When Richard Timperio gets a big Cheshire cat grin on his face and says its about UFA, that is - Unidentifiable Fine Art, it is becoming common knowledge in the expanded field of the New York art world that it is once again time for the largest and certainly most festive annual group show in any of our fair five boroughs. This is Sideshow’s ninth winter roundup in the location at 319 Bedford. Formerly titled Merry Peace and colloquially known as the Christmas show, the 2009 edition is titled It's A Wonderful Life. Several years ago the show opened in January for better continued viewing hours and the title was changed to War is Over, linking celebration of Christmases past with resistance to a past war that has increasingly obvious parallels with the present one. After War is Over...Again, we have a title reflecting the new optomism at just the same time of the election of our new president.
I’ll come back to the phrase Unidentifiable Fine Art now because it is actually
a good phrase for preparing a newcomer to walk into the gallery, which is a bit like walking into an encyclopedia of 30 years of contemporary artmaking. The only caveat is Rich's unabashed bias towards artists who still, even if metaphorically speaking, get their own fingernails dirty. There are artists as well known as Dorothea Rockburne, Larry Poons, Dan Christensen, Bill Jensen , Gary Stephan and Michael Goldberg; breakout neighborhood favorites who have had shows with Sideshow like Rosa Valado, Phong Bui, Rachel Youens, Chris Martin and Ken Butler; there are artists like Nick Carone, Paul Resika and Ronnie Landfield who have long term friends and a following not reflected in the vagaries of the press and media coverage distributed outwards from this city but who are very well considered by all the regulars
here, and personal discoveries waiting for anyone who wants to navigate this particular roadmap, now expanded to nearly 280 artists. (I will list some personal favorites, as someone who did quite a bit of gallery sitting for Sideshow in the last 6 years - a lot of time to notice where the eyes wander back to again and again sitting in a sensesurround of art objects: Fran Kornfeld’s small blue ballpoint scribbled bird’s nests, Gerald Jackson’s flowering from the center abstraction, Garry Nicholls’ down under symbolism & formal invention,and both Ann Walsh’s and Don Voisine’s clean constructions. This, of course, is only for starters. )
The Sideshow tradition as it is evolving under what really is Richard Timperio’s big tent, is inclusive and welcoming enough to temporarily baffle preconcieved tastes and sensibilities, which are precisely what most of us have to develop to live and work in the arts in New York - and then to negotiate each time we step out into this burgeoning, pluralist 20- new- exhibition- spaces- opening- a -year climate. It is a testament to Rich’s installation that hundreds of works hung salon style and sculptures making a maze of the floor space ends up so rewarding to meander through at all, never mind the impossibility of encompassing some kind of overarching sense of everything. It is actually quite a ride. And there is one thing I’ve learned over the past few years: it has disarmed alot of my notions of currency in contemporary art -and what Chelsea or Whitney Biennials would have you think are lost causes - how nice, a place where there aren’t trends, just movements.