growing in all the areas in the past few years – from cuisine to art, from real estate to fashion, and this fair was an honest proof of that.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary year, PULSE New York continued the momentum established during its successful Miami Beach edition, which realized major sales and acclaim last season at its new mid-Miami Beach home. The tightly-curated fair, which is dedicated to cutting-edge contemporary art, this year explored the theme of The Future through its immersive programming and special events. This year a focused collection of 14 single-artist exhibitions featured the following solo booths: Elisabeth Condon, Emerson Dorsch; Diana Copperwhite, 523 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel; Yevgeniy Fiks, Galerie Sator; Melissa Maddonni Haims, InLiquid; Ye Hongxing, ART LEXÏNG; Peter Kappa, PAC GALLERY; Osamu Koboyashi, Mindy Solomon Gallery; Moby, Emmanuel Fremin Gallery; Russell Nachman, LMAKprojects; Fabiano Parisi, CYNTHIA CORBETT GALLERY; Alyse Rosner, RICK WESTER FINE ART; Jonathan Wahl, Sienna Patti; Katsutoshi Yuasa, Yuki-Sis; and Zio Ziegler, ANTONIO COLOMBO ARTE CONTEMPORANEA which are all eligible for the PULSE Prize. The Prize, which is a cash award granted to an artist being exhibited in a solo booth, will be selected by a guest jury. The jurors are Lisa Erf, Director and Chief Curator of the JP Morgan Chase Art Collection; Sherry Dobbin, Director of Public Art, Times Square Alliance; Julie Baumgardner, art writer for New York Magazine; and Lisa Anastos, Art Collector and Philanthropist.

Over a quarter of the fair was comprised of two artist presentations offering visitors a chance to see a dual conversation of art works. The relationships between these artists’ practices can be either confrontational or complementary and span a range of styles, media and subject creating dynamic interfaces in intimate spaces. Philip Bloom Gallery (from Nantucket MA) exhibited Eli G. Halpern and Patrick Shoemaker who share a vivid use of ephemeral color tones, yet differ in their choices of surrealist versus abstract techniques. Lesley Heller Workspace (from New York City) combined the sculptural installation work of Jim Osman who re-contextualizes objects, and Katherine Newbegin who photographs empty buildings exploring the cultural representations of their creators. Gallery LVS (from South Korea) presented Tae-Jin Seong and Won-Kun Jun who incorporate a range of color in their work with contrasting approaches. Another New Yorker - gallery nine5 presented Jessica Lichtenstein who explores modern international reinterpretations of hyper-sexualized female depictions and Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann who bridges traditional Asian techniques with an investigation of her American environment. De Soto Gallery (from Venice, CA) exhibited Osamu Yokonami who explores the fragility of human nature juxtaposed with the idea of innocent collective identity through group portraiture, and Lauren Plageman whose photographic works oscillate between image and object, sculpture, landscape and still life.

The PROJECTS section of the fair included a large site-specific entry way installation by Rachel Mica Weiss presented by Uprise Art (NYC), monumental sculptures by Aaron T Stephan and Lauren Fensterstock presented by Sienna Patti, paintings by emerging London-based artist Danny Rolph presented by523 Gallery (Ontario, FL) Thomas Jaeckel, a video sculpture by Jonathan Calm, presented by LMAKprojects (NYC) - which was one of my favorites this year, and TRANSFER gallery (Brooklyn, NY) presented two digital works, a large-scale digital print by Carla Gannis - my other favorite who uses the pop-culture of emoji to interpret the current state of a human mind – seeing the world through emoji - and Jamie Zigelbaum’s PIXEL, an interactive electronic light installation activated by human touch: "My work examines the narrativity of 21st century representational technologies and questions the hybrid nature of identity, where virtual and real embodiments of self diverge and intersect. I feel akin to past and contemporary artists and writers who uncannily deconstruct rigid notions of reality and perception. The extension of this sensibility with computer-based applications is only natural to me as a reflection upon the Digital Age in which we all coexist." - says Carla Gannis about her work.

PLAY, the dedicated showcase for video and new media section of the fair, presented by Tumblr, was organized by guest curator Billy Zhao from the Marina Abramovic Institute. PLAY’s selections were focused on the fair’s theme of The Future. The selected works for PLAY were Christina Benz, Pool (2005) from CYNTHIA CORBETT GALLERY (NYC); Tom Pnini, Snow Demo (2010) from Lesley Heller Workspace; Lilly McElroy, A Woman Runs Through A Pastoral Setting (2013) from RICK WESTER FINE ART; and William Powhida, Exit Interview (2011) from Gallery Poulsen.

PERSPECTIVES, the series of intimate in-depth conversations between prominent art world insiders, included Miami’s Art Programs: fresh approaches in a unique city. This roundtable discussion was moderated by Claire Breukel, a Miami-based writer and curator and featured Brandi Reddick, Curator, Miami-Dade Art in Public Places and Carolyn Travis, Executive Director for Tourism, Bal Harbour Village. Other Perpsectives participants included Matthew Israel, art historian, writer, Artsy Curator at Large and Director Emeritus for the Art Genome Project; Ryan Wong, arts writer, curator and Program Director at Asian American Writers’ Workshop and Rocio Aranda-Alvarado, Curator at El Museo del Barrio among others. Each featured speaker had about ten minutes to answer ten group-generated questions related to the theme of The Future.

