Six consecutive vacant storefronts at 395 Flatbush Extension in Downtown Brooklyn housed the New Art Dealers Alliance’s (NADA) County Affair, a witty, metropolitan take on the autumnal festivals traditional in rural communities this time of year. Typical fair festivities – caricatures, bobbing for apples, fortune telling – were given urbane interpretations.
For $1, Leidy Churchman offered me an apple to dip in black, latex paint in lieu of caramel. I was told that the apple would shrink as it rotted and the paint would wrinkle up accordingly. I pictured a shrunken head and happily toted the relic around for the rest of the afternoon, twirling it dry on a skewer until it was velvety and matte. When I went across the street for a Pastrami on Rye at Junior’s, an old Polish woman sitting next to me asked what it was. “An apple dipped in paint,” I chirped. She furrowed her brow: “But why? What are you going to do with it? You should probably throw it in the garbage.” Probably.
On my way back in, I grabbed a handful of candy corn from Dana Gentile’s handmade card stand, got my “Watteau Cards” read by Timothy Hull, browsed a pop-up junk shop curated by Jeffrey Tranchell, and had my portrait drawn by Liz Hirsch and water-colored in by Joshua Smith.
Given the time, I could have had a penny professionally cleaned and polished or participated in constructing an alien landscape from tin foil. Given guts, I could have surrendered myself over to Jennifer Sullivan who was offering free avant-garde makeovers, “sponsored by Bumble & Bumble,” which wins the award for snarkiest quip of the day.
The most immediate works were the space/time-specific inter-activities, but the walls of each storefront were by no means bare. A Kenny Scharf neon graffiti piece took up most of one wall and an intimidating quantity of painting and drawing hung in each room. Offset had full-reign on a closet-sized room. The door advertised “ten contemporary artists who make posters,” and sure enough, the space was plastered like an adolescent bedroom. Olaf Breuning, Nancy de Holl, Martha Friedman, Rachel Mason, Fabian Marti, Michele O’Marah, Mamiko Otsubo, Michael Queenland, Michael Rashkow, and Matthew Spiegelman were all represented.
One of Martha Friedman’s massive waffles melted into an amorphous pool of urethane resin. The glossy butterscotch color – or is that Mystic Tan? – seemed totally at odds with the haphazard space that housed it.
Next door, Daniele Frazier had deconstructed the intestinal curves of balloon shapes and snaked them through four, Asian wooden stands. Each stand rested atop unadorned pedestals. The carnival-colored tubes – blue, yellow, pink, red, white – were latticed with laser-sharp cutouts and trimmed with tiny garlands of what looked like filigreed growths. The cross-section of Eastern decoration, cartoonish swellings, and stark minimalism was successful in a way one had to see to appreciate.
Though I had no idea what to expect upon arrival, it was enjoyable to see friends transformed into benevolent barkers for the afternoon. There didn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to who was doing what or where. Nobody seemed to know how to define the event, but nobody seemed to care much either. Non-art existed side-by-side with art-art, and while the former benefited greatly, it’s possible that the latter suffered somewhat from a confused context. There were great pieces – Friedman’s and Frazier’s were my favorite – but I couldn’t help but feel that, despite the pleasant playfulness and laizzez-faire attitude of everyone involved, the best work didn’t quite get what it deserved.