It isn’t unusual to see emerging artists speak angrily and earnestly about the evils of capitalism. They are hungry, struggling to be heard and eager to attain some degree of notoriety and success. Their voices, expressed on various forms of media, seek an understanding audience in a world increasingly programmed to reject the abstract and difficult in favor of that which can be digested comfortably and without risk of intellectual choking. So, it’s ironic to see such messages come with price tags that can reach into the thousands of dollars.
Fountain was among the Armory week satellite art fairs in Manhattan this weekend, though it won’t be confused with the rest of them. I was eager to visit Fountain. Rather than stumble through the same big names you see at the Armory, I prefer to spend my time with the artists who are fighting to become known. At Fountain, the pieces on display showed a violent desperation to be heard, with strong cultural and political messages that were impossible to be missed.
I left Fountain excited about emerging art again.
Some pieces, doubtless, were a bit heavy handed, and I do wonder how long the original messages can endure. One artist, for example, created a triptych lamenting the importance the art community places on an artist’s resume, bio and statement. Ironically, his rep was speaking from all three, at least implicitly, when explaining the work. And, if some possibility of commercial success emerges, I also wonder how long it would take the artist to polish up these documents for a major gallery or museum to review.
Another, in the “American Gangster” space, crowded the walls with as much work as possible, as if he wouldn’t have another chance to reach an audience of this magnitude – an assumption that, in itself seems tragic. While works such as “Snow White and the Seven Crackheads,” which actually included two (seemingly used) crack pipes, were a bit too blatant for my tastes, works such as an American flag devoid of color inscribed with “MADE IN CHINA” did a better job of hitting the mark.
Aside from these minor missteps, Fountain was full of work that would make you reconsider the world around you, with stunning photographs from depressed communities, street art that stretches the practical application of spray paint and performances that leave you paralyzed, unwilling to take another step before seeing what comes next.
So, will anything I saw really hit investment grade? I regret to say that I doubt it … but that’s not the point of it. Hell, it shouldn’t be the point of an art purchase anyway. After all, you purchase art to enjoy it, to derive pleasure or inspiration or understanding. If you’re looking for the sort of appreciation that comes in monetary form, you’re missing the point.