Brian P. Kelly
Installation view, “Eva Fàbregas: Vessels” at Bombon Projects, 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Bombon Projects.
While Art Basel in Basel undoubtedly attracts the lion’s share of the art world’s attention at this time of year, there’s more to the city than just the marquee fair. Right next to the multi-million dollar works and blue chip names is List. A well-established home for up-and-coming galleries and artists – and often showcasing works that don’t require a trust fund to acquire – the fair returns this year with 82 exhibitors from 37 countries. Below are five of the most exciting performers at this year’s fair.
Kyiv-based artist Kateryna Buchatska works in a variety of mediums: wax, concrete, resin, styrofoam, pen and ink. But his most interesting works are his small levkas paintings. Levkas is a traditional medium used to prepare surfaces for painting: made by mixing a powder with glue (usually derived from animals), the resulting substance is layered over and over again on a canvas, board or other substrate. Its white color allows shades applied later to shine as brightly as possible.
Although the levka technique is traditionally used in icon painting, Buchatska updates the practice while alluding to her historical and artistic background. Airy abstractions mingle with roughly sketched animals; a menacing volcanic peak dissolves into a sketchy roadscape; classic shapes such as pillars and arches are glued with sharp-edged geometries. These works are dark, sometimes disturbing, but above all, they seem elusive, like the memory of a dream that quickly dissolves.
Armand d. Cosmos
Southard Reid, Booth 2
Armand d. Cosmos, Gossypium hirsutum, 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Southard Reid.
Armand d. Cosmos, Growth Engineering, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Southard Reid.
The woven works of Armando d. Cosmos are hyper-focused on how humanity has worked to bend nature to their will. In his Gossypium hirsutum (2022), it depicts a genetically modified cotton plant that was engineered to be poisonous to weevils, the quivering pests depicted with skulls around the edges of the artwork.
His Roundup herbicide tapestry — part ad, part infographic, part science diagram — is so painstakingly detailed it’s hard to know where to look first. Roots look ready to burrow into the bottom of the fabric, and a pea pod looks ready to burst. Cosmos’ work is relentless in its view that human attempts to alter the natural world at the most fundamental levels are inherently hubristic, but the rants have rarely been so tactilely engaging.
Bombon Projects, Booth 1
“Don’t touch the art”: a rule that we have all rooted in. But Eva Fàbregas, born in Barcelona and based in London, encourages – demands – that we break it. His erotically charged abstract sculptures are made to be pushed, pushed, brushed and pressed.
Desire is at the heart of these works: the desire to connect, to caress, to feel – and it is impossible not to be attracted. But just because these carvings might suggest a breast, phallus, or scrotum doesn’t mean they’re Rated X. Alien ideas are also at play here, and it wouldn’t be surprising if you stumbled upon one of these pieces at the bottom of the sea or on another planet. Seductive and playful, an inevitable joy permeates Fàbregas’ sculptures as well as his paintings, which have an equally steamy nature.
blank projects, Booth 61
The double portraits of Gregory Olympio conceal an intimate mystery. The subjects of the Togo-born, France-based artist are not real people; he has no models, but paints from memories and creations of his own mind. This two-figure series deviates from his earlier individual portraits, a move which, with its loose brushwork, accentuates the ambiguity of his scenes.
Leaning against each other, none of the people here seem particularly happy, but their physical contact suggests a deeper connection: they could be lovers, friends, siblings. It feels like we’ve come to the end of an argument, with both sides still stinging but reconciliation looming on the horizon. These works are particularly interesting in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, when physical separation was an enforced necessity, and the enigmatic and aloof figures here are oddly alluring.
Fridays, Stand 5
Young-jun Tak, Six Miracles2021. Courtesy of the artist and Efremidis
Young-jun Tak tackles religion head-on in his various sculptural practices offering critiques, some subtle, others less so, of Christianity. Most obvious is his collection of children of Christ in nativity scenes, all rendered from homophobic pamphlets that were distributed in his native South Korea. The figures are both ghostly and impactful, the repetition of their forms highlighting the repeated ways in which religion has been used as a pretext to espouse hateful ideas.
That said, his smaller, less-face sculpts are better. In one, a hand-carved holy water font holds a replica of the artist’s chest, a reference to Saint Agatha of Sicily, who had hers cut off while being tortured. In another, white wooden asparagus tips are adorned with carvings of St. John the Baptist. The Berlin artist creates these pieces in collaboration with a barbaric 13th generation craftsman. Drawing inspiration from various depictions of John and his pained face – an allusion to the beheading that would end his life – Tak offers a clever play about how asparagus is harvested. Going further, in many countries, John the Baptist’s feast day traditionally coincides with the last asparagus harvest of the season. With Tak’s work, less is definitely more.
Brian P. Kelly
Brian P. Kelly is Artsy’s Art Market Editor.