Part Two of Kristan Kennedy’s wrap-up of Spring Art Fair season in New York:
The Armory Show, Fair, Thing – whatever you want to call it is almost impossible to get to. Perched on Pier 92 and 94 around 55th Ave it is the only time you see so many well-heeled patrons flowing across the West-side highway. Everything about this thing seems unnatural. All of these galleries have spaces elsewhere with white walls, bathrooms, and mini fridges stocked with yogurt and champagne but, instead of operating from home base, they move a whole bunch of stuff, plus staff down here, setting up temporary shop in tiny stalls with nary a bottle of water in sight. Roaming the aisles takes stamina and precision. The maze that is before us is daunting, still we take it on like seasoned pros, employing the “supermarket” technique walking down the long corridors of art wares one-by-one, while trying not to deviate when we see some shiny Anish Kapoor across the way.
Photo courtesy of Ambach and Rice
Within our first few steps, we run into some familiar faces. Charlie Kitchings – owner and operator of Ambach & Rice in Seattle – and Carrie Scott are here and their booth does not disappoint. First up some are simple and stunning Roy McMakin photos, in which begonias are perfectly positioned to accentuate their spatial planes, flattening each angle from front-to-back. A few years ago, on a trip to Seattle, Jeffry Mitchell was driving me around wooing me with exquisite conversation and delightfully tangential adventures. On that visit we stopped in to a shop in Chinatown and bought an aquarium and Jeffry schooled me on goldfish, we dug through drawings in his studio and he pulled out a great John Wesley catalog and we talked about cartoons… AND, at the mention that I had been getting really into house plants, he whipped the car around mid-block, called up his friend McMakin and asked if we could break into his studio while he was out of town. A few moments later we were at McMakin’s workshop, and there was no need to break in, as his assistants were happy to let us enter. Suddenly, I was in front of the most artfully arranged jumble of Begonias; in the next room, pinned to the wall in what seemed like one hundred different combinations, were photos of the same plants. Now, finally standing in front of the completed series I am taken by their super-refined edges and can not help but think of all of the tiny decisions that had been made from start to finish.
Not to be outdone by all of the art, the gallery girls’ fashion at the Armory is always stellar. Here I spy a pair of crazy jeans – they are the first thing I covet at the fair.
My next fantasy purchase are these two Marlene Dumas paintings, each as big as your face and titled, No Look, 2008 and Ungroomed, 2008.
Each time in NYC, I seek out what Mark Manders has to offer. I am in deep love with this piece, Still Life with Purple Marker. Manders is a master at shape-shifting and this small piece feels like it has the same scale as his massive installations.
Yun -Fei Ji, After the Great Leap, 2005 mineral pigment on rice paper + detail
Miriam Bohm at Ratio 3
PICA Alum Todd James has gone big and beautiful with these paper murals.
TBA:09 alum Peter Coffin’s peg legged pirate has two of everything, parrots, hooks and wooden limbs.
For those of you who saw my lecture you know why I am drawn to this painting by Mateo Tannatt, Untitled (Foot No 1), 2009
Jonathan Monk, Do Not Pay More Than $40,000, 2009
I am one of the few people here who is not on the make for a purchase and, because of this, I can float around as an observer. As much as I hate the impetus for this fair, I love that I get to see all of this work, especially all of the painting that seems to rule the scene this year. Occasionally, I hear someone ask how much something is, and the hushed bargaining of the trade floor begins. A few years ago everyone said “Twenty” meaning twenty -thousand – now the standard price whispered is “Forty”.
These black suits mean business, at Sean Kelly. In the backround Marina Abramovic looking beautiful.
Most of the galleries choose to represent several artists and sometimes their booths look like a neat package featuring something by everyone. Here, Nicole Klagsbrun takes the opportunity to support the statement of Adam McEwan. The acid glow from this booth beckoned and sickened at the same time. I am way into Klagsbrun’s roster of artists, but also consistently impressed by her commitment to their vision.
Matthew Day Jackson at Peter Blum
It feels strange to see Sister Corita prints at the fair. This was the stuff of my childhood; every mass card, booklet, banner and poster emulated her style or was her handiwork. She was of the art world then, but was connected to the politics of love and protest. Now she is here letting out a small but joyful noise that is in stark contrast to the politics of cynicism and commerce.
Sharon Hayes at Tanya Leighton.
Tanya Leighton was located at the end of a long corridor where all of the Berlin galleries were clustered together. It was like art tailgating over there, super social and alive.
Remember how hard I said it was to get to the Armory? Well picture yourself trying to get OUT. VIP limos and shuttle vans block every pedestrian path as you make your way across the highway by playing “Frogger” with rush hour traffic. It is a blast. I am rushing to get downtown to see ODDSAC. Sitting in the theater I realize Animal Collective’s audience is now the tween demographic, as I am easily twenty years older than every single person in this theater besides Danny Perez’s parents who are sitting right next to us. I cannot say anything nice about this film. I wanted to like it; in fact, I wanted to LOVE it. Instead I am filled with a mixture of regret and rage. The score was predictably good, but the pacing of it went from dissident noise to melodic sing-song over and over and over again without one interesting or challenging transition. The film oh, the film!), while having some incredibly lush abstract moments, failed miserably in the narrative bits. Pale and perfect American Apparel girls frolicked with a demon in some sort of cooking class, a tow-headed zombie vampire ate a child at a campfire and spewed globby tempera paint out of his head at sunrise. All of it seemed too easy and superficial. In the end it felt like a total flop. When we leave we can barely discuss it. Each of us goes our separate way in silence trying to get this particular nightmare out of our heads before bedtime.
