Amanda Coulson on VOLTA NY’S 2016 Highlights

Mar 4, 2016 / by Amanda Coulson / Whitewall Magazine



We asked Amanda Coulson, director of VOLTA NY, about some of the highlights of this year’s fair, taking place from March 2—6 at Pier 90.

“Whenever I’m asked to pick my top galleries or artists, it’s always very tough—especially for VOLTA NY where we are so engaged with each presentation because of the solo project format—it’s almost like being asked which of my children is my favourite … each has different qualities, but here are a few that I think personify the direction in which the fair is headed, with a more diverse representation reflective of the city that hosts us.

Samsøñ (Boston) — Camilo Alvarez first exhibited with us at VOLTA NY’s debut in 2008, and he has brought a unique and critically exacting degree of creativity to nearly every NY fair since then (and several Basel editions as well), from Nicole Cherubini to Steve Locke to Lisa Sigal. I routinely refer to longtime VOLTA exhibitors as “family” and Camilo (and, by extension, Samsøñ) is certainly part of the family. For NY 2016, he will show a reconfigured installation of Gabriel Martinez’s incredible multimedia project Bayside Revisited, the artist’s elegy and eulogy to gay paradise Fire Island interspersed with ephemera from Philadelphia’s long-running William Way LGBT Community Center. Martinez is also on tap for a Joan Mitchell Foundation residency this year.

PATRON (Chicago) — Julia Fischbach and Emanuel Aguilar, the co-directors of this newish Chicago space, are the former directors of Kavi Gupta Gallery, one of VOLTA’s co-founding three dealers back in 2005. They bring an unparalleled pedigree of curatorial acumen and directorial precision, and we are thrilled to have them in one of their first art fairs. They will show two series by Chicago-based artist Myra Greene, both of which utilize portraiture to explore the construction of racial identity, including “Character Recognition”, self-portrait closeups created with black-glass ambrotypes, a vintage photographic processes referencing colonialism and ethnographic classification.

MoCADA (Brooklyn) — We have a long history of working with not-for-profits at the fair, but this is the first year that we made a concerted effort to have a number of special booths available (“Project Booths”, we’re calling them) for such artist-run or nonprofit spaces with incredibly dynamic and vibrant programming but whose tight budgets may not permit them to go for a “regular” exhibitor booth. So I am especially proud of including MoCADA, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, in this year’s edition. MoCADA do wonderful things from their home-base near Brooklyn Academy of Music, and they are accenting our programming this year with a threefold contribution. Tschabalala Self, a very young but remarkably talented young artist from Harlem, who recently received her MFA from Yale School of Art and is featured in a major group exhibition “A Constellation” at Studio Museum in Harlem, is MoCADA’s solo booth project. But in addition to that, the institution tapped Kameelah Janan Rasheed — another wonderful young talent, born in Palo Alto, CA and based locally — to install her ongoing large-format social commentary print series “HOW TO SUFFER POLITELY (and Other Etiquette)” in the windows connecting VOLTA NY with Pier 92: The Armory Show – Modern. Finally, MoCADA proposed a brilliant entry to this year’s debut Video Wall programming, which involves a selection of video works by VOLTA artists (either booth artists or artists represented by exhibiting galleries) screened on a 30-foot wall at the front of the pier. MoCADA’s entry is “Instructions for a Future” by Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski, and her critique of culturally recognizable images and the female body echoes both Tschabalala’s collaged figurative works as well as Kameelah’s text-based takedowns. It’s a strong first showing for MoCADA and we are thrilled to collaborate with them.

“Something I Can Feel” — we initiated a Curated Section this year, a set of freestanding, museum-style walls in the heart of the fair under the curatorial direction of a mid-career artist. In this first edition, we scored big-time with Derrick Adams, a fantastic interdisciplinary artist (he exhibits internationally, but his most recent big splash in New York was for Performa 15, with “Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal/SIDESHOW”, a live performance paying tribute to Pablo Fanque, Britain’s first Black circus owner) and a right “man-about-town”. Adams then assembled eight artists under his thematic concept “Something I Can Feel”, as well as a dedicated performance series and panel discussions. This is a remarkable achievement: for one it provides an excellent platform for some emerging or otherwise under-the-radar artists; for another it instills an even deeper degree of critical discourse to what my team and I always endeavor to be a thoughtful and “curated” fair — albeit a commercial one, of course. We always strive to make VOLTA a place for discovery, and going forward this curated section will be an integral part of it: that yes, you can find something nice for yourself here, but it’s not all clean and shiny stuff, and hopefully you’ll learn something — about an artist, about yourself, about the broader world, in the process.”

— Amanda Coulson