Art on Paper Folds Together Elegance and Unruliness

With 85 galleries this year, the New York art fair devoted to works on paper explores the large and small, the personal and political.

by Daniel A. Gross

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 Timothy Paul Myers and Andrew Barnes, “Understory” (all images by the author for Hyperallergic)


If you walk to the southernmost part of the Lower East Side, past a waterfront construction site, a fire station, and a row of graffiti-covered trucks, you’ll find — or, depending on your sense of direction, possibly not find — Art on Paper 2018 inside the giant Pier 36 warehouse. This year, the event is larger than ever before, with 85 galleries bringing together drawings, paintings, photography, sculpture, and a range of other objects and oddities. On opening night, March 8, a drummer and electric cello player performed live near the entrance, making the fair sound like a podcast in which hundreds of people have gathered to murmur about art and sip bubbly from plastic cups.

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 Installation view of Art on Paper 2018

Last year, visitors were met at the entrance with giant towers of hand-cut paper, and the 2018 fair plays with scale in a similar way. Just past the ticket booth, a shipping container-sized room contains everything you’d expect to see in a live-in basement — a couch, a television, harsh lightbulbs, stairs — but all of it is wrapped in orange felt. The installation is “Understory,” by Timothy Paul Myers and Andrew Barnes (whose work also became a favorite last year), and it earns the attention it attracts. Delightful details crowd the room: clothes strewn about, boxes shoved part of the way into corners. One almost expects an orange-colored college dropout to come walking down the stairs. It has the opposite effect of a cloth-wrapped Christo building: instead of elevating architecture with an artistic intervention, Myers and Barnes soften and electrify an almost claustrophobic domestic space.

As visitors move past the entrance, into the dozens of booths that line the room, the work quickly shrinks in size. One tiny work — smaller than a sheet of printer paper — manages to catch the eye by imitating insect displays in natural history museums. “Afterlife,” by Rachel Grobstein, appears to capture and categorize all sorts of biological and pop cultural matter: a football helmet, a lightning bolt, earthworms, an hourglass. Amidst the brightly-colored clutter, the tiny eyes of paper birds stare out at you.


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 Rachel Grobstein, “Afterlife,” gouache, paper, pins




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