On Thursday, I had a couple of hours to dash through The Art Show of ADAA member galleries at the Park Avenue Armory.  Given the amount of work on view, you do have to keep up a fast pace to see it all in that amount of time.

The overall mood of the dealers was perceptibly and understandably somber, and the show had far less exciting work to offer than usual.  Some galleries had a big sticker next to a piece stating “ADAA Dealer’s Choice.”  At first, I didn’t know what this meant, but apparently it was code for “This piece is $10,000 or less!  Get your bargains here!”  They might as well have had a sign “Buy one, get one 1/2 price!”  It was depressing, and if you were the artist who created the “Dealer’s Choice” piece, I bet you’d cringe to see that big, ugly sticker next to your work.

I missed encountering the wild and unknown tangential work of major artists, often sequestered in private collections forever, which had become the main thing I always looked forward to seeing.  Nonetheless, there were still plenty of things that stood out, and as always, I wish I had more time to peruse!

Here’s a list and some pictures of highlights:

Ron Nagle at Rena Bransten Gallery.  Nagle’s two diminutive sculptures on view were some of the most surprising and original work to catch my eye.  A catalog from a recent show of his made me crave to see even more.  The work has something of the comic sadness of Guston.  Nagle’s idiosyncratic use of form and color make these engaging abstract sculptures both entirely human and entirely his own.  [Above, a mere 7″ tall,  “Scrunchabunch,” copyright Ron Nagle, courtesy of Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco.]  Also at Rena Bransten, a beautiful wire piece by Ruth Asawa.  A rare treat to view work by this superb artist.

Above: An untitled slate sculpture from 1945 by Isamu Noguchi (for $1.2 million) at Martha Parrish & James Reinish.  This booth also had a couple of outstanding Milton Avery landscapes, pure and simple.

One could watch the subtle movements of  Julian Opie’s digital piece Maria Theresa with Red Shawl, 2008, above, at Barbara Krakow, for hours.  It was interesting to overhear discussions about the problems the technology of this work presents in terms of preservation and conservation.  It’s a concern for the artist, collectors, and museums alike.  There were some other powerhouse works in this booth, notably Tara Donovan‘s untitled (glass drawing) and a very dynamic series of wood block prints of spirals by grand dame Louise Bourgeois.

Sean Kelly Gallery had an impressive one-person show in the booth of two and three-dimensional work by Antony Gormley.  On their outer wall, the strong impression of this gallery’s vision was augmented by two powerful pieces by Callum Innes, whose work we recently saw there on our gallery crawl last month.

Brice Marden’s 1983 screenprint of two brush-stroked squares at Mary Ryan.

Ameringer Yohe Fine Art had a whole wall filled with a grid-installation of Hans Hoffmann’s exuberant ink drawings from St. Tropez. [image above]

Nicola Tyson‘s imaginative figure drawings and funky paintings had a strong impact in a solo show at Friedrich Petzel.

A stunning black columnar wall sculpture by Peter Alexander at The Elkon Gallery.

George Rickey‘s marvels of interia — kinetic sculptures at Maxwell Davidson.

More selections from the show can be seen at Artinfo.com’s ADAA preview. See this link for images of work I would recommend seeking out at the armory such as: Donald Judd prints (solo show at Susan Sheehan), Lee Bontecou’s drawing at Knoedler and Company, Sol Lewitt large gouaches at PaceWildenstein, Elizabeth Turk’s marble ribbon sculptures at Hirschl & Adler Modern. (Knoedler had very informative labels next to the works by various artists including Richard Pousette-Dart, Lee Bontecou, and James Castle.)

Most depressing work in show: Mel Bochner at Peter Freeman, Inc. An entire booth devoted to blue paintings scrawled with the word “BLAH” in dripping white paint, top to bottom.  But neither dealer nor artist are feeling so ‘blah’ since at least one had sold for $90,000 already.

The Art Show runs through this Monday, Feb 23rd, 6pm.  See the ADAA site for details. www.artdealers.org