Categories: Cathy Breslaw, THE BUZZ

THE BUZZ: Stone, marble, silk and sand: James Perkins at Frieze Art Fair 2024

March. 5, 2024

by Cathy Breslaw

I recently attended Frieze Art Fair which took place March 1st through March 3rd in Los Angeles California.  Originating in London in 2003, this fair has expanded to New York City and Seoul Korea. The LA fair in its 5th year was exceptionally successful drawing 95 galleries, spanning 21 countries and 32,000 fair goers from 48 countries with a high attendance from international arts and entertainment figures.

Attending this fair is an opportunity to see some of the world’s best galleries and artists and a reminder of how amazingly creative human beings can be. Believing we are all capable of great creativity, those included in the fair are those unique and recognized artists who spend their lives focused and committed to art-making, often stating it as their calling. The fair is primarily about commerce and the exchange of money for art, but I prefer to see it as a place to see how artists of the world and its many cultures view our contemporary life – through the ‘tools of the trade’ of painting, drawing, sculpture, technology, installation, ceramics and more. From this vantage point, art becomes a mirror reflection of the artists themselves as well as life in 2024. Seeing the most bold array of highly charged color and forms and massive size to the tiny, subtle and ‘quiet’ pieces of art, the overall range of works engage the viewer visually, as well as emotionally, intellectually and viscerally.

A Forest of Love
Silk, sun, sand, wind, wood, ocean water, rain
118 x 34 x 2 in

Imagining myself as having landed at Frieze LA from an alien spaceship is a fascinating viewpoint, choosing not to read the back-stories of the artists and their ‘intentions’, and preferring to see the works with fresh eyes. On the level of materials used, there is paint, the many traditional art materials as well as metal, clay, film, repurposed and ordinary items, fabric, photographs, collage, assemblage, cardboard, plastics, digital technology and practically everything that is ubiquitous in daily life. Themes include all the social, political, and cultural issues and art that highlights nature, beauty, and the philosophical and spiritual side of our current life on earth.

Rather than try to superficially describe many artists and their works, I’m selecting one artist whose work I felt connected to, heart and soul. Artist James Perkins is represented by Hannah Traore Gallery in New York City. His recent paintings and sculptures are presented in a special section of the fair curated by Essence Harden, Visual Arts Curator and Program Manager at the California African American Museum from 12 galleries founded in the last 12 years.

Perkins’ s large-sized abstract works with wooden structures use the organic in nature together with silk materials in combination with the element of time. He begins with vibrant colored silks that mimic his experience with color in nature. He then buries the fabric structures, mostly in sand, and in his surrounding environment leaving them to be worn, stained, and weathered by the natural elements. Curing the silks in open air for several months or years, he rotates and repositions the structures to encourage diverse oxidation and pattern. Once unearthed, the silks are detached and stretched onto rectangular and triangular armatures, revealing fossilized striations and delicate discoloration. Some are hung on a wall while others are leaning against the wall. Because of the way the silk is affected by burial over time, there is often a translucency and light. There are bits of sand or organic particles occasionally left on the fabric that emphasizes the natural process unchanged by the artist.

Mini Me x 4
Silk, sun, sand, wind, wood, Great South Bay water, handmade frame
12 x 9.2 x 2 in

Alongside his silk paintings in the exhibit, are four sculptures: two stone structures made with travertine and marble and two wood structures with storm-fallen pine and poplar trees. These works are the same size and are connected to his 2×4 silk wrapped structures at his home in Fire Island, NY.

Perkins’s works are reminiscent of the 20th century minimalist works of sculptor Donald Judd and painter Robert Ryman, the light and space artists Robert Irwin and James Turrell and land artists Michael Heizer and Andy Goldsworthy. Aside from being minimal, and connected to light and space and land, there is something ancient and primitive about his wrapped works and a familiar feeling of being present in nature that is powerful and moving. He lets go of artistic control over his materials to allow the works to become themselves -each with a unique identity.

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