Art critics constantly get flak in this town for using a lot of $10 words. But I fully support the practice, even when those words say pretty much nothing. I mean, if you know the meaning of a word like “percipience”—even if “perceptiveness” works just as well—why not show it off? Similarly, I adore art that celebrates the artist’s craftsmanship and its own aesthetic lushness but accomplishes little else. That’s why I’m thrilled about this summer’s art fairs.
This past weekend’s SOFA West (Sculptural Objects and Functional Art) expo fully lived up to the implications of its name, offering booth after booth of opulent objets d’art in every shade to match your sofa. If previous years are any indication, Art Santa Fe will provide as much of a variety, with more art of the two-dimensional kind in the mix. So, in honor of the vast technical prowess and overall conceptual emptiness of the work shown at these expos, I’ve written this review of SOFA and preview of Art Santa Fe in the same spirit. Using as many $10 words as I could squeeze in—mostly lifted from local art reviews and an old GRE word list I came across while cleaning my room—I’ve attempted to reflect in language the exuberantly vacant aesthetic these art fairs promote:
The aforementioned SOFA was a virtual simulacrum of expectorated rainbows, and I will not abjure my claim as to the piquancy of this glass (and wood, metal, fiber, ceramic, paint, etc.) menagerie. Perhaps not as magisterial as Michael Jackson’s estate, but certainly as bejeweled as any Texan octogenarian, SOFA tugged the eye into a multiplicity of directions as variegated as the modalities of art production it showcased.
Despite the impressively well-organized presentation, the effusions of decoration and hue were such that the overlapping impact of the numerous articles—ranging from multifaceted mixed-media necklaces to dolls composed of seed beads and plastic floral ornamentation—rendered it nearly impossible for me to consider any piece individually.
Mercifully, a few of the artworks required me to cogitate. Notable examples included Tom Joyce’s iron-and-blackened-book sculpture “Stacks” and Jennifer Joseph’s hanging acupuncture-needle assemblage “#9.2”—both in the New Mexico Museum of Art’s corner—and some of the more restrained bamboo baskets in Tai Gallery’s booth. Most others revealed only trite banalities beneath whatever luster or gimmick first attracted me, despite the presence of numerous dulcet paintings and nothing as quotidian as a “functional art” piece.
Ultimately, the evocative options dazzled and beguiled me until I recognized such an accretion of emotive responses that I felt compelled to depart before suffering from a comprehensive dissolution of the senses. I was not too drastically nonplused when I walked outside, however, as many expo-goers were dressed to match the fair fare, providing some continuity of stimulus even as I left the butterfly bowls and dancing-angel-bedecked tables behind.
Expect this paradigm to rematerialize at Art Santa Fe, although with considerably more gravitas. (How can you not have gravitas when Charlotte Jackson is involved?) Celebrating its 10th anniversary, this “International Contemporary Art Fair” will most likely present more profundities—dropped in like disjunctive vitamins among beatific candy—to masticate than SOFA. But given the over-arching state of creative affairs in our creative metropolis, one might wonder what substantive difference can be found between the two expos. Other than the nomenclature, I have yet to discern one.
Apropos of this imbroglio, I posit that Santa Fe is within an art-scene Gilded Age, wherein all criteria except profligate splendor are ablating. I might even take an oracular stance and propose that intellection has become acarpous, even noisome, and will soon be abrogated. But perhaps such a statement would obfuscate the visual dynamism of summer in Santa Fe, and of course I wouldn’t want that.