By Robin Johnson
The work of Andrea Zittel and her artistic experiments with living visit NYC
The artwork of Inland Empire artist Andrea Zittel made its way to New York this month for one of the country’s most exciting and highly regarded art shows, the Frieze Art Fair. Crossing the coasts for an intense week of hobnobbing among the world’s leading contemporary galleries, artists and collectors; the Frieze Art Fair is host to thousands of curious visitors in its short production, running May 10-13. Evolving from its namesake, Frieze Magazine, the modest gathering of art devotees has quickly grown to a massive scale, including 182 galleries and over 1,000 of the world’s leading artists under 250,000 sq. ft. of temporary canopy. Bringing an international focus, this annual gathering has attracted such popularity among visitors and collectors that Frieze Art Fair is now recognized as forging the path in the contemporary art fair scene, akin to the Armory Show and Art Basel Miami.
With the recent surge of art fairs shaking up the art world, it offers an alternative to the traditional gallery space while maintaining a somewhat customary gallery experience. Centralizing a hub for top galleries and artists without having to traverse the country, the fair comes to you, or at least a nearby major city. Given that our culture is driven by speed and immediacy, galleries are in constant competition with the accessibility and ease of viewing art via web, therefore art fairs have come to develop as a median between the brick and mortar and the virtual art experience. For a brief window of viewing, visitors have the opportunity to experience art world leaders under one roof, transforming an empty space practically overnight only to tear it all down just a few days later. It’s a whirlwind art extravaganza in the most elite of ways.
This year, Inland Empire sculptor and installation artist Andrea Zittel will be participating at the Frieze Art Fair through her gallery representation, Regen Projects in Hollywood on Santa Monica Blvd. A So-Cal native, she now graces the desert of Joshua Tree. Zittel’s art is recognized world-wide, challenging concepts of freedom, restriction and consumerism in American society by creating fresh and functional designs for living through modernist concepts. Compartmentalizing efficiency and independence, her designs renovate the common dwelling structure and objects such as furniture and clothing, as well as her surrounding community and environment through a relational approach to art and living. Throughout her body of work she has constructed completely sufficient Living Units, produced knit uniforms for which she wears at six month intervals and once she even created a 44-ton floating island off the coast of Denmark, where she lived for one full month, investigating ideas of necessity, escapism and isolation.
Often geometric with a minimalist sensibility, Zittel’s work continually explores the interstices between freedom and control which she develops and expresses through structure and functionality in her dreamlike, futuristic creations. Her constant strive for improvement and perfection evolves into physical and conceptual spaces which probe the inevitable imperfections of human nature and the environmental destruction of everyday living. Throughout her practice, strong influences of life in this region and its suburban sprawl are observed, “For the last 20 years my work in one way or another has examined how psychological structures, thought systems and beliefs are manifested as physical objects in the world that we create around ourselves.” explains Zittel.
Arising from her experiments on the demands of everyday life, Zittel created A-Z Enterprise in the early 90s. Now with A-Z West in California, and A-Z East in New York, she’s developed sites which respond to such demands while creating spaces encouraging experimental living and community engagement. Also a founder of the High Desert Test Sites, a series of experimental art sites engaging the local community and environment, they offer long-term and temporary projects along 35 acres of desert adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park.
Zittel maintains a strong presence in New York, as her work has been the subject of many exhibitions in the city, as well as having lived and taught there, most recently at Columbia University. Concentrating on sculpture, Zittel’s piece A-Z Aggregated Stack #12, will be featured in this year’s Frieze Art Fair. This particular work is from a larger series of sculptures, entitled Aggregated Stacks, composed of cardboard, plaster and gauze. Transforming common packaging into a systematic grid, she reflects on the pattern of her own life through consumption. Aggregated Stacks is a pure and simplified representation of the core of her work, and one that is aptly suited for the circumstances surrounding such a condensed and expeditious art fair.