Armory Week 2017 Review: SPRING/BREAK
SPRING/BREAK is in a new space this year occupying the 22nd and 23rd floors of an unused office space floating high above Times Square. Curators were given free reign to fill the space and it looks like an invasive species has taken over Corporate America. There’s a cacophony of art spilling into every corner, bright colors covering office beige puke, carpets torn up to reveal builder code spray painted on floors. The jungle has taken over and filled the once dead office space into a riotous ecstasy of color and form.
There’s so much going on that it’s impossible to summarize – where most fairs reflect the commerce of the art market this show is more about the artists and the making. The focus of the show is on curation, but many spaces are filled with artists, and the theme of Black Mirror (named after a looking glass meant for aesthetic reflection) is broad enough that you can pretty much ignore it for most of the show without losing much understanding. That’s not a bad thing. The work is good enough to stand on its own and doesn’t need the support. What you get is a Black Mirror reflecting the art world.
Welcome to the jungle.
There’s a strong environmental theme running throughout the show. The room featuring the Art Slant Prize winners all feature an element of nature. Brigitta Varadi paints with farmers marks on sheepskin that look like neolithic Kenneth Noland. Tiffany Smith’s portraits developed over long periods of conversing with the subjects explore cultural identity and feature tropical elements and backdrops. Sterling Crispin builds sculptures that imagines coping strategies for dealing with environmental collapse. Roxanne Jackson in the Psychic Dream Girls room curated by Rachel Phillips has a beautifully rendered ceramic head of the Predator monster embellished with floral decorations and menacing gilt jaws. The Fictive Universe room curated by Kari Adelaid and Max Razdow has a series of ceramic floor sculptures by Heidi Lau that look like the severed legs of a swamp creature complete with vegetative growth and claws. The End Papers for Newtown Creek are a series of prints by Sto Len made by floating paper on the muck of the polluted waterway, exhibit curated by Howard Hurst.
A lot of the work has a political/punk aesthetic – which is not surprising given our current political environment. Daapo Reo’s work titled ALCOHOLOTOPIA (A GEOPOLITICAL DREAM UNDER THE INFLUENCE), curated by Natasha Becker, is an American flag reconstructed with African fabrics. This literal stitching together of multiple cultures, is a powerful object – whether or not you take the shot of wine alluded to in the title. Kosmo Vinyl‘s series of black and white carbon prints title “Cisco Kid vs Donald Trump” appropriates images from the comic featuring the Mexican hero (originally drawn by an Argentine Jose Luis Salinas) and replaces the text with quotes and political commentary about Donald Trump. Inspired by the candidates slandering of the Mexican people the work has unfortunately had a longer life than the artist originally intended. George Horner is showing a series of humorously disinspirational quotes on paper and a piece in neon titled “I Gave You a Retrospective at the City Dump” as part of Recollection curated by Marly Hammer and John Richey.
There was a whole series of psychotropic work meant to distort and question your perceptions. Jason Peters work Extrospection, curated by Che Morales, was in a blacked out room filled with snaking coils of buckets that have been nested, lit from within, and suspended from the floors and ceilings with strategically placed mirrors that extended the lines of vision. Completely disorienting and stunningly effective. Amanda Browder‘s In Search Of Chromatic Hi-Five! curated by Scott Chasse is a room segmented by brightly colored and patterned fabric and lit by alternating colors of LEDs. The result is like being trapped in a continuously spinning color wheel as the room is saturated by different hues and the patterning on the fabric jolts from one tone to another. On the more meditative side is Gateway by Leah Piepgras which is a darkened room filled with mirrored spinning objects and refracting lights which the viewer is encouraged to use as a prayer wheel to throw their thoughts into the universe. It’s a spiritual disco.
There’s room after room of great work to see, the Rube Goldberg meets Hanna Barbera paintings of Mike Perry are a joy. The sculptures of Christina Massey in the chashama room are a dense and energetic layering of common materials such as beer cans and fabric woven together to create forms that are almost like living creatures. Adam Lovitz, Patrick Maguire, and Ashley Wick in I You We Who Me are making personal, intimately scaled work in painting, sculpture and animation.
The venue is dense with work there’s a great vibe to the show – festive and engaging – and you never know what’s around the corner, just like the jungle.