By Lorraine Heitzman
Another year, another venue! With additional space this year, Frieze LA filled the Barker Hanger and a second site at the Santa Monica Airport with even more exhibitors and artists. Thankfully the expanded fair wasn’t any more overwhelming than in previous years; which is to say, they are always overwhelming, but it definitely had less of the glitz and bombast than prior fairs. 2023 Frieze was more substantive and more personal. Many emerging artists made their debuts with strong work and there was plenty of art on display that fell under categories not usually championed at art fairs, including Ledger Drawings by Lakota artists at Donald Ellis Gallery. Was it more inclusive? I would like to think so. At Chris Sharp Gallery, a newer gallery in Los Angeles, Edgar Ramirez showed his painted corrugated cardboard constructions. Sensitive to his surfaces, Ramirez works in a loose but controlled manner, transforming and elevating common cardboard into energetic, poetic paintings.
Narsiso Martinez, who won the Frieze Impact Prize and was awarded his own booth, showed his socially conscious work highlighting migrant laborers. Contrasting gold paint with the produce boxes used by farmworkers, Martinez creates portraits that are dedicated to a neglected and often invisible segment of our society. They range from sanctified images of workers in hoodies, to snapshots of families emerging from the packing material associated with their labor. In Los Angeles he is represented by the Charlie James Gallery.
Kevin Umana at Sperone Westwater showed two intimate paintings made with paints, ceramic glazes, sand and paint chips, deftly combining all in harmonious, highly textured abstract compositions.
Emma Soucek had a marvelous paper pulp painting at Parrasch Heijnen.
In keeping with these colorful tactile assemblages were sculptures by Arlene Shechet, and vessels by Roger Hermann. Weaving and ceramics were again a welcome presence this year, with outstanding textiles by Diedrick Brackens occupying two walls of VSF’s booth and Jordan Nassar’s monumental textile at James Cohan.
Left: Arlene Shechet at Vielmetter Gallery Right: Roger Herman at Nino Mier Gallery
Other notable sculptures were those by Simone Leigh (left) at Matthew Marks and Betty Parsons (right) at Alexander Gray Associates.
Paintings showed a wide range, from the bold paintings of Carroll Dunham at Barbara Gladstone, Helen Johnson at Chateau Shatto, and Umar Rashid at Blum & Poe, to the transcendental-like work of Eamon Ore-Giron at James Cohan, and the dreamy surrealism of Mernet Larsen at James Cohan and Felipe Baeza at Maureen Paley.
In another category that muddles classification, are woven works by Liz Larner, represented by Regen Projects, and Barbara Levittoux-Swiderska at Richard Saltoun.
There is a vitality to much art being shown in Los Angeles now and this reflects only a small sampling of the fine work at Frieze this year. There were many other exhibits that were outstanding, such as William Kentridge at Goodman Gallery, Bob Thompson at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, and Andrew Edlin Gallery’s entire booth, and countless other galleries and artists that I missed in the frenzy of trying to take it all in. Frieze is still invaluable for gallerists, artists and art appreciators alike. It galvanizes the art community by providing a platform to showcase art, drawing exhibitors and collectors from around the world. Perhaps more importantly, it is also a catalyst for promoting local artists and scheduling high caliber exhibits, not only during Frieze, but in what is now dubbed Frieze Week (in Los Angeles), Until next year!