Monday, March 10, 2014

NY Armory 2014 - Tame is The Game

     The Armory show is the big daddy of the NY art fairs each March. Running from Piers 92-94 along the West Side Highway and the Hudson River, there's quite a bit of ground to cover and art to see.
Serge Alain Nikegeka, a large installation at Marianne Boesky Gallery, NY

     I go to these fairs with two sets of eyes: one as an artist, the other set as The Gallery Guy. So I'm looking for trends, common threads, interesting work and the overall feel of the show I'm going to write about. I walked out of the Armory and was taken aback by the two descriptive words that came to mind: Cute and Funny.

     This was by far the tamest Armory show I've seen. Apparently, sales last year were terrible so perhaps that's the reason galleries were playing it safer this time around. Yes, there were edgy and avant-garde works, but very little compared to past fairs. Back to "Cute and Funny" and what I mean by that. There were many works that I'd describe as cute in the traditional sense of pretty, easy on the eyes and mind, pleasing colors, etc. Also cute in the colloquial sense of being slick, a tease, or a pun. When I say slick, I mean that it'll catch your eye, but you quickly slide off because there's not much to grab onto. Like the 3-4' replica of a fancy pearl earring - well crafted and fun to look at, and one could attach social significance to what the piece represents, etc, which is fine. Not being negative about this type of work, I actually enjoy alot of eye-candy artwork! But in the larger context, there seemed to be alot of it rather than work pushing the envelope. This large, round gold piece caught my attention but not enough to dig and get the back story.

     I'm always curious and astounded by a gallery spending thousands of dollars for a booth, just to display a large white canvas, as the Francois Ghebaly Gallery from LA did (below). I get Minimalism and its impact and that some people really dig it. I need to ask a gallery their thought process and why they're showing a black circle or white rectangle at a fair. Hopefully they can illuminate my mind and send that inner Philistine that says, "WTF?" back to its dark recesses.

John O'Connor, "Butterfly"

Mel Bochner, "Oh Well" 94x70
     As for Funny, it's pretty straightforward. There were several humorous pieces. Maybe not all intentionally funny, but I found myself and saw several other viewers smiling and giggling quite often. Some were visual jokes, and there were text pieces galore not only at Armory but at all the fairs. This one (left) by John O'Connor titled "Butterfly" at Pierogi Gallery (Brooklyn) incorporated logos into the text and the story it told.
(click to enlarge if you want to read some of the text).

     I saw text pieces like "Oh Well," by Mel Bochner at 2 Palms Gallery (NY) above right, and he had text works at other booths as well . Grimm Gallery from Amsterdam had several text pieces using mixed media on its wall (below), and the sculpture, "Untitled-Boogie Woogie," by Charles Avery using a bust and Lego pieces in a nod to the "Broadway Boogie Woogie" graphic pieces by Piet Mondrian in the early 40's.

Charles Avery, "Untitled -Boogie Woogie"
Retna - 96x72"

     Not all text pieces formed words. This one by Retna at Kohn Gallery of skillfully executed letterforms literally sparkled because, if memory serves, the paint was mixed with diamond dust. My Swiss-trained graphic design teachers instilled an appreciation for such work in me, however, even if you've never touched a ruling pen it's easy to appreciate such a wonderful piece of art that is so intricate and compositionally spot-on.

     Since I just mentioned a blue piece, I'll segue to this one by Tomory Dodge at CRG Gallery (NY). A large swirling mass of deconstructed - what? Building pieces in a tornado at first glance, but the "pieces" are brush strokes of thick paint flying through the air at you - a storm? an explosion? the energy from an artist's mind being flung out onto a canvas?

Tomory Dodge "Euphoria House" - 60x96"

     One of the pieces getting alot of press is this one by Michelle Grabner and Brad Killam who are involved in curating the current Whitney Biennial. "Oyster #5" at James Cohan Gallery (NY).

     Always interesting to see an original David Wojnarowicz, this piece at PPOW (NY). One of those artists we lost in the 80s AIDS mess. He brought so much energy to his work, one can only wonder what he would've done if his life wasn't cut short so early.

David Wojnarowicz, "Untitled (Man with Rifle) 1983 - 95x95

     Below are more shots of work from the show. I'm curious what you, dear reader, thought of the Armory if you attended, so please write me or leave comments.

Meleko Mokgosi, "Pax Kaffrana: Fully Belly" series at Honor Fraser (LA) - 90x108

Meleko Mokgosi, "Pax Kaffrana: Fully Belly" series at Honor Fraser (LA) - 90x102

Anthony Goicolea "Splint" at Galerie Crone (Berling)

Klodin Erb at Rotward Gallery (Zurich)

Taller L.N. "Obituary Note", burnt wood and bronze, Jack Shainman Gallery (NY)

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