There’s something to be said for an art fair that takes care of its own. This came to mind while scrolling through my Instagram feed to find an image of red roses a friend posted that she received as a woman exhibitor on International Women’s Day. The photo wasn’t staged by Independent: To my knowledge there was no official announcement by the fair. Independent had exercised its best judgment in treating its exhibitors with care and compassion.

In 2018, Independent extends this good judgment and utopic vision to its bountiful offerings, reinforcing its consistent ability to exceed expectations with this year’s precise rendition. Independent remains the final frontier for fans of art for art’s sake: the carefully curated alternative to SPRING/BREAK’s exuberant excess and the Armory Show’s sleek, multi-million dollar works. Independent presents a fine-tuned selection of gallerists whose vision shines through their keen aptitude for presentation and passion for representing their artists; it helps, of course, that each gallery is encouraged to show as few artists as possible.

The galleries showing at Independent this year were mostly strong, with a few weaker points involving picnic table-style red check print and bland, reflective abstraction. Delving into the top 6 showings proved a tricky endeavor, but below are selected standouts at Independent 2018.

Terence Koh, Andrew Edlin Gallery

Koh is a remarkable chameleon, able to reflect society’s excesses and nostalgia back to audiences through his work with wit and candor. Alternating between sculpture, installation, painting, and mixed media Koh is a fearless and subversive artist whose alternate moniker “asianpunkboy” captures his devil-may-care attitude. The Canadian artist, showing at Independent with Andrew Edlin gallery, has presented the Woodstock-ready funeral pyre of a hippie punk astronaut, a dream-like vision stopping visitors in their tracks. Along with small assemblage and collage-style pieces mounted on an opposing wall, Koh’s magnificent reimagining of Pop art possibilities stuns at Edlin’s pointed, prescient presentation on the human condition.

Installation view of “she changed sunrise to sunset (astronaut, female, 8 days pregnant)” by Terrence Koh. Image courtesy of Andrew Edlin gallery.

Ruby Neri, David Kordansky

Neri’s explicit and fantastical clay sculptures of women-as-vessels command visitors’ attention at David Kordansky. The artist, originally from the Bay Area and residing in Los Angeles, works in figuration and buoyant coloration with bright tones surrounding her art-brut female figures. Drawing inspiration equally from German expressionism and graffiti, Neri’s work is a powerful blend of contemporary and modern aesthetics with hints of naïveté. Kordansky has plunged into a prodigious showing of the artist’s larger-than-life clay vessels, bringing a bright and much-needed playful air to shake up the fair’s more somber showings.

Ruby Neri
Women Playing with Dolls, 2017
ceramic with glaze
43 1/2 x 40 1/2 x 27 1/2 inches (110.5 x 102.9 x 69.9 cm), Photography: Lee Thompson Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Garth Greenan

Garth Greenan’s presentation of oversize, visually stunning works by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith signals an aptitude for our contemporary socio-political moment and an awareness of the powerful visuals that the artist continues to create. Quick-to-See Smith, hailing from the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, creates powerful humanistic work in the vein of Nancy Spero or current Breuer-exhibited artist Leon Golub with more than a hint of Jasper Johns. These works enmesh newspaper clippings, some stemming from the Indian reservation, into overlaid figurative and Pop-heavy references to American culture. Her works continue to push boundaries, with a keen editorial eye toward the much-needed re-visioning of American history.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith
Worlds within Worlds (I See Red), 1996
Mixed Media on Canvas
50×60″
Image courtesy of Garth Greenan gallery

Kathleen White, Martos Gallery

White’s interdisciplinary works feature abstract elements and blends of texture with direct reference to the body. Loaded with memory with a delicate and captive eye toward beauty, White’s works appear as whispers on the pages of history: Made of soft, pliable material with miniscule details. Martos displays a range of works created by the artist, evoking a sensitive and perceptive artist with a deft eye toward composition and scale. Though White sadly passed from cancer in 2014, her works live on and continue to document an artist’s vision of how to re-imagine those whose stories were re-written by a tragic epidemic.

Kathleen White
Self Portrait, Spirit, 1995
watercolor, pencil, glue, hair on phone book page
11 × 8 ½ inches (27.94 × 21.59 cm)
15 ¼ × 12 ¼ inches (38.74 × 31.12 cm) (framed)
Image courtesy of Martos Gallery

Tobias Kaspar, VI,VII

Kaspar’s eye toward nuance is unsettling. Plying open our expectations around decadence and glamor, the artist’s subversive take on luxury drips with wry humor. Abstract mixed media works crafted with glass and monochromatic fabric steal the show at VI, VII gallery. The Swiss artist takes fabrics commissioned by luxe fashion houses for couture clients, arranging these fragments into abstracted, collage-style works. Kaspar’s works alternately blend glass with fabric to create a subtle reflective effect that is both startling and enchanting. His re-imagining of everyday debris cast in metal and re-imagined as its abstracted “other” provokes contemporary musings on the place of sign and signifier, respectively, in an age of excess.

Tobias Kaspar
Untitled, 2016
(Untitled Reflector Series / Camouflage Diptych)
Laser-engraved reflective fabric
Each: 30 x 40 x 2 cm: 60 × 40 × 2 cm (23 ⅝ × 15 ¾ × ¾ inches)

Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin, Sprueth Magers

Experimentation is one of the first words to arise when discussing the work of Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin. Post-digital is another top-billed descriptor of these two artists and frequent collaborators, whose sculptures and photographic prints dominate at Sprueth Magers. Famed for explorations into cinematic fantasy and breaking apart boundaries between mediums, Fitch and Trecartin’s collaborative work (the duo have worked together since the early 2000s) takes a comprehensive approach toward installation and sculpture. Works on view at Sprueth Magers demonstrate a nostalgic treatment of the figure, blending various textures, colors and a sly wink toward Americana in the process.

Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin,
American Honey, 2015,
Pantyhose, Epoxy, Key Ring, Earrings, Tin Flower, Papier Mache Craft Hands, Pvc Pipe, Screws, Foam, Fake Nails, Tennis Balls, Coffee Cups, Zip Ties, Denim Craft Balls, ‘Free Spirit’ T-Shirt, Feather, Cardboard Cone, Red And Grey Casters, Watch, Latex Gloves, Shoe, Paper Towel Roll Stand, Hat, Spray Paint, Jewelry Chain, String, Hot Glue, Wagon Wheel
Image courtesy of Sprueth Magers Gallery.