Bitter cold didn’t stop big crowds from descending on the second annual Metro Show and Editions | Artists’ Book Fair when they opened Wednesday night. The two fairs are running jointly through Jan. 27 (E|AB was originally scheduled for last November, but was postponed by Hurricane Sandy). The adjacent Chelsea venues—the Metropolitan Pavilion and the Altman Building—are connected internally, creating one cavernous collector’s mecca.
One practically needs a compass to navigate Metro—a maze of art (from fine to folk), antiques, Americana, Native American artifacts, and decorative work—but getting lost is half the fun.
Hailing from Santa Fe, David Richard Gallery exhibited diverse artists united by a common theme: they all experienced shifts—geographic, aesthetic or both—during the post-war period. Painters Louis Ribak and Beatrice Mandelman, for instance, left New York for New Mexico, as their social realist work wasn’t turning heads in a city booming with Abstract Expressionism. Ironically, Ribak’s painting became abstract after the move, and he produced pieces like the large lemon yellow canvas on view at the booth. (Also notable was June Wayne’s wave tapestry, on sale for the first time in several decades).
Pavel Zaubok’s booth featured mixed media work by three female artists dealing with “mementos and memory.” Donna Sharrett stole the show with round wall pieces reminiscent of rose windows and Tibetan mandalas. The largest of these, Fire and Rain (2011), is composed of neckties, dirt, buttons and branches as well as synthetic hair Ms. Sharrett used as an allusion to Victorian memento mori jewelry. “I think a lot of these artists are finding a new audience,” said Mr. Zaubok, whose gallery is in Chelsea. “I think what’s good sticks to the wall.”
Eye-catching outsider art appeared nearby at the booth belonging to George Jacobs Self-Taught Art. The Rhode Island-based dealer had magnifying glasses on hand to help viewers appreciate the staggering detail in Federick Kahler’s etchings and ink drawings, which typically take a year of daily work to create. “When you come across something that’s untutored but so refined, it’s really special,” said Mr. Jacobs.
The most inviting assortment of antiques belonged to the Milanese dealer Il Segno del Tempo. Miniature mannequins lounged in toy train cars and walking sticks with ivory animal heads fanned out against the back wall of the delightfully cluttered display. Though the rarest object there was an Art Deco tellurium, it was hard not to marvel more effusively at the enormous carousel ostrich from England (though the flamboyant bird had to compete with the pumpkin-color corduroy suit worn by one of its dealers).
Other antique highlights included the stunning Gypsy wagon cover-turned-wall hanging at the Ames Gallery, the intricate embroidery samplers at M. Finkel & Daughter and the graphic sign painter’s samples at Ricco/Maresca. (Amy Finkel and Frank Maresca are two of the five dealers comprising this year’s exhibitor advisory committee.) One of the weirder contrasts within a booth was the presentation of Tiffany lamps alongside a characteristically carnal Tom Weisselman wall piece at Lillian Nassau L.L.C.
Some great Bill Rauhausser photographs taken in Detroit in the early 1960s were available at Hill Gallery, the Michigan post of dealer Tim Hill (another committee member). In the simultaneously bleak and humorous series, a sultry diner girl stares intensely off camera, a Shriner convention rides by in go-carts and a nun stands outside a strip club, looking more than a little scandalized by her surroundings.
Pace Prints, in the illuminating words of its booth personnel, showed “what Pace is known for.” This collection included prints by Chuck Close, Jim Dine and Helen Frankenthaler. The most compelling work, however, was quieter and could be overlooked amidst the bubblegum Keith Haring babies and bold Shepard Fairey prints. April Gornik’s meditative landscape etchings and Yasu Shibata’s delicate woodcuts depicting concentric geometric shapes were a welcome respite.
Over in the Editions | Artists’ Books Fair (now in its 15th year), Mr. Shibata’s prints were given greater prominence at the Aspinwall Editions booth. The selection was larger and the work was displayed more prominently than at Pace.
Also at E|AB, Karma presented a colorful collection of artist books along with many of their original illustrations. Train Yourself to Lose, a collaboration between Harmony Korine and Dan Colen, is hot off the presses. To create the book, Mr. Korine sent his poetry to Mr. Colen, which the artist then embedded in messy drawings made with dirt and deli flowers. Mr. Korine’s poetry presents a compelling counterpart to his films, with the already notorious Spring Breakers slated for release this March.
There was, unsurprisingly, some cross-pollination between the Karma and Fulton Ryder booths. A signed edition of Bill Powers’s recent novella What We Lose in Flowers… (published by Karma) appeared at Fulton Ryder—fitting, as Richard Prince designed the cover. Fulton Ryder featured a number of Mr. Prince projects published under pseudonyms as well as a limited run of 1,000 free posters. On the walls hung prints featuring sprawled and splayed nude women, whose bodies were strategically obscured by custom-made stickers resembling those on DVDs.
David Krut Projects presented several works from an ongoing series by South African art star William Kentridge consisting of linocuts on pages torn from the Oxford English Dictionary. Though one of the young women running the booth said that the selection of pages was random, the words printed atop each page often seemed to engage in pointed conversation with one another: “Imperator” and “Imperishable” faced off on neighboring pages.
If one were to bookend METRO and E|AB with two dictionary entries, the expositions would fall neatly somewhere between “exhilaration” and “eye candy.”