Before you enter Scope New York you may, if you wish, converse with Walt Whitman, who is sitting in a small room inside a wood packing crate. Affixed to the crate are several small fish-eye lenses, which you can peer into and see Walt speaking to you via an old-fashioned phone. This encounter sets the tone for the Scope fair: whimsical, sometimes puzzling, often tremendously engaging.
Inside are 75 international galleries, representing emerging and mid-career artists, many with an experimental approach to their medium. This is a fair with more photo-based work than straight photography, or work that mixes media, like the sculptural photo-based pieces on view at Aureus Contemporary by Michael Mapes. The artist “dissects,” as he puts it, a photograph into tiny pieces, then uses insect pins to reassemble those fragments and attach them to a background, creating multi-layered portrait that also incorporates the subject’s DNA and hair samples, among other things.
Montreal’s Art Mur showed the playful work of Diana Thorneycroft, reminiscent of the foreboding snow globe photographs of Walter Martin and Paloma Munoz. Thorneycroft’s series Group of Seven Awkward Moments explores Canadian identity with black humor and rich irony. She incorporates as backdrops to her dioramas famous paintings by the Canadian collective of painters, the Group of Seven, and her snowy tableaus are populated by figurines playing hockey or hunting or camping. Inevitably, though, one of them has fallen through the ice or lies bleeding in the snow. They’re dark but playful investigations of national identity.
And speaking of national identity, Dulce Pinzon asks us to reconsider the lives of Mexican immigrants to this county in her photographic series Superheroes. Alida Anderson Art Projects showed photographs of immigrants who work low-level jobs to send money home to their families. She photographs them doing their jobs – window washer, nanny, delivery person, cook – dressed like Spiderman, Superman, the Hulk, or Wonder Woman. She includes in the caption her subject’s name, where they’re from, and how much money they send home every week in these portraits of truly unsung heroes.