Having spoken with the art fair organizers, art gallery owners and artists in the past, I could tell you that these events are extremely important for the participants, especially those who come from other countries. These events give the international artists not only a great exposure to the art aficionados from around the world but also a great exposure to some of the most serious collectors in the world, taken that New York City is considered to be the mega destination of all creative from around the world. No other city could provide so much diversity as NYC does and the artists know it.

This year I was very pleasantly surprised by the works from Berlin, Paris, South Korea, Scandinavia and Brooklyn, as I’ve mentioned above, and a bit disappointed by no show from Russia and little if at all representation from the Eastern Europe. Italy, Spain, Los Angeles and Miami were on a weak side this time around as well, which is unfortunate, because Miami and Los Angeles are the two places, where the art scene has been booming. I was also sad that Marina Abramovic – with the exception of two photographs with her in them sold by the Sean Kelly from New York City (Artist Portrait with a Candle, 2012) and Galleri Brandstrup (from Oslo) – partook in neither of the shows this year. And Sean Kelly didn’t even pick the most interesting photograph with Abramovic from the 14 photographs they represent. Personally, #11 would have been of more interest to me as it is extremely provocative and it’s from the show Seven Easy Pieces she did at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC that I actually went to see in 2005.

Modern and contemporary art, as I’ve said many times before, is a very strange animal. One either gets it or not, but there’s a certain need in each of us to want to understand the modern art because it’s so freakishly wonderful in its own strange, abstract, subliminal ways. When I look at a piece of modern art, I really want to understand what the artist had in mind, even though I’ve heard many times the experts say that modern art is all about your own interpretation – what you see, how you feel and not the author. However, as much as I’d like to agree with it and see my own ‘version’ in an art piece, I tend to want to know what was the artist thinking when creating his/her work. This is also due to the fact that I’m also extremely interest in the artist mindset. For me, such artists as Savador Dali, Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miro, El Lissitzky, Pablo Picaso, Ivan Picelj, Juan Gris, Marina Abramovic would always be a mysterious in a very good way wanting to study and understand the individual behind the work. Surrealism, Cubism and Abstract art had always fascinated me. Once one of the art critics gave me a very good advice – to first look at an art piece and then – the name of the artist who made it. This way, your perception and understanding of the art would not be polluted by the preconceived notion of a particular artist and his/her style. And he was right. Once one looses that accumulated knowledge of a particular artist, the mind opens up to a whole new array of the interpretations. Try it.

Now, let’s talk about my favorites and the reason behind it - here’s a summary of what caught my attention and/or surprised:

Katja Loher’s Videoplanets digital installation that brings awareness to the planet’s flora and fauna. from C24 Gallery in NYC. A very powerful and visually interesting piece.

Ryan McGinnesss Untitled (Fluorescent Women Part)- when I saw it, I instantly knew where he’s coming from. His work reminded me of both Bauhaus and Swiss design, which are ones of my favorite design schools. The combination and overlapping of the colors is very attractive to me, as well as the overall concept of showing the women parts in a very sensual and erotic way.

Carla Gannis’ The Garden of Emoji Delights – in which Gannis contextualizes Emoji within the iconographic lieage of the works of Hieronymus Bosch, re-inscribing is triptych by using the newsecular, pop vocabulary of signs and digital symbols.

A very pleasant surprise was seeing a very diverse representation of the works of my fellow students from School of Visual Arts - the video installation by Wednesday Kim “I have gotten so used to be the melancholia” is a very fun piece of work. 

I was also very happy to see the works of the artists from the Republic of Georgia, which is a rare sight. Beso Uznadze, Untitled, of Project ArtBeat presented a very unique beautiful piece showing an intimate moment between a pregnant woman and a man. Or, at least this is how I interpreted this work. Photographer Beso Uznadze mostly works on photo reports and series. He takes his inspiration from daily life, ordinary feelings and from the occurrences such as: melancholy, happiness, love, separation, sex, death, fear… from all those things that is going in and around of his life. Beso always tells us some stories mainly about his life and people who he meets in everyday life. His work is dominated.

And a special thank you to Barcelona gallery, Mayoral Galeria D'Art, that brought Dali, Picasso and Miro to the fair. It's always a treat for a sore eye and also is a great opportunity to see how the pioneers of the modern and contemporary art stand against the modern artists of the new century. Hard to image that there are still some of the works of these artists that are not part of a private collection.

And last, but not least, the Pulse Prize winner this year is the painter Elizabeth Condon, whose works have been shown at the fair by Miami’s Emerson Dorsch Gallery and included five large-scale mixed-media paintings, four ink on vellum drawings and a vibrant red toile wallpaper design, all inspired by the artist’s recent travels to Shanghai (and shipped directly from China to the fair). Inspired equally by Chinese ink wash painting and American modernism, the paintings feature elements of Shanghai’s iconic skyline against bright swaths of color offset by sparkling glitter. Here is more of her work. Condon, who is known for her lush colorful paintings, is a Los Angeles native who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York and Tampa, Florida. She is the recipient of a Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant, a Florida Individual Artist Grant, a Confucius Institute Understanding China Fellowship, and has received numerous university research grants. 
“Elizabeth Condon’s new paintings are spectacular," says juror Lisa K. Erf, Director and Chief Curator of the JPMorgan Chase Art Collection. "They convey a deep understanding of Chinese Literati and Postwar American painting traditions that is surprisingly fresh and completely her own.” 
Here are some of the digital/art installation works I liked: 
• Kathleen Vance "Brown Traveling Landscape" 2014 
• Katja Loher's "Videoplanets" 
• Wednesday Kim "I have gotten so used to be the melancholia"

By: Alisa Krutovsky