From Robotic Dogs to Blood Paintings, 10 Picks From Pulse New York

Will Kurtz, "Brighton Beach Bench," 2012
(Photo © Alanna Martinez)

Pulse was definitely “pulsing” yesterday morning, from the scantily-clad performers in Pulse Projects upstairs to the early morning crowds surfing the gallery booths on the ground floor. The fair, which historically has run at Chelsea’s Metropolitan Pavilion during Armory Week, was an early ally with Frieze, switching over its dates to run alongside the British import. “It was great for us logistically to have more time between Miami and New York,” Pulse’s director Cornell DeWitt told ARTINFO. “I think galleries were nervous that everyone would get the message and come, but they all felt it was the best thing to do.”  

The change of date didn’t seem to deter collectors. VIPs sipped mimosas as early as 9 a.m., inured to the profusion of the oft-extreme artwork on view, which included slaughterhouse-sourced animal blood paintings and roboticized dogs. By mid-afternoon, red dots began to pop up alongside artworks. Peter Brock’s solo booth from the “Impulse” section of the fair reported sales by the end of the day.

Clocking in at 60 exhibitors, this year’s edition of Pulse is four galleries smaller than last year, though DeWitt says the slimming was merely a consequence of certain galleries wanting more space. This year, Pulse’s roster included work by certified (if eclectic) mix of big names like Ed Ruscha, Kiki Smith, Mickalene Thomas, Andres Serrano, David LaChappelle, and William Eggleston. That said, a lot of the most striking and strange works were by lessers-knowns. See ARTINFO’s picks from Pulse below, complete with price tags (or click here to see our picks in illustrated slide show form).

1) Fred Wilson at Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco

Two works by the seminal institutional critique artist Fred Wilson adorn the entrance to Pulse, signaling that this will be a classy affair. “Sneaky Leaky” (2009), an austere installation of raindrops made out of opaque black glass, harks back to Wilson’s 2003 Venice Biennale installation. A smaller work from this series, featuring a single tear, is available in the gallery’s booth, a bargain for $38,000. In “Reign” (2011), iridescent black beads are suspended from a globe, conjuring complex issues of race and geo-politics.  

Price Tag: $38,000 – $65,000

2) Jordan Eagles at Causey Contemporary, Brooklyn, NY

Not the creepiest work seen at Pulse (for that, see Tinkebell's taxidermied horse, below), but it takes the silver medal while remaining far more aesthetically appealing and inventive in the process. Eagles’s slaughterhouse-sourced animal blood and cast UV resin paintings and sculptures glowed with almost inorganically intense hues from Causey Contemporary’s solo booth. If Showtime’s Dexter Morgan were a collector, he may gravitate to this booth.

Price Tag: $2,000 – $25,000

3) Sam Messenger at Davidson Contemporary, New York

Sam Messenger debuted at Pulse’s younger upstairs annex, “Impulse,” in 2007. Since then, prices have almost tripled for the artist’s meticulous networks of grids and webs on weathered paper. His intricate lattice-like netting (rendered in white ink) unfold according to the Fibonacci sequence.   

Price Tag: $4,000 – $25,000

4) David Kramer at Freight + Volume, New York

Kramer’s kitschy studio drawings brightened up the booth for this eclectic New York gallery. Only one of his large-scale paintings, illuminated by a single yellow fluorescent-light, made it to the fair, but it was strikingly different from the smaller studies for sale, which incorporate a sloshy rainbow of messy ink and slogans, touting tongue-and-cheek jokes about the American dream. His haphazardly sketchy style is in line with a trend towards gallery shows that feature work torn straight from the sketchbook, but Kramer’s pieces show a unique sensitivity to humorous plays on words and pictures.

Price Tag: Large-scale painting “70s Porn” 2012 $15,000; “Simple Life” 2012 $3,500; “More Is More” 2011 $3,500; “Facebook Drawing” 2011 $3,300

5) Paul Paddock at Frosh & Portmann, New York

The New York-based artist stood out with technically refined, subtly disturbing, and playful watercolors. These included “Grand Standing” (2012), a complex image picturing ghostly skeletons in the bark of birch trees amidst an owl-headed man lifted by children. “Horse” (2012) features a flying thestral and a young girl in a red dress wielding a machete.

Price Tag: Small size $2,200, medium size $3,800, large $7,500

6) Alan Rath at Hosfelt Gallery, New York

“Creature II” (2012) will both wag his tail hello to you and cost you a pretty penny. Tech-savvy Rath picked up training in robotics at MIT and has combined his interest in digital video and image-making into a series of robotic sculptures that respond to human interaction. Very cool.

Price Tag: “Creature II” 2012 $45,000; “Handful” 2010 $70,000

7) Anne Lindberg at Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago, IL

The artist splits her time between Kansas City and New York, creating vibrant experiential drawings and installations. The one installed at the gallery’s booth was site-specific and completed over the course of 12 hours. It's hard to explain, but the relatively new series began with graphite drawings produced with the aid of "an architect’s parallel bar" and, due to the inspiration from a peach the artist ate over lunch one day, slowly became infused with bright yellows, oranges, and greens. Brace yourself, this booth will distort your visual field, so keep  your eyes locked on something stable.

Price Tag: Installation “Call and Response” 2012 $25,000; simple graphite $3,500; color graphite $8,500; thread drawings $15,000

8) Tinkebell and Terry Rogers at Torch Gallery, The Netherlands

If there were an award for most awesomely flashy booth at Pulse, the Netherlands’s Torch Gallery would take the cake. Cat-slaughtering provocatrice Tinkebell (nee Katinka Simonse) has never been one for subtlety, but she really ups the ante with her equine tour de force, a life-size taxidermy entitled “Cupcake, My Little Pony.” As a comment on how we cutsily anthropomorphize animals for own narcissistic ends, Tinkebell has transformed the noble beast into a kitschy Disnified monstrosity, complete with roller skates and twinkling cartoon eyes. Meanwhile, Terry Rogers’s monumental rendition of a porntastic orgy scene holds court on the back wall, a meditation on the alienation and emptiness of partying and casual sex.

Price Tag: Tinkebelle “Cupcake, My Little Pony” $23,000; Rogers “The Calculus of Existence” 2012 $150,000

9) Loren Munk at Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

If fair-teague is setting in after the Frieze Week blitz, be sure to check out Loren Munk’s “Graphic Representation of the Dialectical Aesthetics of Modernism 1900-2000” at Daniel Weinberg’s booth. Munk’s obsessive diagrammatic maps of art historical movements and trends might be the shot in the arm to get you excited about art again.

Price Tag: $16,000

10) Will Kurtz at Mike Weiss Gallery, New York

If you see Will Kurtz on the street, run the other way! He might create an unflinching effigy of you from cardboard and newspaper. The Brooklyn-based artist and urban voyeur regularly combs the outer boroughs for his subjects, and his life-size portrait of three Brighton Beach oldtimers (and their little dog, too) is equal parts picturesque and terrifying.

Price Tag: $28,000