If you can’t buy tickets for Frieze at the Shed, you can still attend a satellite fair like “The 11 Women of Spirit” at Zürcher Gallery, which is essentially a group show of female artists, now in its third iteration. (“Women of Spirit, Part 4” will appear at the Armory Show in New York in September.)
The inspiration for the title was an 18th-century French term “Femmes d’esprit,” referring to independent-minded female artists and intellectuals often overlooked by the mainstream artistic culture. (Zürcher also has a gallery in Paris.) The artists here qualify in one way or another, and this is what art fairs are good at: bringing artists to our attention.
Among the happy finds is Dee Shapiro, whose mixed-media work “My Dream” (2021) clearly riffs on Henri Rousseau’s “The Dream” (1910), at the Museum of Modern Art. In Shapiro’s remake of Rousseau’s painting, she collages the British singer Amy Winehouse’s face into the work.
Angela Valeria’s moody, vaguely surrealist portraits include a “Girl With Goldfish” (2020) — the goldfish is on the young lady’s head — and a “Nurturing Male” (2020) cradling a white bird in his hands. The Paris-born sculptor Anne de Villeméjane, who lives in New York, has created a small colony of slender cement sculptures on metal spikes, depicting women. These recall Alberto Giacometti’s tall, thin bronze figures.
Margaret Jolly’s paintings show the widespread influence of the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint since that blockbuster exhibition at the Guggenheim. Jolly has (either unwittingly or not) imbibed af Klint’s serene pastel palette and curving, diagrammatic approach to abstraction. Nicole Parcher’s playful “Cake Fight” (2020) is a somewhat slight gesture: a bunch of gold-colored balloons, confetti-printed plastic and yellow police tape. It is fun nonetheless.
I was already familiar with Susan Bee’s writings and paintings — particularly through her exhibitions at the women-founded A.I.R. Gallery, now located in Brooklyn’s Dumbo. At the Zürcher show, Bee shows paintings that combine various historical mythologies, using brightly colored animals, plants and human figures drawn in a faux-naïve style and influenced by dreamy, visionary artists like Chagall.
There are copious nods to famous male artists here. This, of course, reflects the fact that, for millenniums, men have ruled most art worlds. Perhaps the ascendancy of af Klint and these femmes d’esprit are encouraging sa shift in that axis.
11 Women of Spirit, Part 3, a Satellite Fair of Frieze
Through May 9, Zürcher Gallery, 33 Bleecker Street, 212-777-0790, galeriezurcher.com.