If, like me, you find the full-tilt art fairs a little overwhelming, the formally ambitious but modestly scaled Independent is a godsend. With just 54 exhibits, many of them solo presentations, arranged over four spacious floors at Spring Studios in TriBeCa, it’s like a leisurely all-star game: It’s not exactly representative of the year in art, perhaps, but it feels as if it ought to be.
Black and white is in vogue, from the fair co-founder Elizabeth Dee’s presentation of Carl Ostendarp’s cheerful paintings of the existential void (fifth floor, Booth 22) to Canada gallery’s extraordinary onslaught of inky drawings and ceramics by Elisabeth Kley (sixth floor, 20). A London dealer, The Sunday Painter, is making its fair debut with Cynthia Daignault’s attempt to capture the American century in a series of small, gray-tone oils (first floor, 5).
But explosive color is in evidence, too, from exuberant drawings and paintings by Derrick Alexis Coard and Gerasimos Floratos at White Columns (seventh floor, 1) to Clearing’s show of vivid abstractions painted on small plywood handball courts by Harold Ancart (sixth floor, 10). And outsider art is well represented, with highlights including Leopold Strobl’s colored-pencil drawings of pretty landscapes interrupted by ominous mountains of shadow, at Ricco/Maresca, and Kerry Schuss’s show of wild sunlit scenes by Aaron Birnbaum (fifth floor, 8).
Here’s a small selection of the very best booths to anchor your stroll:
CHAPTER NY & CARLOS/ISHIKAWA Start on the fifth floor with the psychological tension of a joint exhibit mounted by the London gallery Carlos/Ishikawa and a Lower East Side stalwart, Chapter NY (Booths 1-2). The luxuriously overdetermined texture of Issy Wood’s large oil-on-velvet paintings of clothing provide a perfect backing for the primordial shock of Ann Greene Kelly’s aesthetically bifurcated folding chair — an ordinary steel chair, spangled with rust, that Ms. Kelly sliced and reconstructed with curving ersatz masonry.
DELMES & ZANDER Continue next door to Alexandru Chira (1947-2011) in his first solo show outside Romania. A professor of painting in Bucharest, Mr. Chira spent years building a colorful installation called “De-signs towards the sky for rain and rainbow” in his native village in Transylvania. A series of hazy but elaborate diagrams and drawings, some on a truncated hexagon shape that he thought would promote the land’s fertility, are dreamily enrapturing.
INVISIBLE EXPORTS Nearby, at Booth 11, is a group of Cary Leibowitz’s hilariously lacerating latex-on-wood pie charts — one is divided between “low self-esteem” and “excessive self-confidence,” another among five wedges all labeled “me” — hung against checkered red oilcloth, as if for a picnic of performative self-hatred.