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Paper, tiny art and SpongeBob

I expected to see the Art OF Paper. Sculpted baskets perhaps. Amazing shapes, stories grown from pulp, fiber, paint, lacquer and cramped fingers.

Like Lynne Francis-Lunn's Three Generations (left), which was chosen for the National Basketry Organization’s All Things Considered Exhibition in 2015. And her recent Things Keep Piling Up with its chaos, or is that rhythm and energy?

Paper. The stuff I write on. The material of the books I read. The medium that other people cut, sculpt, weave and remix to create art of a different kind.

We chose this fair over the prestigious Armory Show last weekend precisely because of its focus on paper. So shame on me for not paying closer attention to all three of the words on the ticket – Art ON Paper – and its broad implications.

What to do? Grabbing an apple and a beer for fortification, we curated our own show on New York's Pier 36. Some of the art is on paper. And some of it is of, with, about and only vaguely connected to that pulpy goodness. Enjoy!

Close Looking

Anita Groener uses an X-ACTO knife or digital blade to cut inch-tall figures out of painted paper. Each person is replicated from her collection of photographs of refugees. In REPUBLIC (Amerika), 2017 (below), the individual displaced people, and their shadows on the wall, become a swirling planetary whole.

Flag (detail). Courtesy Gibbons & Nicholas.

The flexible birch branch that spawned Flag (top right and above detail) provides the armature (maybe the temporary or long-lost home?) to which the fragile figures cling for support.

Rachel Grobstein showed an installation of miniatures (see a rum box below): a deconstructed shipping box for a stereo; flattened Dunkin' Donuts bag; opened moving box with packing tape; poop in the blue plastic New York Times delivery bag. One was .5 x .75 x .25 inches. Her cut paper Ajax (below) included a pink flamingo, cleaning supplies, car seats (I think), Hulk Hogan ephemera, a toilet and lots more.

Ajax. Courtesy Arcilesi/Homberg Fine Art.

Courtesy Arcilesi/Homberg Fine Art.


Ink Blot, Peter Sarkisian's 2011 video, captures the death of ink on paper. The ink (Sarkisian dressed in black) drags himself across the studio floor from a puddle of ink to a notebook. Once there, exhausted from the journey, the ink and its evidence fade away. The mapping technology, video projection, audio and trompe l'oeil effects are dazzling but for anyone who writes for a living or who ever dipped a nib in an inkwell, the message strikes a funereal chord.

Complex Simplicity

The nine works in Jasia Szerszynska’s Encounter series hooked us. Maybe the bold, simple lines or the texture of the lithographs. The artist says each images -- those that are calm, tense or energetic -- extends beyond the edge of the paper, part of something bigger. The inspiration comes from Szerszynska's experiences moving though a space.

My husband was drawn to First Encounter I (left) and I favor Second Encounter I (thought I'm confident we'd happily live with the entire installation if we had the wall space and the budget). Let me know if you'd like to share any insight.

Stephen Antonakos, according to gallery owner Lori Bookstein, allowed his art to be hung in variable arrangements, to be reflective of the exhibition space. His Untitled Drawing, 1988, (detail), contentedly bends into a corner while Fragments of Two Circles hung high above our heads so we could gaze into the curved blue and green arcs.


We saw Pablo Lehmann's model before the life-size installation of The Scribe’s House (The Room), and wondered if the artist hand-printed text onto each tiny page of paper. He didn't. And when we saw the installation, we wondered if the pages used to cover the surface were chosen specifically by title or content. They were not. Here's the accompanying statement from Artemisa Gallery: The intention is for the viewer to create their own texts and interpretations. "This project gives a new function for those yellow, torn, and antiquated books that are no longer used and lie forgotten in old bookstores. The installation seeks to be a renewing place to preserve these out-of-date books, to take them away from their oblivion, giving them the chance to come alive and be interpreted in a new context and time.

The Scribe's House (The Room). Courtesy Artemisa Gallery.


We saw some Lumpy Paintings, which Adam Frezza and Terri Chiao mold by hand out of recycled paper pulp. The artists say that the brightly painted "squiggles, mounds, divots, and daubs" ... are almost "cartoonish stand-ins for abstract painting."Love the color! But they reminded me of Hostess Sno Balls, which I never eat because I don't like coconut.

Lumpy paintings. Adam Frezza & Terri Chiao.

The Orange Menace, The Cheeto, He Who Must Not Be Named -- however you refer to 45 -- inspired a lot of work, including this crumpled and oversized notebook page. Feel the anger. There was also a headstone that prompted photo ops and at least one innocent to ask: “Mommy, is Donald Trump dead?”

I looked for a while at this image (below) on my husband's phone, pretty sure it was a great pointillist or graphite work of immense intensity that I missed. Then he laughed and admitted it was the carpet.

So what does SpongeBob have to do with the fair? Over dinner we debated whether the episode The Paper deserved recognition. In the Season One episode, the porous protagonist spends an entire day frolicking with a discarded bubble gum wrapper. In his hands -- the right hands -- the small slip of paper becomes a super hero cape, an origami bird, a pirate's eye patch and so much more.

Max, my 20-year-old, says that episode shows that with a welcoming attitude, the value of everything is open to interpretation. And yes, even a bubble gum wrapper in SpongeBob's hands qualifies as art OF paper.

(Our day at Art on Paper 2017 was courtesy of WSJ+.)

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