Swoon's IFPDA Fine Art Print Fair Online Picks

Oct 29, 2020 10:04PM

"Diving into the entire IFPDA world is a bit like immersing oneself in a museum and trying to make sense of the entire history of art."

Caledonia Curry (a.k.a Swoon) with her work, commissioned for the Fine Art Print Fair, on view at the Javits Center. Credit: Yael Malka for The New York Times (October 24, 2019).

IFPDA Executive Director Jenny Gibbs got back in touch with artist Caledonia Curry, better known as Swoon, whose site-specific installation at the Javits was the showstopper of the 2019 IFPDA Fine Art Print Fair. Swoon has just opened new solo exhibitions at two museums --- the Albright-Knox (Buffalo) and the Museum of Contemporary Craft (Pittsburgh) --- yet somehow found time to do a deep-dive into the presentations at the IFPDA Print Fair.


Diving into the entire IFPDA world is a bit like immersing oneself in a museum and trying to make sense of the entire history of art. How? At first, I was all sticky fingers, selecting everything, a bit mad and directionless, but finally, I brought myself down to earth via the discipline of my first love, the portrait.

I’ll start with Kathe Kollwitz, because she didn’t invent investing a living soul into charcoal, or did she? When I look at her work a voice in my head whispers that these are not prints, they are acts of magic. A piece of the human spirit is tethered here like a genie cursed to while away its hours in a bottle made of paper and lithograph crayon.

Käthe Kollwitz
Selbst (Self) , 1915
Worthington Gallery

And then Mickalene Thomas, William Kentridge, and John Baldessari, who took the human body apart in order to find it anew.

Bourgeois, Yuskavich, Rondinone, Dine, Baselitz, who hint at something elemental.

When I look at these first two images side by side it seems that Rembrandt and Lambert start a conversation about looking and being looked at.Peter Blake and Sarah Ball continue with how we show ourselves to be seen, how we show up for life. And finally, this last haunting moment by Max Beckman whereby showing the inside of one’s own head can feel to the viewer like an accusation. An implication into the shattered self.

Derrick Webster, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, on our deeply human gestures of self-comfort, rest, repose.

The cool mannered looking of Katz and Adams, poised as Etruscan guardians, fresh as an ice cube splitting open in a cold drink in summer.

Alex Katz
Orange Hat (Alex and Ada, the 1960's to the 1980's Suite), 1990
Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art

And then comes a kind of mania. The carnival of death, of Coca-Cola and billboards, and the disjointed spirits that haunt our televisions. The Id’s foment which drives the modern ever forward.

I suppose this lot just kind of fell together like syllables in a song, or like the kids who strike up a friendship because they’re not sure what lunch table they should be sitting at. It seems like chance that brings them together, but somehow their story always turns up the most interesting doesn’t it?

Andy Warhol
A Whole Stocking Full of Good Wishes, 1955
Long-Sharp Gallery
Sigmar Polke
Sauberes Auto-gute Laune ( Clean car-high spirits), 2004
Mike Karstens

And here enters the ineffable. Kathe Kollwitz again. She raises the stakes in any space. Everything that follows looks to me like a ghostly capture from the advent of spiritualism, or like some Kirlian photography of the human soul.

Or the place where rest meets grief.

Blanche Grambs
Unemployed (also titled Depression), 1935
Susan Teller Gallery

Ending with what we all begin with, because stories love circles, back here at the mother, good, bad, scribbled out, deified. A North Star impossible to capture.


Caledonia Curry, whose work appears under the name Swoon, is a Brooklyn-based artist and is widely known as the first woman to gain large-scale recognition in the male-dominated world of street art. Callie took to the streets of New York while attending the Pratt Institute of Art in 1999, pasting her paper portraits to the sides of buildings with the goal of making art and the public space of the city more accessible.

In a moment when contemporary art often holds a conflicted relationship to beauty, Callie’s work carries with it an earnestness, treating the beautiful as sublime even as she explores the darker sides of her subjects. Her work has become known for marrying the whimsical to the grounded, often weaving in slivers of fairy-tales, scraps of myth, and a recurring motif of the sacred feminine. Tendrils of her own family history—and a legacy of her parents’ struggles with addiction and substance abuse—recur throughout her work.

While much of Callie’s art plays with the fantastical, there is also a strong element of realism. This can be seen in her myriad social endeavors, including a long-term community revitalization project in Braddock, Pennsylvania and her efforts to build earthquake-resistant homes in Haiti through Konbit Shelter. Her non-profit, the Heliotrope Foundation, was created in order to further support these ventures.

Today, Callie’s work can be found on the sides of buildings worldwide and has been given both permanent and transient homes in more classical institutions, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, the Tate Modern, and the São Paulo Museum of Art. Most recently, she has begun using film animation to explore the boundaries of visual storytelling.