Armory Week Report: The Overview

Wandering the fairs last week, there was a brief moment when I couldn’t remember where I was. Call it Art Fair Alzheimer’s. Was I in Miami? New York? Maybe Basel? It's not that I was like The Sleepwalker, left, but that the same galleries had brought many of the same artists they always bring. No wonder I didn't know where I was.
Tony Matelli, Sleepwalker, at Leo Koenig, New York. Armory Show

Here’s a quick rundown of where I went. I’ll have a few thematic posts next week.
The Armory Show

Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery booth at the Armory Show

This two-venue show (Modern in one, Contemporary in the other) is always interesting, and this time was no different. Fair bashers can bash all they want, but for me the opportunity to see a world’s worth of art in one place is a gift: 289 booths and some 2000 artists to peruse at my (tightly planned) leisure. The eye-opener for me was Spanierman Gallery’s booth at the Modern pier dedicated to the work of the late, celebrated dealer Betty Parsons, who was an accomplished artist in her own right.

Betty Parsons at Spanierman Gallery, New York. Armory (Modern)

To orient you, the Armory show takes place on two piers that jut into the Hudson at about 52nd Street. The piers, two of several dozen that line the Hudson, are remnants of the days of the ocean-going vessels. A few cruise ships still pull into the berths, and the Intrepid aircraft carrier, now a museum, is moored in the area, as well as the Circle Line that takes tourists around the island, and the Ferry which takes you to Weehawken. But you’ll recognize the Armory piers: the taxi parade is non stop, and there are hordes of skinny people smoking furiously out front. There’s much more from this fair coming up in the thematic posts.

. . . . .

The ADAA Show

June Kelly Gallery booth at the ADAA show, with a James Little painting at the center of the installation
The Art Dealers Association of America is a self-juried group, so only members participate. Just to confuse the out of towners, it was held at the Park Avenue Armory (formerly artillery storage, now a swords-into-ploughshares venue where cultural events take place). The walls are gray, the carpet is gray. The work tends toward the blue chip, but I saw some fresh, and even challenging, contemporary work. It’s a less frenzied fair than the big kahuna across town. I like that.
. . . . .

The Independent

A view of The Independent, Chelsea's answer to the art fairs

This event scored the first time out. Founded by Chelsea's Elizabeth Dee and London's Darren Flook and held on 22nd Street in the old Dia Foundation building, it was the anti-art fair. The four floors were open, and large enough to accommodate the throngs of people who milled, gawked, looked and talked. It felt fresh. But (there's always a but) that openness was also its weakness, as it was hard to locate the booth names, harder still to get information about the artists. I loved the anti-fair concept, but I needed some fair constructs, like information.

Winkleman Gallery had the most impressive installation there: Eve Sussman’s recreation of the Soviet-era office of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. “This detailed recreation, by Sussman and Nicolas Locke, is inspired by the museumification of the real office of Gagarin,” according to the info on the gallery website. I’d seen the piece in the gallery last year, but here it was thrillingly mysterious, a foreign stage set within a carnival of whirring mirrors, parked automobiles and all that anti-art-fair hipness.

Winkleman Gallery installation at the Independent with Eve Sussman and Rufus Corporation's White on White: The Pilot (just like being there)

. . . . .


Samson Projects booth with Todd Pavlisko, the artist, foreground, and Camilo Alvarez, gallery owner. Pavilsko's video is playing on the left wall; his painting of Stephen Hawking is on the far wall

Held on the 11th floor of an office building in the shadow of the Empire State Building, this was a smart and engaging show. Walking off the elevator I saw Samson Projects, the cutting-edge gallery in Boston run by Camilo Alvarez. Last year he’d shown pornography and I wondered if he could top that shock factor. He did, with Todd Pavlisko, whose video shows the Bushwick artist nailing his foot to the floor. “Is that real?” many fairgoers were heard to say. Indeed. (I’m not showing the work here; you can see a clip in the Art Newspaper link if you dare to watch).

The artist was there, as nice and normal as you can imagine. He said it took his foot six months to heal. And why such an act? The painting of Stephen Hawking shows a man floating free who is normally unable to more, said the artist; in something of an exchange, Pavlisko's extreme action made himself unable to move.