The next morning I am on Atlantic Ave on my way to and from studio visits, and the windows are filled with messages and magical potions. In between meetings, I sneak in a visit to our friends at 651 Arts. Georgiana Pickett, their Executive Director, gives me a tour of the building including this beautiful theater with all of its little balcony alcoves.
Georgiana Pickett in BAM’s Harvey Theater
In the lobby at BAM an artist has hung this banner and on the street a conspiracy theorist has hung these. At Smith and Atlantic, I hop in the van of some friends to catch a ride back to the fair. What? Yes, I am a glutton for punishment and I want to see more, more, more.
Upon arrival I run into Simone from Peter Blum who points frantically to the Berlin booths raving about John Smith’s films. I make my way down there and am totally taken by his simple and funny pieces. I am in love with “The girl with chewing gum” from 1976 and must find a way to bring it to TBA.
One of the great wonders of the fair is that it brings people together from across land and sea. I run into former Portland “warehouse” co-founder, painter and curator Levi Hanes. We roam the fair a bit together and catch up on what has been happening since he left the west coast for grad school in Glasgow, where he is now living and working.
After finishing up the rest of the fair I hustle over to the LES + Chelsea to take in a few shows. Standouts included Jamie Isenstein at Andrew Kreps, Anya Kielar at Rachel Uffner, Elena Pankova at Canada, Sarah Braman at the Spontaneous Generation show at Zach Feuer.
All images courtesy of corresponding galleries.
Jamie Isenstein; Dancing Pop-up Fishing Sculpture; 2010; Fabric, newspaper, glue, paint, “Worm in a Can” gag dinner mints, human leg, fishnet tights, tap shoe, human arm, “Wishing I Was Fishing” or “Gone Fishing” life preservers, pedestal; Dimensions variable.
Anya Kielar, FACE, installation view.
Elena Pankova; Untitled face paintings R-Z; 2010; Acrylic on canvas; 49 x 70 x 42 inches.
Sarah Braman; Your Door; 2010; Mixed media on wood; 80 x 30 x 1.25 inches
And last but not least the dueling Jessica Jackson Hutchins shows (one at Laurel Gitlen and one at Derek Eller), which are in great conversation with one another. I wanted to hug the loveseat couple with the keystone resting in-between their heads.
Jessica Jackson Hutchins; Couple; 2010; couch, ink, spray paint, charcoal dust, hydrocal, ceramic; and Jessica Jackson Hutchins; Sweater Arms; 2010; Glazed ceramic, sweater, chair.
Lest you think that the Armory is the only fair in town you would be sorely mistaken; there are a handful of others including Volta, Pulse, and more, each one gaining in notoriety every year. This year, Elizabeth Dee cooked up a new fair called Independent, situated in the former Dia Chelsea / X Initiative space. This fair was a joy to attend. Open and democratic and FREE (!), this fair felt much more humane. Galleries invited each other to participate and there were no little cubicles holding people in or back. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/05/arts/design/05independent.html
photo by WATZ
I have to admit that at this point my energy is waning and by the next day it is all I can do to drag myself out of the house. In fact, it was only when my brother arrived with a ZipCar that I got myself out of my pajamas and tore myself away from the Create Channel. After lunch in Williamsburg I got a text message from Rachel Silberstein of Stand Up Comedy tipping me off to a performance at P.S.1 by Yemenwed. Against all odds, I hopped on a B62 bus at 9th and Bedford and made it to Long Island City just in time for the lights to go dim and the excitement to begin. Opposed to my rush to see OddSac a few days before, this show was worth every bead of sweat. The piece married a strange set of movements with even stranger gestures, all illuminated by a lamp and accompanied by a score from Tim Dewitt of Gang Gang Dance. It was fresh and intimate, and left me wanting to know more about this mysterious collective. Upstairs Eunhye Hwang writhed to static and pops from a minimal score in front of a captive audience and bowls of green jello. It was a treat to see these two happenings in and amongst the current exhibitions, 1969 and 100 years. I am so happy these are the last two things my art eyes rest upon.
Yemenwed performs Bedroom w/TV and Woman Lays w/Aide; 1969 at PS1 – I love the person who decided to put this Guston here: Brick on brick!; Eunhye Hwang live and on the floor
It’s official: I’ve had it! My brain is filled to the brim with images and ideas and words and work. I thank be-jeezus that I am almost out of here but, before I go, I take refuge in a few great hangouts with my family. One involves my Brother and Kenny spinning records for me and cracking jokes while their pup Mabel did tiny dances on the couch.
My brother introduces me to Big Lady K, who is my new hero. Her album title is my mantra. The next night my brother magically organizes all of us to come together for dinner. No small feat since my dad is coming straight from a work trip from DC, my brother has to cut the ties at his floating desk at MTV, Kenny needs to get over to Ditmas (http://ditmaspark.blogspot.com) from Williamsburg (same borough, three trains. UGH!) my sister has to pry herself away from her uptown ad agency life and my mom is off to Albany the next morning. We decide to meet up at Purple Yam, one of many inspired restaurants on Cortelyou Rd. just a little bit sideways from where I grew up. We make our waitress work overtime, hauling over Filipino food and drink. It is safe to say that New York has once again left me full.
Dad, Brendan, and Kenny wishing food to our table; Whole fish with delicious citrus and tang; My sister hamming it up with the gang following suit.