It’s no secret that art and activism go hand and hand—artists are not ones to shy away from questioning and critiquing social and political structures. Reflecting on this spring’s art fairs, it’s clear that onset of a new, uneasy era has spurred an emergence of blatantly political art. At New Art Dealers Alliance or NADA, this was a recurring theme— evident by the work itself, and the fact that 50% of profits were donated to the ACLU.
This year, NADA hosted their fair at Skylight Clarkson North, a drastic change from their previous, much smaller venue on the east side. The increase in square footage allowed for comfortable gallery booths as well as an expansive performance space. For me, the most exciting works mixed playfulness with maturity— cumulating a strong sense of identity in a time of crisis.
There’s no one more political than Jenny Holzer, and her Inflammatory Essays don’t hold back in the slightest bit. They are caustic, candid, and totally obliterate the concept of the patriarchy. Anyone with an interest in art has likely seen them before, but their inclusion at NADA wasn’t the least bit redundant— instead, it was a reminder that her words are still just as valid today.
// MERIEM BENNANI AT SIGNAL GALLERY
If there’s advertisements for seasonal clothing, why not seasonal hijab’s? Meriem Bennani answers this question with her ad for the “funjab”. Although lighthearted and witty, she addresses a serious subject. Bennani takes an article of clothing that has been the subject of absurd discourse and contempt, and reclaims it by placing it in a sphere of normalcy.
// ALEX EAGLETON AT SAFE GALLERY
Upon approaching Safe Gallery’s booth at the NADA fair, you may have noticed something very different right off the bat. Firstly, upon entering you are met with a baby pink carpet that exudes a cheap, suburban sadness. Then you probably noticed the colorful bongs scattered across the floor. The entire scene is pretty symbolic, but also incredibly playful and honest.
// JOHN EDMONDS AT LTD LOS ANGELES
It’s hard to ignore soul-bearing work of John Edmonds, which made him a standout at NADA (deservingly so). His series titled Du-rags features multiple portraits of black men in du-rags, anonymous figures representing black culture and masculinity. This series is a follow up to his previous work that featured men in hoodies, a nod to a major material symbol of racial profiling and police brutality.
// MAX MASLANSKY AT DUTTON GALLERY
What might look like a soft, romantic painting, is completely subverted by the ingenious stylings of Max Maslansky. He recreates pornographic photos by painting directly on bedsheets— mimicking stains left behind by lovers. This work features a dominating female figure illuminated by warm colors and a vibrant innocence.
It doesn’t get more raw and relatable than a collage of thrashed denim and camel cigarettes. Reimagining materials that are perhaps the most familiar to us, Wendy White transforms the most common components into a charming, crafty collage. It’s a relief from the hodge-podge of abstractism that can feel tiring and inaccessible.
// JOSH MANNIS AT ERIC HUSSENOT
Hussenot’s painting, which features a group of terrified female figures is jam packed with contextualized references. For starters, there’s the not-so-subtle symbols of the white house and the assault rifle in the background. Accompanied by women clutching each other in complete terror, the connotation here presented by Josh Mannis is anything but understated.