5 Under-the-Radar Works to Seek Out at Frieze New York, From an Edward Said-Themed Video to an Artist’s Poignant Memoria

Tim Schneider, artnet news, May 20, 2022

Keep an eye out for these hidden gems at the fair.


No one would mistake even a top-tier art fair for an environment conducive to prolonged engagement with artworks of substance. But that doesn’t mean every exhibitor goes all in on flashy aesthetics, market-dominant stars, and outright gimmickry. In fact, almost every fair of consequence has a small stash of hidden gems that combine visual power with thematic gravity, and this year’s edition of Frieze New York is no exception.



Sydney Cain
Remember to Cross the River (2021)
Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco/New York
Price: $26,000

Despite its considerable dimensions (six feet by 10 feet), Remember to Cross the River manages to feel both commanding and meditative: large enough to lose yourself in, yet intimate enough to welcome extended contemplation. That’s a vital balancing act for a work that confronts death as a transition to be understood, not feared. Artist Sydney Cain even chooses their materials with this notion in mind. Here, charcoal and paper were once living trees; powdered iron oxide was formed through the interaction of air and solid metal.


The artist uses these transformation-derived media to render a scene that moves from ominousness to something like solace (assuming viewers allow themselves to sink into it). A crowd of spiritual beings—most of them humans wearing animal masks—waits on a riverbank for a lone figure approaching through the water. One of the spirits extends a hand to the traveler, welcoming them to the other side after enduring hardships that radiate through the image without having to be depicted.


Although the river has a particular resonance in African diasporic traditions as a place of healing, aid, and communion with one’s ancestors, Cain told Artnet News that it is also “a mythic space we’ve all emerged from,” whether our preferred narrative is folklore or Darwinian evolution. That may not mean that all of Remember to Cross the River’s reference points belongs to every viewer equally, but it does mean that the work can open everyone’s eyes somewhat if we meet it halfway.