Seattle Art Fair 2016 Gallery Booth Guide: Black Out

Posted on August 05, 2016, 1:30 am
6 mins

The stark power of black is not limited to the sinuous strokes of sumi-e and the pressed ink of lithography. Some artists have made it a central and recognizable part of their overall aesthetic philosophy, from Francisco Goya to Kazmir Malevich to Wally Hedrick.

Seattle Art Fair 2016 is getting a bold blast of black at the booth of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, which will be completely consumed by an installation from artist Clay Apenouvon. It’s hard to miss in Booth C10 (and I also recommend visiting her gallery in town, where other works by Apenouvon are on display). It’s one of the five booths we highlight for the fair.

Here are three dramatically black works on view at SAF 2016.

Claire Oliver Gallery (New York, NY), Booth E13

“The Order of Things” by Lauren Fensterstock

The Order of Things by Lauren Fensterstock

“The Order of Things” by Lauren Fensterstock. 2016, Wood, shells, mixed media. 78″ x 94″ x 24″. Image courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery.

Artist Lauren Fensterstock is working almost exclusively in black in recent years, creating installations (sometimes filling rooms) with piles and drooping masses of materials covered in black rubber. This is black maximalism, sometimes elegant, sometimes ominous, often both. In “The Order of Things,” Fensterstock’s black masses belch from three wall curios. The compartmental nature of the shelves indeed implies an imposed order, not a natural one. It is a means of categorization and separation, specification and division. The seashells, stalactite forms, blackness all imply something abyssal, unconscious, deeper, bigger, beyond simplification and impossible to compartmentalize.

It will be interesting to see Fensterstock’s looming forms share the booth with Beth Lipan‘s equally baroque but luminous glass and wood installation, “Laid (Time-)Table With Cycads.” Kudos, Claire Oliver Gallery.

Petzel Gallery (New York, NY), Booth B6

“Entropy” by Hiroki Tsukuda

hiroki Tsukuda black drawing Entropy at Seattle Art Fair.

Entropy by Hiroki Tsukuda. 2015, Black ink and charcoal on paper. 86.6″ x 159.5″. Image courtesy of Petzel Gallery.

There are actual several works at the Petzel Gallery booth that I could choose for this theme, including Alan McCullom‘s “Collection of Sixty Drawings,” which would have even been a sort of visual rhyme with Fensterstock’s work above. (Its arrangement of symmetrical, abstract black silhouettes seems a sort of specimen display.)

But the chaos and compositional genius of Hiroki Tsukuda‘s trapezoidal drawing “Entropy” is just too good to not discuss. The very shape forces a sort of perspective on the viewer, as if one is looking not straight ahead, but slightly down through a trap door into a jumble of signage, architectural fragments, bits of surveillance, hooded forms, etc. It’s more symmetrical than it first appears, with graphic elements on the edges mirroring each other and stark lines rising up at the center, creating a sense of space that is then defied by the flattened fragments that fill it. They all look ready to plummet into the total darkness at bottom. One might see a failing technocracy, or perhaps a quixotic attempt to triumph over oblivion through order (political, architectural, numeric, et al). No matter the specifics of how one sees it, it strikes a balance between foreboding and exuberance through its graphic play.

Richard Gray Gallery (Chicago, IL and New York, NY), Booth A13

“Duna (Black Head)” by Jaume Plensa

Jaume Plensa duna black head at seattle art fair 2016

“Duna (Black Head)” by Jaume Plensa. 2015, Murano glass. 39 3/4″ x 13 3/4″ x 12 7/8″. Image courtesy of Richard Gray Gallery.

Personally, I love Jaume Plensa‘s monumental sculpture “Echo” towering at the edge of the Olympic Sculpture Park, but those who feel differently may be more receptive to his murano glass sculpture, “Duna.” Like “Echo,” it is also of a young girl’s head stretched to roughly three times its normal height (respective to its width and depth), but at just under 40-inches tall it could actually fit in someone’s home. Where one puts it there will make all the difference. (A sculpture like this needs to be elevated in the space, but not tower over the viewer. It might look moribund on its own dais or pedestal in a home, but finding companion pieces could be an effort in itself.) You can ponder these matters of design when you see it in person, but don’t let that distract you from just being present with the object itself: a surface glossy, black as obsidian; a face, placid and fair; Anima and Shadow in one exquisite, enigmatic monolith.


There are lots of other great works in black matter at the Seattle Art Fair. Here are some suggestions:

  • Backslash Gallery, Booth B27: “Parachute Painting 60,” Resin pigment on parachute, 2016 by Clemens Wolf.
  • David Zwirner Gallery, Booth A6: “Black Plank,” Fiberglass and resin on plywood, 1988 by John McCracken.

The 2016 Seattle Art Fair runs from August 4 through August 7. Learn more and buy passes on the Seattle Art Fair website, and check out all our coverage of the booths, events and the vision of the fair as a whole.

T.s. Flock is a writer and arts critic based in Seattle and co-founder of Vanguard Seattle.