Volta is a solo-project fair, a nice counterpart to the visual surfeit of the other fairs. After the crucified foot, I went in search of other visually satisfying but less emotionally demanding fare. I found the work of Nancy Lorenz at the PDX Gallery from Portland, Oregon. Lorenz had recreated the teahouse experience. Her surfaces are gilded and inlaid, so it’s the most meditative bling you’ll ever see. Lorenz couldn't serve tea to everyone who stopped by so she did something better: she painted a cup with her sum'i brush dipped into green tea. My small painting on rice paper, left, is #201.

PDX Gallery at Volta, with a teahouse installation by Nancy Lorenz
.. . . . .


Diana Lowenstein Gallery at Pulse, with the work of Clemencia Labin, foreground, and Shirley Kaneda

What happened? This used to be a throbbing, vibrant fair. But it appears many of the regulars have departed—to Volta and the Armory, some just not showing this year—and the pulse was, well, weak. I liked the offerings at Diana Lowenstein, above, a venerable Miami venue; and the solo presentation of Megan Whitmarsh at the Michael Rosenthal Gallery, San Francisco, where the artist created her ideal workspace.

.Megan Whitmarsh at Michael Rosenthal Gallery
Rosenthal was at Aqua in Miami, where I also liked the work, a good deal in thread and fiber (though not exclusively) and I appreciate that he shows a lot of women. “What can I say? I like the work,” he said of his choices.
Other likes: Morgan Lehman made the most of a small space with a large painting, below. The Gallery Joe booth was located as you walked in or out, but you had to look close. The Philadelphia-based gallery shows work on paper, much of it so subtle and under glass that it's impostible to photograph—an esthetic that’s anti-art fair for sure. Visit them on line where you can see the work better.
As for the not-so-much, that would go to Miami's Spinello Gallery, which showed recombinant taxidermy--birds with fur and felines with beaks, stuff like that. A vegetarian's nightmare. Oddly, the backdrop for these objects, all of which were on pedestals, were two walls of large-scale drawings of naked men. The drawings were beautifully rendered, but if there was a connection it escaped me. One man recoiled, joking: "Just don't taxidermy the penises."

Morgan Lehman booth, with painting by Andrew Schoultz

More coming Monday (Marketing Mondays will return on the 22nd)..


LXV said...

Great work Joanne, I'm looking forward to the details.

Iris said...

I know it's impossible but I so wish there was more time to see and visit more fairs, impossible to squeeze so much in 4 days!

Good review, Joanne, looking forward for more. I actually visited Pulse for the first time this year and really enjoyed it! As Edward Winkleman said: it's more user-friendly. I guess there was more space for each gallery, and for visitors to roam around, they didn't all squeeze them into little boxes, the art was more enjoyable this way.

Loved your comment about the curious Spinello show, lol! a vegetarian nightmare indeed! Can't imagine visiting this artist's studio, although I was mesmerized by the creatures, couldn't help but look, maybe that's the common thread with the wall painting - you can't help but look, even if you don't really want to!

Anonymous said...

Joanne, I love that I can read about art fairs, and be guaranteed a belly laugh at the same time. Thanks for sharing! You once asked on your blog about the weirdest job folks ever had. Mine was at a marine taxidermy shop. So that resonated with me :D

Anonymous said...

OK: just in the order I think of them:

A: I know where Nicole Klagsbrun got their booth idea, and the 70's called - they want the look back

B. I felt like the artwork at the armory and elsewhere was kinda weak compared to what I saw in basel miami - is this always the case? I'm trying to figure out how to get the most bang for my buck next year, if I can only do one...

C. if you liked the nancy lorenz, she also did the lobby of the beverly hilton - haven't been to see it yet but it looks pretty cool

nice running into you again, sorry if I talked your ear off !!!

Stephanie Sachs said...

Glad you are there for us. Looking forward to seeing your blog over the coming week.

Unknown said...

Thanks Joanne. Now I know what I missed when I was back in New York.

I liked seeing the shows through your eyes. It is both fun and informative. Now I know how much was going on around me at that time. By the way, Lisa Mackie, Peter's sister is represented by June Kelly. I wonder if you saw any of her work there at ADAA? Cheers!