Review: PINTA Art Fair 2009

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It is always refreshing when the diverse collection of works presented at an art fair come together along some unplanned, common thread. During this year’s PINTA Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art Fair, it seemed that gallerists are finally becoming less concerned with artworks that possess a “cool” or “wow” factor, and are highlighting artworks that have a more thoughtful and poetic aesthetic, coupled with an underlining clever humor. As you walk around PINTA, you’ll find many works in which maps and geography play a key role, along with explorations in seeing and looking. Re-imaging, skewed perspectives, and the overlooked are concepts that connect many of the works included in this year’s presentation of PINTA.

Brazilian artist Paulo Brusky comically gives literal meaning to “tongue and cheek” humor with his visual poems on view at Galeria Nara Roesler. Brusky’s “Poema linguistico,” is a print made from pressing an ink soaked tongue into various spots onto the paper, a play on the words of the work’s title. “De-formation de America del sur” is the equally clever title given to Argentinean artist, Horacio Zabala’s work on view at Faria Fabregas Galeria. Imagining a geographic contamination, Zabala re-imagines what the Southern hemisphere would look like. The result is not total chaos; Zabala instead imagines meticulously placed shifts and re-arranged topographies – the Tropic of Cancer has been pushed down further south, and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans converge at the center of a now split up African continent. Zabala’s series of map drawings call attention to possible new tensions and exchanges that we would encounter if our world suddenly became less familiar. Maps, geography, and delineating space also play a role in works by Oscar Oiwa at Galeria Thomas Cohn, Francisca Benitez at Die Ecke Arte Contemporaneo, and Nelson Leirner at Bolsa de Arte.

Infusing the familiar with new meaning, Valeska Soares’ “For To (VII)” and “For To (VIII) at Eleven Rivington’s booth focuses on the dedication pages of a collection of books. Gathering the yellowed, rigidly torn pages of books, the works display a range of long, heart-felt expressions of gratitude as well as more simplistic examples of the private, silent relationship between writer and his or her source of inspiration. One dedication page, “For Jeffrey, Of course,” is just as impactful as those in which words fill the entire page.

Artist Ray Smith, on view at Mas Art Galeria Sandunga embraces automatic thinking popular during the 1920s-30s Surrealist period, depriving himself the ability to see parts of the painting before it’s completion. Smith’s “Bruja” (see detail in photo above) series is a number of exquisite corpse inspired paintings in which he folds the paper over before continuing the next section, continuing the image with whatever next thought comes to mind, however unrelated and without visual reference.

Finally, in an even more innovative way of seeing, Marco Maggi’s “Blind Slides” calls for the viewer to “view” through touch. Maggi makes imprints with pencil onto aluminum slide mounts, ultimately creative Braille artwork. It is apparent from these artists that we are moving towards a re-evaluation of “looking” in intimate as well as global contexts. Challenge familiarity, and enjoy the collection of works on view at the PINTA 09 art fair, here in New York City until November 22.